Friday, June 24, 2011

Jason Belmonte Interviewed About Bottlegate on Above 180 Podcast

If you're interested, as I imagine that many readers of this blog are, Above 180 recently did a podcast featuring an interview with Jason Belmonte. And, as you can well imagine, "Bottlegate" was a big topic of discussion. I've taken the liberty of doing a rough transcription of key parts of the interview, but I strongly suggest that you listen to the entire interview to get the full flavor and all of the content contained therein. You can click here for the interview and read my partial transcription below.

Jason was asked if there was anything more he’d like to say about the Bottlegate incidents with Brad Angelo and, more recently, Sean Rash, and Jason said:

“Going on in my career, I’m definitely not going to stop drinking water, but I’m definitely going to have to be a lot more aware of my surroundings. I was fortunate enough with Sean that when it did happen, it wasn’t in his actual approach like it was with Brad. When it happened, when I picked the bottle up off the ground and it popped in my hand there, I already knew that he was going to turn around.

What I didn’t know, I didn’t expect to see the next part of the story unfold, but I think it’s quite clear that I just can’t do that again. I can’t give anyone any reason to ever think that this was intentional. A few of my friends have said after Brad, what possessed you to even put a bottle in your hand? And I said, “Look, I drink water, and that’s what we’re given. I don’t have another bottle with me, and, at the time, I definitely wasn’t thinking it would ever happen again.” So, I guess that’s where the fault lies with me. Anything that is possible can happen, so I think from here on in, you definitely won’t be seeing me drink out of a crackly plastic bottle again. I think actually in the shows thereafter, I drink out of a glass, which, at the time, was more of a tongue in cheek, but I think it’s probably the smartest thing to do is have something in my hand that isn’t going to create any noise...”

When asked if he agreed with the PBA’s promotion of the event, kind of like Wrestlemania, but then handing out a fine to Rash, Jason said:

“I think there are two sides of the coin to that particular argument. Obviously I would hope for both Sean and I that it wasn’t publicized and it wasn’t marketed because obviously it’s probably something that, well you’d have to ask Sean, but if it was me who did what Sean did, I would definitely not want millions of people around the world to see that. And, from my point of view, I definitely don’t want people to ever assume or ever have a shadow of doubt [about] my character that I was doing something like this on purpose. So, from that point of view, I would obviously say no, I would not like this to have been promoted in the way that it has been.

But then the other side of the coin is that you have to look at it from a news point of view. I don’t think I’ve ever seen what he did happen on the PBA Tour. People want to know that stuff and...even I, between our football and cricket back home, it doesn’t matter what happens to those plays, if it’s a negative review, it gets spoken about through the media outlets. The bad thing for bowling is we’re actually our own journalists, we’re actually marketing and writing about the sport within the industry, unlike these other sports where it’s a completely outside the square entirely. Talking about it, they can say whatever they want, but, with us, we don’t have all the newspapers and TV crews and all these people coming in to write about us, so...the PBA has to do something about it. So, like I said, I wish it never did, but I understand the reasons why it was publicized...It’s very hard to say to the PBA you shouldn’t be writing about this, because it happened, and no one else is going to write about it. So, it’s a really gray area in what should have been done.

Like I said in my letter, the thing that I might have been upset about was the way in which the first incident was written and advertised, and I expressed my views pretty clearly about that as the fact that I don’t care that they want to write about it. It was some of the quotes, headlines were making the assumption that I was a villain on tour, that I was doing these things on purpose, or it was a possibility that I was doing this on purpose. And that was very hurtful, because I pour my heart into this sport, and just to see things written in a way that you know are completely false is very disheartening. So that was my gripe with it all. Not the fact that they were talking about it.

The same thing with the Angelo incident. It happened. It happened on TV. People want to know about it. We live in a world where people don’t just forget about those things. They want to know more about those kind of blow ups It’s the same in any other sport. If there are two football players on the field who are having a go at each other, I’d love to know a little bit more about it, what caused it, why they did it, but as long as the article is written honestly and in a way that didn’t imply that he was doing something on purpose, unless, of course, he was, that’s probably where I would draw my conclusion from."

Jason was asked if he’d spoken to Sean since the incident and whether there’s anything he’d like to say to him.

“He did come over to me directly after the incident. He was wishing the rest of the Storm staff good luck for the rest of the matches. He called me ‘mate’ and wanted to wish me luck. I was a bit fired up after that, and I definitely said some things I definitely shouldn’t have said because I was embarrassed because I just realized what a friend, what I thought a friend had done to me on national television. So I told him in maybe not so polite a way to go away.

That’s probably the one thing I would change is at least give him the chance to say his thing, and I didn’t give him that chance. Then again, I look back and I was so upset I really couldn’t even look at him. I was just very, very disappointed and heartbroken, because this is a guy who, you know, we’ve traveled around the world together, we eat at the same table when we’re away, we golf together, all these things, and it just kind of welled up inside, and when he did that to me it was like I don’t want to see this guy.

