If you’re like me, every time you enter an arcade, you pump an endless amount of quarters into the Skee-Ball machine in an attempt to beat your own high score, then end up turning over your stack of tickets (worth, at most, a handful of candy) to the nearest little kid you can find.
Want a better idea? The Boston chapter of SkeeNation, “America’s Premier Skee League,” is about to wrap up their first 2012 “skee-son” of team skeeball. Duke DeVilling and his wife Alexis partnered with SkeeNation to create a Boston league just last August, but they’ve already signed up more than 100 people, broken into three-person teams, for weekly nights of friendly competition on the skeeball lanes. Each “skee-son” concludes with playoffs and a big “Super Saturday” celebration, the next of which will be held this Saturday, March 31, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
SkeeNation Boston currently plays on Wednesday and Thursday nights at The Greatest Bar. Each player rolls 10 frames per week (the sport borrows heavily from bowling), adding to their individual and team scores throughout the eight weeks. Teams are also required to have uniforms -- shirts, armbands, or anything else they can dream up -- and pay a $20 registration fee, which goes towards t-shirts, trophies, and prizes for things like “Rookskee of the Year” and “M.V.Skee." Don’t think you can win it all? No worries. Skeeballers can also earn half-off appetizers, free pizza, and free cover to The Greatest Bar, so there’s still incentive to do your best.
As you might have guessed, when playing with SkeeNation Boston, it’s pretty much mandatory to insert “skee” anywhere and everywhere possible. Take, for example, the team names, which will make you laugh and set the tone for the competition (because, really, how vicious could teams called “The Backskeet Boys” or “Sesame Skeet” be?) SkeeNation also produces a regular Rolling Times newsletter, which humorously features members from its leagues in eight U.S. cities.
“[SkeeNation Boston has] a big, social atmosphere," said DeVilling. "I didn’t know anyone besides my wife and her family when I moved to Boston a year ago, and it’s been a great opportunity to meet new people.”
Even to an outsider, it certainly seems that way. On the Thursday night I attended, the bar was packed with skeeballers by just after 7 p.m. Most arrive early to socialize, grab a drink, and cheer on the other teams.
“You hang out with all the other teams. It’s more of a community," said Everett Phillips of defending champions "Boston Skee Party." "It’s a good excuse to come out and meet new people, and for a lot of people, it ends up being pretty addicting, looking at the stats, trying to improve week to week.”
A player who said she goes by the name "Coozie" agreed that she loves "the 'skee-ple.'" Some players even come on nights when their team isn’t scheduled, just to see friends -- and “Billy the Bartender,” who knows everyone’s drinks.
"If I had to pick one social thing to do, it would be this," Coozie said. "There’s a lot of camaraderie."
Many people in the crowd aren’t even on an official team. They just come to watch their friends and take advantage of the post-league “FreeSkee,” when anyone can play for free.
"Everyone loved skeeball as a kid growing up," said Derek Morgan of the team "Cougar Hunters" (because they shoot for 40 and above). "It’s a great way to blow off some steam and relax after work.”
SkeeNation Boston players are mostly young professionals, DeVilling said, “but there are some college kids, and it’s a range. We have several gentlemen in their 50s who play, too.
"Some sports atmospheres can get into a niche group of people," he said, "but what I really like about our league is they’re very accepting of new people; it’s a solid crowd.”
Photo of Team "Where'd I Leave My Pantskees?" (L to R, Christina DiNardi, Shalini Patel, and Jennifer Wong; bottom) by Thomas Martin, courtesy of SkeeNation Boston
About Rachel -- I'm a tiny gal with big ideas who's always on the move. One day I'm going to use my vast amount of otherwise useless trivia knowledge to beat Ken Jennings' Jeopardy score. Likes: hula hooping, all things involving the 80's, delicious martinis, sunshine, proper grammar, baby animals. Dislikes: math, being cold, spiders, most vegetables, things in places I can't reach.
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