However, it took awhile for me to notice him last week. When I first caught glimpses on Xtra Frame of him bowling match play, I wasn't particularly impressed with his strange style and slow-balling it down the lane, especially with dazzlers like Belmo around him. To be honest, I wondered what a rather ordinary if not peculiar looking bowler like him was doing in a tournament like that, not to mention scoring well enough to be in match play with a field of superstars.
When he and Belmonte ended up battling it out for top seed, I was REALLY surprised. Yet, it was also beginning to dawn on me that appearances can be deceiving and that this Ziesig fellow must be pretty darn good to be where he was, because sheer luck seldom if ever enables one to execute the kinds of pressure shots and fly as high in the standings as Ziesig was toward the end of match play.
Still, when Sunday's telecast began, I was rooting for Walter Ray all the way. I'll always be for Walter first. He's my favorite bowler of all time. Yet, when Ziesig won, I didn't feel the huge letdown I normally do when my favorite bowler loses. There was something about Ziesig that was winning me over. Not only could the guy obviously flat out bowl despite his peculiar looking style, but he seemed so genuine, so cool under the lights and the enormous pressure, so gracious to his competitors, so thankful to be where he was and to be enjoying his self-described "15 minutes of fame," and, ultimately, so thoroughly good-natured and just plain nice that I was really starting to like the guy.
Still, now that Jason Belmonte has become my second favorite bowler on earth, I wanted Belmo to beat Brian. Yet, by the time that incredibly exciting and suspenseful match was over and even though I felt bad for Belmonte for losing the way he did, I felt very happy for Brian Ziesig. He had earned his victory, and he embraced it with uncommon grace. He was, as many have subsequently said, "a class act."
He continued his classiness yesterday by graciously posting these beautiful words of gratitude to the PBA Forum:
I just wanted to be able to take this time to say thank you to a whole lot of people after one of the greatest weeks of my life.
Thanks to Kelly Sullivan, Lisa Baron, and the rest of my "fan club" for making those shirts, posters, and signs everyone saw on the show this past week.
Thanks to the great staff at AMF Babylon Lanes, GM Mike Serigano, Snack Counter manager Laura Kase, the mechanics Steve, Glen, Dave, etc. and everyone else on Mike's staff that made the event run so well.
Thanks to all of the fans who were there the whole week supporting me, and especially the atmosphere on the show. It really was an incredible scene to be a part of.
Thanks to Chuck Gardner, Tony Mendiola, and Brian Bever from KR/Brunswick/On The Ball.
Thanks to Joe Farley, Del Ballard and Eddie Gallagher at Ebonite for all their help past and present.
Thanks to Mike Luongo and Doene Moos from Storm.
Thanks to my boss Peter Hakim, the 1986 LI Open champ for all of his good advice during the week. And to Jason Couch, whose advice the morning of the show was about as perfect a description as you could get.
Thanks to the rest of the Ace Mitchell Staff here on LI, and in Ohio, especially Dave Grau for giving me the time off, and Jeff Mraz for his words of encouragement.
Thanks to Tom Clark for coming up with the idea for a "retro" plastic ball event. This tournament was a HUGE advantage for me. While the exempt players were bowling their standard events with "regular" equipment, I was able to put about a month's worth of practice in with plastic in order to get the feel of the fingers and hitting up on the shot as opposed to getting it off my hand "clean". The Exempt players are better at adjustments than me, better at equipment selection than me, and better at getting the ball off their hand clean than me...so with all of these factors minimalized, along with the high scores, it allowed me to compete at a higher level than even I thought possible.
Thanks to all of the PBA players who competed this week. They all made me feel like an equal, even though I am now considered an "amateur". Special thanks to Walter Ray and to Jason Belmonte for being completely gracious and genuinely happy for me on my win, even though it was pretty obvious which way the breaks went.
Thanks to Randy Pedersen and Rob Stone for keeping me loose throughout the show, and for their kind words during the broadcast for me and my family...I will never forget it.
And last but certainly not least, thank you to my wife Christine, my daughter Kirsten, my mother Mary, my brothers Christopher and Stephen, my sister-in-law Marie, and my late father Robert who I am sure had a lot to do with exactly how that roll-off went. The only regret is that he couldn't have been there to see it in person, but I know he was with me in spirit.
P.S. See the dots in my post??? That is what cloud 9 still looks like to me.
There was an outpouring of warm responses to Ziesig's glowing message, including a congratulatory one by Mike Scroggins and one from yours truly.
So, while it's probably true that many of us had never heard of Brian Ziesig before last week's tournament and that, going in to it, many of us probably wanted everyone else on the telecast to win ahead of him, I personally am now delighted that he won, and I'm now a big fan of his bowling and, even more importantly, of his exemplary character.