“I’ve been bowling really well the last month or so. I worked on some things early last month with Rod Ross. I’m doing some things I’ve never, ever done before. I’m actually in balance throwing the ball. It’s starting to really come around, and I’m really happy with the way I’ve been throwing the ball. I still throw a few bad shots, as you saw, but, for the most part, I’m throwing a lot more good quality shots, which is what I need to do, especially to compete with the kids on the Tour. And I’m looking forward to bowling a lot more events, maybe sneak out Player of the Year against Ron, and give the kids some fits when I get out on the national tour.”
Saturday, May 28, 2011
After Walter Ray Williams Jr. crushed his competition to win the PBA Senior Mark Roth Allentown Open last Tuesday, he was interviewed briefly by PBA Xtra Frame's Matt Freiberg. Here is the larger part of what Walter had to say about his performances recently and his hopes for the future:
Friday, May 27, 2011
I've posted many times that I think Walter Ray Williams, Kelly Kulick, and other great bowlers have not received the respect they deserve not only from the general public but also from bowling fans and the bowling industry itself. But at least 2010-2011's PBA Player of the Year Mika Koivuniemi has garnered enough respect in the sports world to be accorded the honor of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at next Monday's Cubs-Astros baseball game at Chicago's famed Wrigley Field.
Koivuniemi and a bevy of other bowling stars will be in Chicago from May 29 to June 1 participating in this year's GEICO PBA Team Shootout at Chicago's luxurious 10-Pin Bowling Lounge. In the past, this competition has been held outdoors at amusement parks, but this year the PBA decided to go indoors and upscale. The action will be taped next Tuesday and Wednesday to be shown on ESPN beginning on June 25.
Given the fact that Mika grew up in Finland playing basketball, soccer, and hockey but has never so much as thrown a baseball, it will be interesting to see if he fires a perfect strike Monday night.
Here is the PBA press release about Mika.
"After one of the worst stretches in my bowling career, I did finally get another PBA title at the PBA Senior Mark Roth Allentown Open. I have worked on my game and since the middle of April have felt pretty good about my game. I have had the high average in all 4 of the Senior events this season with a 2nd, 3rd, and 9th to go with my win. Hopefully there is still much more good bowling for me!"
--Walter Ray Williams Jr.
Yesterday, I posted an entry to my blog that criticized Track for not renewing Walter Ray Williams Jr's contract with the company. I had just learned about it here, and I was angry that the most accomplished player in PBA history was, in my opinion, being treated so shabbily. I also posted some rather scathing comments to Track's Facebook wall.
I expected Track to delete my comments as soon as they discovered them. But, to their considerable credit, not only did they leave my comments up, but they even replied to them this morning. This is what they graciously wrote:
It is true that Walter is no longer on the Track staff. We will miss him as a part of our team. With out going into details, he was offered a Track contract but he declined and decided to move on. We respect his decision and wish him the best of luck. And congrats on a great win.
I still don't know all the details. I don't know what kind of deal Track offered Walter to re-sign with them. I can't imagine that Walter asked for more than he received last season, given his struggles last season, but I also can't blame him if he asked for the same amount that he received previously, given his remarkable lifetime accomplishments.
Like I said, I don't know all the details. But what I do know is that I should have waited until I at least gave Track a chance to respond to my inquiries before I criticized them on this blog. Had I waited until I received the reply I did this morning, it would have tempered what I had to say about them.
I still think that Walter Ray Williams is the Rodney Dangerfield of bowling. He don't get no respect. Or, at least, he's not accorded the respect he deserves for all that he's accomplished on the lanes and for, so far as I know, his exemplary conduct off the lanes.
I hope he continues to bowl well on the senior tour and comes out like gangbusters next fall and has another great season on the regular tour. And I hope that some ball company signs him after offering him what he truly deserves.
Click here to read an interesting story on Track's website that announced the signing of Walter Ray prior to last season. One thing that stood out in the story was that Walter's previous ball company, 900 Global, "did not offer to renew my contract at the end of the season." Now this, mind you, was after Walter Ray had just won Player of the Year for a record-setting seventh time on the regular PBA Tour. But, not knowing more about this, I won't make the same mistake I did yesterday and jump to conclusions about what happened here.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Why Did Track Not Re-Sign Walter Ray, and What Does This Say About Them, the Bowling Industry, and Bowling Fans?
I just read an article--Fairytale will continue for Walter Ray, no matter what--online that has me fuming. Now maybe I'm jumping the gun on writing this. Maybe I should take a few deep breaths, recite my mantram, and give my raging emotions a chance to settle and myself more time to check my facts before I fly off half-cocked.
Nah. "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore." Well, I will restrain myself from saying all that I want to say, but I won't hold back from saying anything at all about this travesty.
