Friday, February 10th, 2017, was a dark and rainy night in Burbank, California, making it a perfect night to be inside bowling at the local good time, Pickwick Bowl. The opening night of the inaugural “The Big Lebongski” tournament (or “TBL”), Pickwick was the first of four stops in California, which includes Sacramento, San Francisco, and San Diego. The stoner tribute bowling tournament stops in all eight recreationally legal cannabis states of California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Massachusetts, Maine, Alaska, and Nevada, and two medical marijuana states, Michigan and Arizona.

An homage to “The Dude” and all that’s cool about the 1998 Coen Bros. cult-classic film, the tournament was founded by TBL commissioner Gary “Spacey” Lane, who loves “The Big Lebowski” movie because of, “the irreverent, cavalier, ultimate-I-don’t-give-a-shit attitude of Jeffrey Lebowski.” According to Spacey, the movie is “absolutely priceless–what all us achievers-in-training aspire to.”

Christain Ackerman reacts to a throw during The Big Lebongski Bowling Tournament. (Justin L. Stewart for Leafly)
Christain Ackerman reacts to a throw during The Big Lebongski Bowling Tournament. (Justin L. Stewart for Leafly)

“The Big Lebongski bowling tournament series is indeed a respectful, stoner-flavored tribute to The Big Lebowski.”
“Gary Spacey” Lane, The Big Lebongski commissioner

Like many ideas, the Big Lebongski bowling tournament was borne over a meal with friends. “The TBL concept evolved over a dinner conversation I had many moons ago with Alex Brauer, President of Cannapack Solutions,” explained Spacey. “[It] focused on answering the question, ‘What kind of fun event could be developed for the cannabis industry, as well as potheads everywhere, that could combine ‘imbibement’ with good times?’ When Alex threw out ‘bowling,’ it immediately made me think of the movie. Somehow, the pot dots instantly connected and I suggested that the championship trophy could be a bowling pin-shaped bong. And that’s when it hit me: The Big Lebongski!”

At 'The Big Lebongski' bowling tournament, pins double as pipes and intricate glass-blown bongs.

The tournament is a two-day event with a $420 entry fee for a team of three to four players. Everyone receives a goodie bag with treats from CannaMX, Supreme Organics, and a coveted The Big Lebongski T-shirt. The local tournament consists of teams who play round robin games in random order against each other. City-specific winners are determined by whichever team accumulates the highest score by round robin points. These local champs take home the smaller Big Lebongski trophy (which smokes out great, by the way) and four super cool glass pin pipes. The top two high-scoring teams nationwide will play back in Burbank at Pickwick Bowl on December 8-9 for the championship game and the big win: a larger, more impressive Big Lebongski trophy and $420 cash prize.

Robert Calkin lines up for a throw during The Big Lebongski Bowling Tournament. (Justin Stewart for Leafly)
Robert Calkin lines up for a throw during The Big Lebongski Bowling Tournament. (Justin L. Stewart for Leafly)

Jim Embrescia, local glass blower and owner of Los Angeles Glassblowing, designed and made the first trophy, a beautiful larger-than-life-sized bowling pin bong. Originally a fun league for two years amongst friends in the cannabis industry, the original intention was a Stanley Cup-type trophy that gets passed on from champion to champion without permanent possession, but as Spacey tells of the first league year, “There was a misunderstanding with the Scouts when they won it. Long story short, and keeping with the positive karma spirit that ‘The Big Lebongski’ embodies, the original trophy is now theirs to keep.”

Embbrescia continues to make a new custom trophy for each tournament now, and the league idea was scrapped for a way to make the event bigger and and country-wide.

“...most stoners are, by nature, kind and benevolent souls. So when it comes to competing, if one is in a pot-fueled orbit, results usually become secondary to the camaraderie and good times.”
“Gary Spacey” Lane

Christening the local tournament, Commissioner Spacey organized a meet and greet in the bar before any bowling. Local smokers, many who worked in some capacity in the cannabis industry, came together to have beers, break the ice, and take the opportunity to meet new people.

An event like TBL is a perfect example of a post-legalization social gathering, as new options for team building and business networking are explored. Is there a profitable and fun future in cannabis industry teamwork or even charity events? Could the Mud Run 5K feature a weed bar at the end instead of a bottle of Bud Light? Why not? In between the bowling games, there was a game break outside and bowlers exchanged joints, contacts, strain preferences, and strike tips.

Teams bowl (and pack bowls) while befriending industry professionals.

Commissioner Spacey explained, “Bowling is a sport that easily facilitates the integration of both sexes, so no one is excluded. As the social vehicle for fun, there is something uniquely wonderful about bowling that breaks through any dark competitiveness, at least when you add a cannabis element to the proceedings. I think that most stoners are, by nature, kind and benevolent souls. So when it comes to competing, if one is in a pot-fueled orbit, results usually become secondary to the camaraderie and good times. At Lebongski events, it truly warms the heart when you see players from opposite teams high-fiving each other, genuinely sharing in the joy of each other’s moment. Sharing that joy and spreading the love, that’s what The Big Lebongski spirit is all about.”

Gary Lane totals the final scores to determine the winner of The Big Lebongski Bowling Tournament in Burbank, CA. (Justin Stewart for Leafly)
Gary Lane totals the final scores to determine the winner of The Big Lebongski Bowling Tournament in Burbank, CA. (Justin L. Stewart for Leafly)

Bob Calkin, founder of the Cannabis Career Institute, formed a team called 420Pros.com with friends who work at Cannajobs.com. “We just use this as a way for our business to get know each other and hang out after hours. Maybe get some more business done afterwards,” he shared.

My team, We Hate the Fucking Eagles, played a team from High Times, and the Cannapearl Pinheads (made up of people who work at CHEEX Distribution) played the 420Pros.com, the latter taking the local win. Marcus Gray, from the winning team, shared, “It’s a perfect way to bring the community together. In California and LA we have such a great cannabis community, it’s a great way to all get to know each other and get introduced to each other.”

Commissioner Spacey added, “Some day all bowling tournaments will be this much fun…well, maybe not.”