Pittsburgh sports lovers winning Valentines at games

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Several lanes down the bowling alley, he saw her: a tall blonde with hoop earrings and good bowling form.

"I'm going to marry her," he announced to his bowling team.

That scene unfolded nine years ago at Arsenal Lanes in Lawrenceville. Encounters like it have taken place in kickball diamonds, dodgeball courts and flag football fields across the Pittsburgh area.

For the last 13 years, the Pittsburgh Sports League, run by the Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Project, has not just provided young Pittsburghers with an outlet for their sporting desires -- it also has proved a winning lineup for romance.

The PSL runs leagues for 17 sports, from soccer to volleyball to broomball.

"It's a no-pressure situation," said Becky Wesolowski, director of the PSL from 2004 to 2011. "You see people -- even if they're not on your team -- you see them the next week and the next week."

Ms. Wesolowski knows from which she speaks. After playing on softball and hockey teams with Joe Wesolowski, the two married in 2011 at the Roberto Clemente Museum in Lawrenceville. They are expecting their first child next month.

But back to our bowlers.

After spotting the bowling blonde of his dreams, Steven Veverka deduced that her name was Tatum. He eagerly checked the schedule, planning to ask her for a date when their bowling teams would face off. When that date came, every single one of his teammates couldn't make it. Undaunted, he bowled alone, and asked Tatum out afterward.

She said that she couldn't go out with him. "But she didn't say that she wouldn't," Mr. Veverka said. "It was like 'Dumb and Dumber': So you're telling me there's a chance."

With its rental shoe smell and old-school vibe, a bowling alley might not seem like the ideal spot for romance. But that and other casual forums for mingling are increasingly important places for couples to find each other.

"We live in a post-dating world. Traditional dating is no longer the way that people are connecting and falling in love," said Jessica Massa, author of "The Gaggle: How the Guys You Know Will Help You Find the Love You Want."

Ms. Massa interviewed more than 100 single and married men and women about their love lives. She heard a lot of frustration.

"Dating felt stiff and uncomfortable and is not very fun," she said. "If there's one piece of advice I end up giving to women who are in a rut, it's to find an activity where they'd have fun anyway. People are connecting in situations that allow them to be more natural."

For Mr. Veverka, it wasn't easy. Thoroughly and repeatedly rejected by the woman that he had even told his mother that he was going to marry, Mr. Veverka wasn't even planning to attend the PSL end-of-the-season party. His roommate insisted that he just come for one drink.

And there she was at the party, ordering a drink at the bar.

"I'll ask you one last time, 'Will you go out with me?' " he asked.

"Actually that's why I came here tonight," she answered.

They married three years later.

What's more, Mr. Veverka's roommate, Matt Grove, also met his wife at that party, as did one other now-married couple.

Mr. Veverka, 36, and Ms. Veverka, 31, now have two daughters. They close Friday on a house in Hampton.

For Mr. Veverka, it isn't surprising that the PSL would result in relationships. "There's not a lot of opportunities to be at a place where the odds are that good -- there will be 20 guys and 20 girls, and it's not at a bar."

And so even this post-dating world -- with romance often conducted through texting, Facebook and online dating sites -- love finds its way into bowling alleys.

"Everyone always loves our story," Ms. Veverka said. "I feel like they think it's sort of old-fashioned, kind of romantic and not too typical. It sounds like it's from the 1950s."

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Anya Sostek: asostek@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1308.


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