The way I see it: Bob Branco

We introduce this series to give our writers an opportunity to share their own experiences and stories with you. Each one will offer a different perspective of the phrase “the way I see it.” Born with limited vision, Bob acted on his desire to participate in sports by finding methods that worked for him and continued this mindset into adulthood as his remaining vision diminished. He organized a bowling league to give others the opportunity to enjoy bowling, his favorite sport.

Being legally blind as a result of optic atrophy, I always wondered how many sports I could actually participate in. Though I had limited vision as a child, I often asked myself if I could knock a few pins down with a bowling ball. Would I want to? Did I dare try? Since I can remember, I always enjoyed the concept. When I had some sight, I liked to watch bowling tournaments on television. I enjoyed the sounds and sights of this fascinating activity. How many pins were going to fall next time? Will the guy get a strike? I thought that this was really cool! 

At Perkins School for the Blind, I found the opportunity to actually do what I was so excited about. I bowled for the first time. I did okay; however, I never complained that I wasn’t as good as those guys on television.

In my early adult years, I gradually lost my remaining vision. At first, I noticed that I couldn’t see any contrast. I didn’t think much of it until I realized I couldn’t see large print letters the way I once did. Did my eyeglasses need cleaning? Exactly what was wrong? It took 10 years for this to happen, which gave me ample time to adjust to a slightly different lifestyle. Bowling was not part of it until I organized a bowling league for persons with physical and learning disabilities. Why did I organize such a league? I wanted to share my passion for bowling with others who felt the same way. It didn’t matter that many other bowlers in my league had sight. I knew I could keep up with them as a blind bowler. My confidence in myself couldn’t be higher.

If you can no longer see what’s in front of you, it’s not hard to bowl if you have the appropriate assistance. With a little direction, a blind bowler is able to compete with everyone else. It’s a great feeling. It makes you, as a blind person, feel good about yourself. You realize you can perform at a sporting event with others. Like sighted bowlers, I have my good days and bad days. Isn’t this what it’s all about? We all have our ups and downs despite whether we have a disability or not. We are human beings first and foremost.

As a blind bowler, I found out several things about myself. Being right-handed, I discovered that to be more successful, I had to veer the ball slightly to the left of the center when I throw it. I suppose I tend to curve the ball to the right when I bowl completely straight ahead. Because it requires walking to and from the foul line 30 times during a typical match, bowling is also a great form of exercise. 

Bowling has become my passion, and I encourage others to give it a shot. It’s not about you trying to be a professional. It’s about participation, developing a skill and having fun. 

And this is the way I see it.