Monday was when some real, serious bowling happened. The doubles tournament wasn’t futile or anything, but it wasn’t actually part of the WSOB (something I later learned from Tom Clark, PBA Commissioner). It was a bit more relaxed and definitely didn’t have the star power that would leave bowling diehards drooling. But, oh, that was definitely Monday. 64 of the best bowlers in the world, all with “I am going to destroy everyone around me” looks on their faces. Intense motivation and focus, from the 5-minute warm-up straight through the final 16.
My Boss, Jim, and Jan Schmidt flew in Sunday night and were with me Monday. I think they were worried I’d be sucked into the bowling vortex permanently and they needed to temper my excitement and make sure I got on the plane Tuesday morning (no worries, I’m waiting for my taxi right now). With their assistance, I was introduced to a slew of bowling big wigs (need a better name of important bowling people… maybe head pins?) such as the aforementioned Tom Clark and Carmen Salvino himself. I learned more about exactly what was going on, since the information around the lanes and on the website isn’t exactly easy to find or thorough. If you can’t get it from there, I suppose the commissioner isn’t a bad next stop.
Carmen was particularly charismatic. He had great energy about it, from his handshake to his story about having himself paged at events to look important and “get your name out.” Something I’m going to have to institute, as well. I could tell he had a tremendous sense of humor and it made complete sense he’d have a tournament named after him.
As for the bowling itself, I continued along my path of shock and awe. These guys in their top form, competing in an actual tournament, was something to behold. Their approaches and forms were smooth and something to envy, but each had a wicked aggression to them. The ball flew down the lane and all but disintegrated the pins. Especially Jason Belmonte. In my opinion, when he hits the pocket dead on, nobody had more energy. With all those revs on the ball, he could afford to put a ton of speed behind his ball. It really helped, too, because he squeaked out a spot in the final over Sean Rash (dramatic, but in a competitive sense, no bottles or direct anger involved). He was electric.
But my favorite bowler to watch, particularly during the final 16, was Wes Malott. No, no, no, not just because he’s a Roto Grip staffer. He really bowled great during the first 18 games of the tournament (if he carries it over to the TV showdown, he’s unstoppable). He started off in the middle of the pack and then slowly put together solid game after solid game. He took a bit of hit during the second set of six for qualifying, but he had already put enough pins on the board to finish 8th going into the final 16. He posted a 300 and a ton of mid- to upper-200 scores. He looked smooth and targeted.
Wes is definitely not what you’d expect from a 6’5″ bowler. He isn’t all force and power out there. He was beautiful timing and a ridiculously fluid approach. Something for me to learn from, without doubt.
Unfortunately, one of my favorites (and everyone’s favorites), Norm Duke, struggled mightily. In the third or fourth game of the final six, he was on the set in front of us and it really tested his patience and skill. Everyone who’d gone through that pair had taken a beating and he was no exception. There were splits all over the place and the ball just didn’t roll as expected. On top of that, several throws were thwarted by the evil approach, which seemed more interested in stopping Norm from sliding than being a good, slick surface. It was unfortunate and really sent home the fact that they’re working on tough, changing conditions. It’s not just the physical aspect that separates these guys from the rest. It’s their ability to deal with the toughest conditions under intense focus and expectations all the while working against invisible barriers. I don’t want to toot their horns too much, but their horns blow too sweet a tune to not.
In the end, sitting here waiting to fly home, it was a great experience. I learned a lot from what I saw the pros do (whether I can do anything with it is another story) and, I feel, more importantly, the atmosphere of professional bowling. It is without a doubt a sporting event and these guys are athletes. There is plenty to be marketed and for fans of all kinds to latch on to. The personalities are across the board, the drama is tangible, and the intensity the pros bring to the lanes is akin to anything a basketball, baseball, or football player brings.
Anyone who doubts their atheletism should be forced to see them in person and then bowl 18 games in a few hours. Once they’ve stopped crying about their legs and arms, I’m sure they will have come around. Also, you look down the lanes at the 64 bowlers there, and it’s not the “beer belly, out of shape” look most doubters would expect. They aren’t Clay Matthews, but who is?
Now, the final TWO questions for the FREE BAG GIVEAWAY. Remember, keep your answers in your back pocket and I will ask for all five answers in my next post. Everyone who guesses all five questions correctly will be entered into the drawing. I will only accept answers for 24 hours from the time the post goes up, so don’t sleep on it.
FBG Question 4:
What is Jason Belmonte’s wife’s name?
FBG Question 5:
In what year was Roto Grip purchased by Storm Products?