By Amy Guckeen-Tolson, USAG RedstoneMarch 4, 2011
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Somewhere around the seventh frame, retired Sgt. 1st Class Joe Cox's dad knew his son was on to something.
At the 10th, his wife Dana looked up and realized just how serious the situation was. And in that very same frame, Cox's hands started to shake.
It's not an uncommon occurrence for the league bowler to throw more than a few strikes in a row during a Wednesday night game at Redstone Lanes. But during league play Jan. 26, more than a couple X's marked the spot, or rather, the strikes.
"Going two or three in a row is not a big deal," Cox said. "When you get to six or seven, you think that it might be a good night."
And a good night it was - but it didn't start out that way. As is his tradition, Cox, a member of the Wednesday night league team "Cox's Army," made up of his mother, father, wife and sometimes daughter, hit the lanes around 3 p.m. to warm up before the league's competition began for the evening.
"My practice game was complete garbage," Cox said. "I thought it was going to be an awful night."
But something in his game changed when the evening's series started, as strike after strike after strike made its way to the scoreboard. At the 10th frame, Cox began to shake, realizing how close he was to bowling a perfect game, as the pins fell in a Brooklyn strike. At the 11th shot, his foot stuck, causing him to fall to his knees, but the strike still followed. Finally, at the 12th, the strike came easy.
"It was a really fun night," Cox said.
The evening's accomplishments, however, were not over. Amped up from the perfect game, Cox threw a 217 in his second game. Calmed down by the time the third started, he threw another nine straight strikes, but a second perfect game was not to be, as a spare came in the 10th. Cox's final game score - 289 - combined with his other games from the night, totaled 806 for the entire series. Cox will receive two diamond rings from the United States Bowling Congress for the evening's accomplishments - one for his perfect game, another for the total series being over 800.
The perfect game is the second in Cox's bowling career, the first occurring 12 years ago at the old bowling center on the Arsenal. Having achieved perfection twice is validation for the skills Cox has been working on ever since his mother introduced him to bowling when he was 6.
"The first one could be luck," Cox said. "When you do it a second time it says you've achieved something."
Bowling is a family affair for the Cox family, who not only bowl competitively as a united front during Wednesday night league bowling, but also against each other on the weekends, when they meet at Redstone Lanes for their own competitive family fun to practice for league play.
"We're a bowling family," Cox said. "We love it."
At the end of each weekend practice, Cox and his father will go head to head to compete for what they call the "Championship of the World," to find out who the best bowler is for the week.
"The family dynamic is awesome," Cox said. "We always have something in common. It gives us an additional activity to do together."
They also never have a lack of something to talk about. By the time Tuesday rolls around each week the family is comparing notes to see who their competition is and what to expect from the next league game, but once that week's series is done the talk stops. The team allows themselves only a half an hour at the end of each Wednesday night to either fuss or gloat about the evening's competition, a rule obviously meant to be broken in the aftermath of Cox's perfect game.
As the family has spent time together, Cox has built up his skills, learning that you can't just throw the ball to guarantee a strike. One of the most important lessons he has learned over the years has been to let the shot go, whether good or bad.
"When you throw a good shot and it doesn't carry, you don't get that ball back. You've got to let it go," Cox said.
Recently retired from the military after 11 years active duty in the Army, and 15 years active duty National Guard, Cox will now have even more time to devote to his game, and may even travel for competition. While he could compete in a more competitive league on the Arsenal, that's not the point for Cox.
"I'd rather be able to bowl with my mom and dad. I get one day a week that me and my wife get with my parents," Cox said proudly.