But, you know , like I said, looking back, I should have given him the chance to at least wish me luck for the next match and perhaps there we could have spoken about it a little bit and perhaps this wouldn’t have been so bad on a personal level. But since then, no, we haven’t had a chance to talk.

Obviously, we’ve both going to be in Texas for Bowl Expo, and we’re on the same staff for some companies, so I’m pretty sure there’s going to be a time when we’re going to be in the same room, so we’ll see how it goes, and, look, I’m a pretty forgiving kind of guy and it’s not like we’re going to be best mates again, but I’ll definitely like to hear his side of the story and why it was fueled so much as the way it was. You know, everyone’s got a reason for doing something, and he’s not crazy, you know. He obviously had a reason, so I’d like to know that, resolve that reason, and what happens to our friendship thereafter will probably be something that we resolve next time we talk."

It was suggested that Rash is a very competitive and emotional guy who probably just had to let things out “in the heat of the battle” instead of keeping them “bottled up inside.” What’s more, he may have felt a need to defend his friend Brad Angelo, kind of like a big brother sticking up for his little brother. Jason replied:

“Well, that’s true, but at the same time, I wasn’t doing this on national or international television with children present. Whatever anyone ever did to me on a TV show would never warrant that outburst. I would never use the language. And if some of it was premeditated, that was the other part that really kind of upset me was listening to the footage and seeing the extended version, the strike before, he tells me to “Step up to that shot” and he uses a word that you wouldn’t call a friend.

I understand the whole concept that when you’re on the lanes, no one’s your friend, but there’s a respect there for each other. And I think the best example of that is probably Pete Weber. There isn’t a guy I know who is more passionate and emotionally charged on TV than that guy, and yet I’ve never heard him, in all the years that I’ve been watching him, call another player a name. It’s always been a very emotional outburst, and whether it was directed to another player, he never actually used a curse word to call a player.

So a bit of me was thinking maybe this was slightly premeditated to, like you said, get me back for Brad. A little childish, if that was the case, and we’ll obviously have to ask Sean if that was the reason. But we had ample opportunity to discuss what happened with Brad if he was taking it on a personal level with himself or his company. We bowled all weekend. I think actually we spent a week and a half in the Middle East together prior to that showdown in Chicago. There was plenty of time then if he wanted to come up and say to me that he thought what I did against Brad was wrong or to discuss that, but there was no chat. We were friends, we went to dinner, we golfed together in Kuwait, and then, that’s probably where I’m a little bit confused.

I’m sure, if he ever does come up and talk to me about this, we can definitely find out the reason behind it, because I’m just so shocked about the reaction. I mean if it’s the fact that he just doesn’t like the bottle crinkling, then talk to me about it and say, ‘Look, you’re crinkling this bottle, everyone hates it, stop crinkling the damn bottle, get another thing, whatever.’ He could say it in so many different ways. I couldn’t believe what he had done.”

Jason was then asked if he believed that this was the result of some “built up animosity from Sean” and of the fact that he and Sean are on competing ball company staffs, and Jason replied:

“If he comes up to me that’ll be the first question I ask him. Was this a premeditated event? Was it on your mind from the beginning about somehow defending Brad’s honor in any way. That’s going to be one of the first questions that we’ll talk about.

I’m sure one of his first questions will be if I did it on purpose, and I’ll look him right in the eye and tell him I’ve been drinking water all of my entire career and this is the first time anyone’s ever said anything to me about a bottle crinkling, and, on top of that, it’s completely accidental and unintentional. That’s the part that I think I really want to stress to him and anyone else for that matter who has any doubts about what has happened.

It’s disheartening to think that someone would leave their country, their family to go and bowl against the best bowlers in the world, who has the talent to compete on their own, and then feel like I would have to purposely put people off with a simple crackle of the bottle. Like I wrote in my letter, if I’m going to put them off with a bottle, I’ll throw the bottle at their head. That’s how I’ll put them off with a bottle. That’s what just absolutely spellbounds me.

And then on top of all this, after the Angelo incident, if this was an intentional crinkle to put someone off, I would have to be the dumbest person in the world to do it again with about fifteen ESPN cameras and PBA cameras watching our every move. On top of that, it would be even dumber to do it in an event which I’m not going to earn a title from, and even dumber to do it in an event in which Brunswick and Sean were no threat to myself or Storm. There is absolutely no motive in my doing that to Sean that day.

And, like I said, the reason why I didn’t apologize to Sean was because the timing of it wasn’t horrible, it was accidental, but it wasn’t during his approach. That’s why I was apologetic to Brad, because it was in his third step, it put him off, and I felt absolutely horrible and distraught about it. But I’m not going to apologize to Sean because I feel like I haven’t done anything wrong.

What I have to do in the future is take that bottle out of my hand, giving no one the reason for anyone to imply that I’m trying to do something intentionally. So, that’s something that I’m going to have to do, and that’s where I hope it stays. I hope after everything that’s happened, and if any other guys on tour or around the world doubt me, come up to me, talk to me, look me right in the eye, and I’ll tell all.”

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