10 best indoor sports

by Brian Clarey

Darts Man, it’s cold outside — except sometimes it isn’t. Still, even in North Carolina it’s the peak of winter, and many of us are looking for things to do without putting on jackets. Indoor sports of the low-impact variety are perfect for the cold weather, best played with a fire going in the hearth and something warm to drink. Darts are perfect for January, requiring more finesse than strength or speed. It is immensely satisfying to hear the thunk of a dart hitting the cork. And the pointy ballistics give an element of danger.

Bowling My grandparents bowled in a league. So did my parents, my sisters and I. The official sport of Buffalo, NY is perfectly suited for the cold months, requiring little skill to participate — but a lot of it to win. There are plenty of great lanes in the Triad, but lately I’ve been throwing strikes and spares in my living room on the Xbox Kinect.

Pool It is one of my goals this year to shoot more pool. I loved the game when I was a kid — it took me most of the winter of 1987 to learn to hit bank shots and apply English, and during my bartending years I could sometimes make a little side money on the tables before the crowds came in. The clack of the balls is calling me once again. Gimme a few weeks to practice and I’ll kick your ass.

Foosball Foos is not my game — what is it, anyway? Soccer? Except nobody gets to run around the field? Ridiculous. But aficionados can attest to the delicacy required to make a lateral pass and the thrill of slamming one past the goalie with one of your defensemen.

Poker Poker is a gentlemen’s game: civilized, brutal, allegorical. I could play all day. I’m currently looking for a low buy-in, smoke-friendly cash game — for matchsticks and buttons, of course. Let me know.

Ping-pong I never saw the allure of the game, but even I can appreciate a furious ping-pong match going down in someone’s garage, with coolers of beer and overflowing ashtrays and the players scampering around the table like capuchin monkeys.

Basketball I’m purposefully keeping “active” indoor winter activities like wrestling and swimming off the list, and basketball makes the cut not as a participatory sport, but a spectator one. Pacing in a bar, screaming for your favorite team as the season unfolds is at least as valid an activity as darts.

Pinball I’m a pinball player from way back — a skill honed, coincidentally, at the bowling alley where I played when I was a kid. In Greensboro I go to the Lost Ark on Spring Garden Street, where I’ve been teaching my sons to use one flipper at a time on their bakers’ dozen of vintage machines.

Video games My sons would cry “foul” if I left their favorite pastime — the playing of video games — off this list, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t spend much of the last week punishing the Arkham inmates who have taken over Gotham City as Batman, or liberating some weird, airborne archipelago in the guise of a cartoon Skylander that I’m leveling up like crazy. Xbox, baby.

Intimacy Don’t discount the value of adult time with the one you love. If you’re doing it right, it can be a very athletic endeavor. And it’s way more fun than bowling.