Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bowling Video of the Day--Underground Bowling Association

First, there was the PBA. Now there's the UBA. Care to join?

Bowling Quote of the Day--Mika's The One

"Mika's dominance globally over the past year simply cements his status as not just one of the top 20 players to ever shoe up on the PBA Tour, but in my opinion he has been the greatest influence in bringing the rest of the bowling world to our country. Belmo may be a rock star and indeed could potentially become one of the greatest ambassadors our sport has seen, but he may not have had this opportunity if not for Mika's influence and success."

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Should Jason Belmonte Have Won the ESPY for 2011 Bowler of the Year?

"Of all the award shows, the ESPYs have got to be the dumbest award show there is. First of all, award shows in general are sort of silly and ridiculous and we know they're just for creating publicity, but at least it makes some sort of sense within that framework to have an awards show for movies, or television, because there is no way with those to know which is the best. But when we're talking about sports -they actually play the game. We don't have to give an award to the best team. We know who the best team is - they've already won! That's the great thing about sports, there's a built-in objective mechanism by which we can ascertain who the winners are. But no, you have to win a second time in a tuxedo, and a spokesmodel has to hand you a trophy; that's what's important."
--Bill Maher

"I love John Walsh, and I have a fond feeling for ESPN. But I find the ESPY Awards objectionable. We already have awards. The World Series is an award. An MVP is an award. We don't need more awards. They make up this crap so they can fill time with it - the worst."
--Bill Wolff, former ESPN producer

I apologize for not posting for awhile, but now I'm back and have a lot of news and views to cover. Let me begin with this year's ESPY's. As you may or may not know, the ESPY awards are sports network ESPN's "Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly" awards that go to athletes in a wide variety of sports. The candidates in each sport or category are chosen by the ESPY Select Nominating Committee and then voted on through online fan balloting. The winners are honored on an ESPN television program.

You may be surprised that even though bowling seems to garner little respect in the sports world or among the public at large, there IS an ESPY award for "Best Bowler." I didn't agree with last year's choice of Walter Ray Williams Jr. over Kelly Kulick, but Walter Ray did have a good enough year that his selection wasn't the travesty this year's was.

This year, Jason Belmonte was selected "Bowler of the Year" and received his award on last night's ESPY broadcast. Now Jason has been known to read this blog on occasion, and I want to make it perfectly clear to him and to everyone else that I'm not slamming Belmo when I say that he didn't deserve to win the award. As I think I've made very clear on this blog, I stand in awe of Belmo's talent and skill and think he's one of the best bowlers on the planet and destined to get better and better still. However, I don't see any way in proverbial hell that he was this season's "best bowler."

If we look at the PBA Tour stats, at least three bowlers on tour had better seasons that Belmo did. Of course, there was PBA Player of the Year Mika Koivuniemi. But there were also Chris Barnes, who led the Tour in overall points, and Bill O'Neill, who surpassed Belmo in every statistical category. So, why did Belmo get the award?

I have to think it's because people voted without looking at the stats or caring what they revealed. I have to conclude that, at least so far as bowling is concerned, the ESPY award for "Best Bowler" was the result of a popularity contest or, perhaps, a coordinated voting campaign and not the result of an informed and reasoned pick of the highest performing bowler of the year.

I'm guessing that Jason knows this as well as anyone and is not as happy about his award as he'd like to be. I'm sure he'd like to know, in his heart of hearts, that he deserved it. But the one good thing about it is that it seems to show that the Bottlegate episodes have not significantly lessened his popularity with the bowling public. Nor should they.

Do you believe that Belmo deserved to win this year's ESPY award, and, if not, who do you think DID deserve it?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Bowling Video of the Day--Young Two-Handed Bowler Wesley Low

Bowling Quote of the Day--Jason Thomas' Take on Bottlegate

"What I take from it personally is that what we have in this incident is genuine proof that the competition on the PBA Tour is as intense as what we see in any other major sport, and one of the goals of the PBA is to illustrate that point for fans outside the fold."
--Jason Thomas

Leanne Barrette Hulsenberg's Giant Check

Last night, I bowled against a young man, Caleb Nakata, who works in Leanne and Gary Hulsenberg's pro shop and who picked up Leanne, Gary, and their son at the airport after they returned from the U.S. Women's Open in Texas. I asked him when they'd be putting up the giant replica of Leanne's $50,000 check in their pro shop alongside some of the other checks adorning the walls there, including her 1999 Queens title check. He said they were looking forward to its arrival in the mail.

