Why do so many people seem to dislike Chris Barnes and slam him every chance they get? Now I admit that I've been paying more attention to these things since I started writing this blog, but I don't recall such widespread animosity and ridicule toward Barnes prior to this year. While I don't remember him ever receiving the adulation accorded to such stellar contemporaries as PDW, Norm Duke, and Walter Ray, I also don't recall him being the butt of so much scorn and derision as he has been this year.
Here are some illustrative recent comments from the PBA website of what I'm talking about:
"I seen in Chris Barnes again why I cant stand the guy. It is a shame all that talent in one jerk. Your big mouth and bad attitude never fails."
"What a crybaby Chris. Your actions today degrade the sport since you are to be a role model and spokesperson for the PBA."
"Barnes is an a**hole."
"As for the display of arrogance from Chris Barnes in the Brad Angelo match, you are nothing short of a cry baby Chris. This is what is wrong with thePBA. There are so many guys out there like Parker, Scroggy, Walter Ray, Norm, Pete....and others that have so much class and make the PBA what it is. Your attitude only hurts a very frail organization."
"although i do appreciate and respect barnes ability to bowl, he certaintly does make it easy for one to root against him. especially knowing that he banked alot of coin with a couple of lucky brooklyns himself."
"You can't help but like the way they zoom in on Barnes' pouty face. They do it every time. It's hilarious."
Of course, these comments refer to the way Barnes reacted to a Brad Angelo crossover strike in their match yesterday. Angelo carried the strike and threw up his arms in mock pride and Barnes made some snide remarks about Brooklyns and "real strikes" afterward. But it's important to note that Barnes and Angelo amicably smiled at one another and shook hands afterward, and Barnes graciously congratulated his victor. And I seriously doubt that if PDW, Norm Duke, or Walter Ray reacted the way Barnes did to Angelo's lucky strike, they would receive the same almost universal condemnation that Barnes has. I suspect that most people would have praised Weber for his "smack talk." So, why do they blast Barnes for it?
Moreover, the ridicule I've seen leveled at Barnes this year seems to go well beyond what happened yesterday. It seems to me as though everything he does is criticized or worse. If he loses a match on TV or in one of his "Chris Barnes Challenges," it's because he "choked" or is "overrated." If he wins, it's because he "got lucky" or beat up on an inferior opponent. He can't win either way. Why is that?
It's tempting to say that people are simply jealous of a guy with so much obvious talent and skill, a guy whom those in the know have repeatedly called the best bowler on tour and in the world for the past several years. Yet, did people get jealous of PDW, Norm Duke, or Walter Ray when they received the same kind of praise? Guys like Randy Pedersen keep calling Walter Ray the best bowler who ever lived. Do people slam Walter the way they do Chris?
Another possible answer is that people get down on those who don't live up to their lofty reputation. Bowling experts keep saying how good Barnes is, but he keeps losing on TV. Never mind that he's run into some buzzsaws on TV lately--think Kelly Kulick's 265 in the TOC, Walter Ray's 290 in the Masters, and Angelo's 256 yesterday. This means that three of his most recent opponents on TV shot a combined series of 811 against him. No matter how good you are, it's pretty hard to beat that.
Granted, Barnes, despite the fact that he's bowled better on TV and in qualifying and match play than many seem willing to acknowledge, hasn't lived up to his reputation and challenged for Player of the Year this season the way he normally does. But the same can be said of Norm Duke and Wes Malott. They too have had what everyone would consider to be off seasons, but they aren't being lampooned and reviled the way Barnes is. Why is that?
I'm guessing that there's something about Barnes' personality that rubs a lot of people the wrong way. People perceive him as arrogant, smirky, and cold. So they slam him for every slip of the tongue, every misfire on the lanes, every expression of displeasure on his face, and every loss of a match that he "should" have won.
Now I don't suppose that Barnes feels all that bothered by any of this. He probably pays it no mind. He's not out there to be liked; he's out to win. But for some reason, I hate to see a guy as talented and skillful and Chris Barnes fail to receive his due for being as talented and skillful as he is. I hate to see a great player like Barnes not only not get the respect he deserves, but be slammed unfairly at every turn.
So, I'm paying him some respect here and not jumping on the Barnes Hate Train. I'm still saying that Chris Barnes is a great bowler, and, by every indication I've seen, a loving and devoted husband and father, and a true and honorable professional who's a credit to bowling and to the PBA. Furthermore, I predict that "HE'LL BE BACK" to silence his growing legion of naysayers. Well, maybe not "silence" all of them. You can't silence irrational animus. But you CAN hang in there and show your more reasonable detractors that you deserve your reputation for being one of the best bowlers of this or any era.