Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Crotch-Chopping in the PBA?

"Right here, right now!"
--Pete Weber

I think Pete Weber is a lot more popular with bowling fans than Chris Barnes is, but some don't like Pete either. This became very evident after a tournament earlier this year when Pete lashed out at a photographer who took photos of him during his approach. He stuck a 10 pin and then berated the female photographer for distracting him with the audible clicking of her camera and warned--some would say threatened--her not to do it again. I blogged about this in my entry Is Pete Weber a Bad Boy?

The dislike that some feel for Weber or, at least, for some of his antics on the lanes surfaced again after he won the Marathon Open last Sunday. I wrote that I thought he exhibited a new level of touching humility and impressive maturity during his exciting performance. But not everyone agreed with me, judging from comments on the PBA website. Here are some of the choicer ones:

"PDW is a great competitor but a horrible role model for young people tuning in to watch. There were other fierce competitors like Earl Anthony and Pete's father, Dick, who wanted to win so badly but had class Pete will never know."

"Just like every other sport, bowling is turning into all hype and no class. Pete Weber is nothing but drug head and has very little class. It's no wonder the professional tour is having such a hard time keeping its head above water."

"I agree with many of you posters that PDW offers some of the best and also the worst to the PBA. His talent is unquestionable, but his manners and attitude sometimes are. I watched him in person 2 weeks ago at the Long Island Open. He did not have a good qualifying session and finished somewhere around 82nd. His last 2 qualifying games were 171 & 156, after which he stormed off the lanes in a huff & screamed at people in his way to move so he could make a quick exit. It was not a very classy display, and unfortunately not unusual for PDW. When he's going well he's a totally different person than when he's not. I was happy to see him once again earn the winners circle, but a little more class and sportsmanship would be nice to see also. Crotch chops on TV? C'mon....."

"I like Pete, glad he won, but the telecast being on Easter Sunday made the crotch chops seem pretty shallow and insensitive in my opinion."

"The crotch chops make him seem like an uneducated fool to any casual observer."

"both the crotch-chop and the sunglasses are ridiculous looking for a member of the "professional" bowlers association."

"That is exactly what it means. It is a vulgar gesture, one of contempt, that essentially means "Right here!" (his crotch) and is comparable to means "Suck my d**k" or "B**w me." Even though he directs it toward the pins, not his competitors, it still has no place in the PBA and more than likely any other PBA member would have been fined and/or suspended. But he's a Weber."

"Pete is a great bowler. There will never be any doubt about that and he deserves respect and congrats on his victory. But with reactions like his crotch chop, as a person, he's a P-Pretty D-Disgusting W-Weasel! Just my opinion. Nothing personal."

What most of these comments refer to is a defiant gesture called the "crotch-chop" that Weber sometimes makes after he gets an important strike. He borrowed it from professional wrestling and it, along with his wearing sunglasses every time he competes, has become his trademark. If you've ever seen the wonderful bowling documentary film A League of Ordinary Gentlemen," you'll know that the PBA actively encouraged Pete to inject as much excitement as he could into the game by virtually any means he could, including the crotch-chop, and that he was plenty willing to oblige. Still, many people don't like it or him for doing it.

I used to be one of those people. I grew up watching the PBA Tour during the staid, at least in bowling circles, 60's and 70's, and you didn't see crotch-chops, shout-outs, and smack talking by the bowlers back then. The bowlers were generally quiet and very reserved and so was the audience. The atmosphere was one of respectful solemnity. Then guys like Marshall Holman and Pete Weber came along to blow the lid off traditional PBA telecast decorum. Though I admired their bowling, I thought they were jerks, and I usually rooted against them.

I think it was when I watched the aforementioned A League of Ordinary Gentlemen that I changed my opinion of Pete Weber. I came to see him not as a crotch-chopping, sunglass wearing caricature of a jerk who just happens to have a beautiful and devastatingly effective bowling style, but as a flawed but essentially decent human being struggling under great pressure to earn a respectable living doing what he loves and being grossly underpaid, like most of the other players on tour, for how well he's able to do it. And even though he's behaved in ways since then that I've found questionable at times, I continue to see the good person beneath the flamboyantly "bad boy" image he's cultivated, and I appreciate his bowling talent and skill more than ever.

Moreover, when he won Sunday, not only did I not feel put off by his trademark gestures, but I actually got swept up in the intensity they expressed. I was loving every incandescent moment of PDW's powerful performance. But now that the white hot intensity of Sunday's telecast has faded some and I've read the comments above and had time to give matters a little thought, I have mixed feelings about what went down in Sunday's telecast. On the one hand, I side with a commenter on pba.com who wrote:

"I have an overall opinion that covers all of the controversial issues when it comes to bowling as far as swearing on the air, crotch chops, smack-talk, etc. And that is that as long as it comes across as authentic from passion and intensity I am all for it. It if comes across as contrived or just being outrageous for the sake of being outrageous or on purpose for ratings, then I don't like it."

I thought Weber's antics at least appeared to be spontaneous expressions of his competitive intensity on the lanes, and I enjoyed them. Yet, on the other hand, when I more dispassionately consider what a crotch-chop actually signifies and ponder the growing incivility and vulgarity that seem to permeate our culture, I wonder if I really want the behavior of the most accomplished professionals of the sport I love most to represent that sport on the world stage the way Chris Barnes, Brad Angelo, and, especially, Pete Weber did at times last Sunday.

I don't have a quick and easy answer to the question except, at this point, to say that I wish Pete Weber would find a different way to express his competitive exuberance.

How do you feel about all of this?


  1. I'll admit that I am a Pete Weber fan. I admire his bowling ability first and foremost but I also admire his intensity and will to win. Pete lets it all hang out on the lanes and to some degree I wish I had more of that as I am a competitive bowler myself. At times, I question whether I have the guts to go for the juggler (like he does) and put it all out there. People in this category are usually very extroverted and wear their emotions on their sleeve for the world to see (i.e Muhammad Ali). I believe that we are watching Pete in his element and the gestures he makes are spontaneous reactions to fierce competition or celebration to hard earned victory. Restricting Pete's actions would be like telling an Italian to talk without their hands. In no way do I see what he does as derogatory to the other players or fans. My parting shot - you know there is something to his style that has us all watching. Why else would ESPN have him on PTI?? He is intertaining. He has a "bad boy" image and people love that. In my opinion he is the "Dale Earnhart Sr." of the PBA - tell me he doesn't look like him with the sunglasses. It is what it is - I hope Pete stays competitve for many more years. I'll live with the crotch chops to watch my favorite "competitor" on the lanes.

    1. Pete is a dick. An immature baby.