After I finished bowling, I asked Leanne's husband, Gary, about the check. He said they planned to hang it in the pro shop after they get it but that it was so large, he wasn't sure where it would go. He said it was almost as large as one of the shop windows. That's pretty large alright. In fact, it's so large, I don't know where they're going to be able to hang it unless, perhaps, they remove some of her other checks.

I guess a U.S. Women's Open check supersedes just about any other bowling check even the most successful female bowlers of all time could ever hope to earn. I look forward to seeing it on The Strike Shop wall as soon as possible.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Celebrating Leanne Barrette Hulsenberg's Victory in 2011 U.S. Women's Open

A belated congratulations to Leanne Barrette Hulsenberg for winning what is arguably the biggest women's bowling tournament in history--the 2011 U.S. Women's Open. Of course, my congratulations wouldn't have been "belated" if the finals had been shown live on ESPN2 on Thursday night instead of delayed to Saturday afternoon and I hadn't decided to wait until after the broadcast to write about it so that I wouldn't risk spoiling the results for anyone.

I still don't understand why the finals weren't shown live. As I wrote the other day, after the sponsors of the event went to such lengths to make the tournament an attractive, lucrative, and memorable one, why would they throw water on the fire by televising the event after virtually everyone knew the results? Speaking for myself, I would have reveled in the tension of Leanne's remarkable comeback against Lynda Barnes in the semifinal match had I not already known who was going to win.

Well, Leanne won the match and the title, the 27th of her legendary career. And I can't wait to see the giant replica of that $50,000 check hanging on the wall of Gary and Leanne's pro shop one of these days when I go to practice or bowl league at Fireside Lanes. Perhaps it will even be there this evening when I bowl my sport league.

I can't tell you how happy I am for Leanne and Gary! I've seen Leanne for the past several years at Fireside Lanes, and it seemed to me that she's been pretty disillusioned about bowling for a long time. It must have been a terrible blow to her when the PWBA folded at a time when her game was still strong. She might have gone on to surpass Lisa Wagner's record of 32 national titles. After the PWBA's demise, she just didn't seem to have the spirit to compete at the level she did before, because there just didn't seem to her to be all that much reason to. She still performed quite well at this and last year's Queens and U.S. Women's Open tournaments, but I think she really poured her heart and soul into getting ready for this year's Open. She started bowling more and more tournaments and putting in long hours of serious practice, and it obviously paid off.

What is particularly impressive about her victory this year is that it came against younger players, many of whom had the tremendous advantage of being members of Team USA and other national teams and receiving the advanced coaching that they received in state-of-the-art training centers such as the ITRC. Leanne, so far as I know, had none of that. She did it the old-fashioned, old-school way.

As I wrote previously, I was skeptical when her husband, Gary, told me two weeks ago today that he liked Leanne's chances at the Open. I wonder if even he wasn't a little skeptical too. But after Leanne's performance last week, I don't think either of us will ever doubt that Leanne can still compete with and beat the best female bowlers on the planet.

You can watch video of the entire tournament below and read a recap of the stepladder finals results here.

Bowling Quote of the Day--Chicago Bowling Lounge and Kingda Ka

"Moving the action from a theme park with Bugs Bunny and Batman in attendance to a Chicago bowling lounge was tantamount to the difference between Kingda Ka and the Wiggles World (see below)...and it turned out to make all the difference in the world in transforming the event from a "silly season" exhibition into a real competition."
--Jason Thomas

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Blogging Again on July 5

Due to other commitments this Fourth of July weekend, I won't be blogging again until Tuesday, July 5. At that time, I'll have recaps of the U.S. Women's Open, the GEICO PBA Team Shootout and other bowling news and views for you. I hope you'll join me then.

In the meantime, have a wonderful holiday weekend, and, if you can, get in some games at your local bowling center.

