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The kingpin of candlepin

Rob Taylor was knocking down plastic bowling pins with plastic bowling balls before he was old enough to say “7-10 split.”

His parents bought him a toy bowling set prior to his second birthday and he joined a Saturday morning candlepin league a couple of years later. “It was the highlight of my week and big part of my social life through high school,” Taylor said.

Now a fourth-year communication studies major at Northeastern University, Taylor has channeled his passion for bowling into a gig as editor, producer and commentator for the web series turned TV show Candlepin For Kids. The program is set to debut on NESN on Saturday at 11:30 a.m., and the International Candlepin Bowling Association has agreed to sponsor six more episodes of the series, which will air next spring.

Taylor worked with IDEA, Northeastern’s student-run ven­ture accel­er­ator, to create a production company for the program, which he dubbed Holiday Turtle Productions in honor of his late cousin, and has asked the group for gap funding for recording and editing equipment.

“Because we have big aspirations for fundraising, we needed our organization to be taken seriously,” Taylor said of his decision to seek out IDEA. “I had no clue where to start and they were a gigantic help.”

He noted that his co-op experience as a production assistant for Cox Sports in Rhode Island and his role as vice president of NUTV have prepared him for the new gig. “I have had a chance to apply my skills from co-op to the show and the quality of the program has continued to increase since I started working on it three years ago,” Taylor said.

Candlepin bowling was created in 1880 in Worcester, Mass., by a local bowling center owner and has become a tradition in both the New England states and the Canadian Maritime provinces. But the game is unknown throughout the rest of the world.

Taylor, a Haverhill, Mass., native with an average candlepin score of 116 and a high of 171, attributes the game’s poor visibility to a lack of innovation in the Internet age. “The bowling centers that have kept up with the times double as arcades and bars,” he explained, “but most don’t even have Facebook groups or websites.”

He also noted the level of difficulty inherent in candlepin compared to tenpins. The pins are thinner and more difficult to knock down, for example, and the balls are significantly smaller and do not have holes in which to put your fingers.  “The scores are a lot higher in tenpins, which could be the dominating factor in why the game hasn’t spread,” Taylor explained.

So, then, what’s the trick to impressing your friends or significant other on the candlepin lanes? According to Northeastern’s resident bowling expert, all you have to do is perfect your accuracy. “It doesn’t matter how hard you throw the ball,” Taylor said, “but if you hit pins you’re going to be in good shape.”

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