“We both need to have a little fun, and nothing could be better than for him to have a chance to spend some time with his second family. After all, Mark Roth is bowling, and bowling is Mark Roth.”
Mark Roth changed bowling more than anyone who came before or after him. At least this is what many say, and I can't think of one good reason to disagree. Roth's "grip-it-and-and-rip-it" technique ushered in the power game so prevalent and generally dominant on tour and in our local bowling establishments today.
For how could a youngster or not-so-youngster fail to be drawn and dazzled by the romping, stomping seven-step approach, the explosive release, the ball that crossed more boards than a polyester ball of that era had any right to cross, and by the way the violent speed and rotation of that ball flung pins all over the deck with unprecedented fury? Mark Roth was exciting. He was captivating. He was literally a game changer.
But a catastrophic stroke last May 31 reduced this lion of the lanes to, at least on the outside, a shell of his former self and has kept him struggling desperately just to stay alive and out of the hospital ever since. And to compound his and his family's misery, he has no health insurance and has had to rely on the kindness of strangers, friends, and titans of the bowling industry to help defray the ever-escalating costs of his never-ending medical treatment and rehabilitation complicated by diabetes and heart disease.
Some of that kindness will come from donations from sales of bowling balls commemorating the Mark Roth Plastic Ball Championship next week, and it was with great joy that I learned that Roth himself plans to attend the event. As reported in an article appearing yesterday on pba.com, the tournament has ignited the flame of Mark Roth's indomitable will to overcome his illness and debility enough to show up in a wheelchair at the AMF Babylon Lanes in West Babylon, N.Y. next week, and he's progressed from almost daily emergency trips to the hospital to six weeks of being hospital free and relentless in his efforts to steel and strengthen himself for the trip.
"Most of his facial paralysis is gone. Most of his speech is back and pretty clear. He’s had a lot of problem with his left shoulder, hand, arm, but he’s going to get a Botox treatment that will help him make the trip to Long Island. He has been working so diligently just to get to that tournament. He doesn’t want to miss it," reports his wife Denise. “I think people will be surprised to see how well he does look at this point. About six weeks ago, it seemed pretty hopeless.”
I am profoundly moved by his determination. Mark Roth has inspired countless millions with his bowling. Though his bowling days are decidedly over, perhaps he can now inspire millions more even more next week.