Also, be sure to catch the final rounds and the "Bottlegate 2" incident of the GEICO PBA Team Shootout today (Saturday, July 2) from 4:30 to 6 PM Eastern and from 2:30 to 4 PM Eastern tomorrow (Sunday, July 3) on ESPN, and the stepladder finals of the U.S. Women's Open today (Saturday, July 2) from Cowboys Stadium on ESPN2 at 6 PM Eastern.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Bowling Video of the Day--Mike J. Laneside Interviews Mark Baker About Coaching Philosophy

Bowling Quote of the Day--What Mark Baker Looks At First

"The first thing I look at with any bowler is, How good's their rhythm? How much momentum do they create and where do they create it? And how good is their balance when they throw a shot? And once I figure out those three things, then I start talking about footwork, or timing, or the release point."
--Mark Baker, arguably the most respected bowling coach in the world

Why Weren't the 2011 U.S. Women's Open Finals Shown Live?

I know who won the U.S. Women's Open last night, and I'd love to be able to write about it here today. But I don't want to spoil it for any of you who wish to wait until you watch the show tomorrow to find out. If you read this blog, you probably know already or will know well before the show airs, but I still don't want to risk spoiling it for anyone.

Of course, if this were not a blog about bowling, and I wanted to write about what happened in the finals of the U.S. Women's Open in tennis or golf the morning after, I wouldn't need to wait. It would likely have been shown live on one of the major networks, and sports headlines around the country if not the world would have blared the results minutes afterward.

But, as we all know, that's not how it is with bowling. Bowling is the Rodney Dangerfield of sports. More people do it on some level or other than probably any other sport, but it "don't get no respect" by the media or, it seems, by the public at large.

That being said, I'm puzzled by something. Bowling may not get much respect, but we're still taking here about the U.S. Women's Open. Not only that, but we're talking about a U.S. Women's Open finals held in the grandest venue--Cowboys Stadium--in which ANY bowling tournament, men's or women's, has EVER been held. Not only that, but it attracted the largest field of any U.S. Women's Open ever, almost 300, from 17 countries, and offered the richest prize fund ever. And to top all that off, it offered a monumental $1 million to anyone who shot 300 in the championship match.

It seems to me that the sponsors of this great tournament--the BPAA and Ebonite International--pulled out all the stops to build interest in this wonderful tournament and its stepladder finals and to draw viewers to television coverage of the finals except for the one measure that might have been the most effective. They were unable or unwilling to do whatever it took to have the finals shown live instead of two days after they took place.

Now just how many people do you think are going to spend Saturday afternoon or evening (depending on your time zone) of a Fourth of July weekend watching a women's bowling tournament of which almost everyone who'd be likely to watch already knows the results? And how many people do you think are going to be drawn to watch by the prospect of seeing whether someone wins the $1 million if they already know whether or not someone won it two days go?

Yes, hardcore bowling fans and bloggers like me will watch no matter what. Besides, I have a horse, so to speak, in the race. Leanne Hulsenberg and her husband Gary bowl league and have a pro shop in my home house. Of course, I want this already legendary bowler to win the one women's major that has so far eluded her during her remarkable career. But there apparently aren't too many like me. As I wrote yesterday, even the preponderance of fairly serious bowlers and self-proclaimed bowling fans appear to be afflicted with a chronic case of the ho-hums. So how many of THEM are going to watch the finals on a holiday weekend or even record it to watch it later when they already know who won, what all the scores were, and whether or not the champion shot 300?

I don't want to be overly critical of the BPAA and Ebonite, mind you. After all, if they hadn't stepped in and rescued a tournament that the USBC abandoned after last year, there'd have been no U.S. Women's Open this year or perhaps ever again. I'm grateful to them. And if I'M grateful to them, just imagine how grateful the women are who cashed or who made the finals of the tournament!

And I'll be the first to admit that I don't know anything about securing live television time on ESPN2 or any other network any time of the day or night. Perhaps it was all but impossible to work out logistically or financially. Yet, it seems to me that there had to have been a way to show the grandest women's bowling tournament ever live, and that someone blew it somewhere, somehow in its not happening.

I don't know what the future holds for the U.S. Women's Open. But if it has a future, I hope I get to see the finals of the next one and of all the ones thereafter live on television and to blog here about them immediately thereafter.

On the off chance that you don't know who won the Open but want to know now instead of trying to hold out until you watch it tomorrow, or perhaps you won't or can't watch it tomorrow, you can click here for a recap of the finals. If you want to watch or record the finals tomorrow, they will be shown Saturday, July 2 on ESPN2 in HD at 6 PM Eastern.