In a town where the act of consuming a 16-ounce can of Iron City Beer is often spoken of as a metaphor for exercise (locals like to talk of “pumping a pint of Iron”), it’s only fitting that sundry sports and recreational activities should abound for the beer-bellied, the uncoordinated, the noncompetitive, and the otherwise altogether out-of-shape.
Which isn’t to say that Pittsburgh’s myriad and offbeat outdoor pursuits aren’t physically demanding. Consider the local chapter of the Hash House Harriers, for instance: A motley crew of men and women who jog for miles upon miles throughout the city’s backstreets, they stop only occasionally to raise their spirits, you might say, at a neighborhood tavern.
But whatever your current level of physical vigor, you’re almost certain to find some sport or activity of interest in Pittsburgh. In other words, welcome to the City of Champions, where even a 255-pound running back named after a mass-transit vehicle (The Pittsburgh Steelers’ Jerome Bettis, a.k.a. “The Bus”) can become an honest-to-goodness American hero.
If you’re truly serious about your pool game, Shootz Cafe & Billiards (2305 E. Carson St., 412/488-3820) is the sort of place that’ll have you gasping in admiration. Located near the Birmingham Bridge in the South Side’s pub district, Shootz is the polar opposite of the clichéd down-and-dirty pool hall. Unlike other bars on East Carson Street, its 18 tables are always kept in impeccable condition. And while the crowd varies between professional types and ball cap–wearing college kids, the atmosphere is always upscale, thanks to the fireplaces and luxurious couches scattered about. Even pop superstar Prince once held an after-party event in a private VIP room here.
A self-described “drinking club with a running problem,” the Hash House Harriers were formed in the 1930s by a group of British soldiers stationed in Malaysia. Looking for a creative way to combine exercise with social activity, they modified the English game of hares and hounds into something of a drinking contest. Today, Hash House Harriers clubs, known as kennels, exist in just about every major city on Earth — Pittsburgh included. To put it simply, a hash is a combination of a long-distance jog, a scavenger hunt, and a keg party. Anyone is welcome to join in; call the Pittsburgh Hash Hotline for details at 412/381-6709, or go online at www.pgh-h3.com .
Perfect for players young and old, physically fit, or weak and frail, lawn bowling is an ancient Roman game that was first introduced to America by the English. Unlike the variety of bowling that takes place in an alley, lawn bowlers compete against one another in each game; part of the strategy involves knocking an opponent’s ball out of play. The bowling green in Point Breeze’s Frick Park — not far from the Henry Clay Frick estate — is the only such court in the region. Open bowling takes place on Thursdays and Fridays at 7 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays at 1 p.m. For more information, call 412/782-0848, or visit the website of the Frick Park Lawn Bowls Club at www.lawnbowling.net .
If you know much at all about pinball, you’ll no doubt be impressed to learn that Pittsburgh is home to the World Pinball Championships, an annual series organized by PAPA (www.papa.org ), the Professional Amateur Pinball Association. The championship games take place in suburban Scott Township. Do be aware, however, that the majority of the flipper fanatics here will be adults, not children. More than $33,000 in prize money changes hands during the tournament; the winner takes home $10,000. For more information about the local pinball scene, visit www.pinburgh.com .
Looking for an unusual way to spend a Monday evening that involves ugly shoes, indie rock, and cheap beer in plastic cups? We thought so. You might try paying a visit to Rock & Bowl at Arsenal Lanes (212 44th St., 412/683-5992, www.arsenalbowl.com ) in Lawrenceville. It’s a once-a-week event where hipster types and college kids bowl to the accompaniment of a local rock band. The night will set you back $8, which includes all the frames you can squeeze in between 9 p.m. and the stroke of midnight. And no need to feel self-conscious about your nonexistent bowling skills; while some of Pittsburgh’s best bowlers frequently congregate at Arsenal Lanes, they tend to steer clear of this event. Can’t imagine why.
A noncontact team sport that combines elements of soccer, basketball, and American football, Ultimate Frisbee was created in 1960 by college students who originally tossed around pie dishes. Today the sport is played internationally, and more than 50 countries hold tournaments. Contrary to popular belief, however, UF players must be in top physical shape to perform well. The local organization known as Pittsburgh Ultimate (www.pittsburgh-ultimate.org ) is home to a number of seasonal leagues, as well as college teams, a women’s league, and a junior league. Visit the organization’s website to find contact information for the various team representatives.