The Big Lebowski’s Bowling Problems

I mean this is just like, my opinion, man

Paul Greenberg

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Photo by Brad Preece on Unsplash

On reviewing The Big Lebowski for the 47,162nd time, I wanted to interrogate the film with the particular lens of the sport of bowling. Some other observations about the film will also be addressed in this discourse but it’s really down the lanes that I want to roll some key questions. So here goes:

  1. As we’re all well aware, Walter did draw a firearm during League play. We see this with our own eyes (though we never get a chance to see whether Smokey was indeed over the line). That’s a judgment call and since Walter is a man who survived many a night in the jungle facing the “man in the black pyjamas” I defer to his superior observational abilities. Nevertheless as Walter himself points out bowling is not ‘Nam and there are, in fact, rules. It would appear that one of the rules is that you cannot draw a firearm during League Play. We know this from the message Bill Salinger of the So. Cal Bowling League leaves on Jeffrey’s answering machine. True, as a Connecticut-based Lebowski scholar pointed out to me recently, a “known sex offender with a record” competes in the So. Cal Bowling League indicating that the League’s ethical standards are on the low side. Moreover, Salinger notes that this was brought to his attention at the level of an “informal” complaint so perhaps the League just let it slide. All this does, however, raise an important intra-textual question: should Jeffrey, Walter and Donny have “rolled their way into the semis”?
  2. Speaking of Jeffrey, Walter and Donny, can we assume that all three are active members of the team? If so, is there a third that we never see on the team of Jesus and Liam? How would Jesus truly “fuck them up” if it’s two against three? Or, is Donny an alternate? An additional follow up: seeing as Donny is effectively no longer “on the team” by movie’s end, can we expect Jeffrey and Walter to fairly compete against Jesus and Liam in the semis if Jesus and Liam do actually have a third?
  3. As we all know Walter “sure as shit doesn’t fucking roll” on shabbos. I respect this and see his commitment to “3000 years of beautiful tradition from Moses to Sandy Koufax” as true and heartfelt, whatever issues he may have with Cynthia and her Pomeranian. That said, is this not an unrealistic burden to…

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Paul Greenberg

New York Times bestselling author of Four Fish as well as The Climate Diet and Goodbye Phone, Hello World paulgreenberg.org