The article I read said Walter Ray Williams Jr.--yes, the guy who has won more national PBA titles, earned more PBA prize money, garnered more PBA Tour Player of the Year awards, bowled more times on television, and on and on and on than any other bowler alive or dead, and who recently bowled great for Team USA in the PABCON Championships, just won a national PBA Senior title after placing high in the other senior tournaments this season, and whose game seems to be coming back into its own after stumbling for a mere few months in the wake of hernia surgery and a major grip change to his bowling equipment--was dropped from the staff of Track bowling equipment when his contract came up for renewal, and no other company has picked him up.
I've been saying here for a long time that Walter Ray Williams Jr. has NEVER gotten the respect he fully deserves. Not from the fans and not from the bowling industry. He is arguably the greatest bowler in the history of the PBA. He is arguably the greatest bowler who ever lived. At age 50, he won PBA Player of the Year and led every major PBA statistical category in the 2009-2010 season. Then he went out and won his first PBA Senior tournament. And then, because he struggled during the few brief months of an abbreviated PBA season in 2010-2011, he was discarded like a bag of garbage?
Maybe I don't know all the facts. Maybe there's more to Track not re-signing him than I realize. But if it's simply a matter of them dropping this superstar of the bowling firmament because of one sub-par bowling season, then shame on them, shame on the other companies for not a one of them grabbing him up, and shame on the bowling industry in general for not giving this incredible athlete his due.
I posted about this on Track's Facebook wall. As of now, my comments are still up there, and a couple of people have replied to my outrage. One guy wrote: "Yes he is a legend but it is a business and in an economy where exposure means sales sometimes there has to be cuts made."
He's right. Bowling IS a business where "exposure" DOES "mean sales." But I believe that if bowling is the kind of business that caters to fans so fickle that the great Walter Ray Williams' endorsement of a line of bowling balls means nothing to them because he had one off season, and bowling is the kind of business where its powers-that-be are ready to "cut" their greatest star from endorsing their products after one comparatively bad season, despite the reasons for that sub-par performance and signs that he would rebound from it, then I have ample reason to be all the more dubious of bowling's integrity and its future.
Jason Belmonte, Diandra Asbaty, and Ron Hoppe run a traveling bowling camp called the International Art of Bowling (or IAB). It looks like a blast. I previously posted a video of the camp in action. But I just saw another video of it that Belmo posted to his Facebook page today. Check it out, and if you like what you see, maybe you can help get the camp to come to your neck of the woods.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
"I think the hard work I've put in the past couple of months has really paid off. I'm feeling very comfortable being able to make the adjustments I need to make and just bowling very well in general. I'm very encouraged and confident going forward from here."
--Walter Ray Williams Jr.
As I wrote yesterday, Ron Mohr appeared to be well on his way to another senior title and to strengthening his domination of the PBA Senior Tour. But Walter Ray Williams Jr. had other ideas. After finishing second behind Mohr in qualifying, Walter Ray sliced through his match play opponents Mark Williams, John Chapman, and Harry Sullins yesterday like a proverbial knife through warm butter until he met Mohr in the final, one game match of the PBA Senior Mark Roth Allentown Open and demolished him 268-168, prompting PBA Xtra Frame's "Bowling Doctor" Jeff Mark to say, "He has bowled tremendous today...Watch out in November, because somebody's going to have their hands full with this guy!"
Mohr bowled very well too, finding ways to come from behind and defeat his prior opponents on challenging lane conditions that favored a straighter line to the pocket than he typically plays. But when he struggled to strike in the title match and Walter started off with a flawless eight-bagger before going a little high in the ninth, the final match was never in doubt.
Walter Ray has his game and confidence back, Ron Mohr is still bowling great, and last year's Senior Player of the Year, Wayne Webb, is slated to make his comeback following knee surgery. The rest of the senior season looks like it's shaping up to be a great one. And you can catch it on PBA Xtra Frame.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Below is a video of PBA Hall of Famer George Pappas bowling the incomparable Dick Weber in 1985 and another, much shorter video of him throwing a ball in a tournament a few weeks ago. He's still got the deep knee bend and then some.
Ron Mohr is at it again. I blogged recently about how well he was doing on the PBA Senior Tour before taking time off in the middle of last season to care for his wife Linda who eventually died of cancer early this year, and how he rebounded from the devastating loss to take fourth, second, and first place respectively in the first three senior tournaments of this season.
Well, Mohr led all qualifiers going in to today's match play and championship rounds in the Mark Roth Senior Allentown Open in Allentown, PA and, as seemingly always these days, is a serious threat to win another title. Of course, Walter Ray Williams Jr., Harry Sullins, and Tom Baker who qualified second, third, and fifth respectively, along with a host of other outstanding players still left in the field, may have something to say about that. But the way Mohr is bowling now, he's going to be hard to beat.
If you get PBA Xtra Frame or think it might be high time to sign up, there's no better time than the present. Two rounds of match play have already been completed this morning, but you can watch those in the archives and catch the concluding match play and championship rounds live. "Bowling Doctor" Jeff Mark is calling the action and in the booth with him commentating are Johnny Petraglia Jr. and none other than the great Mark Roth.
You can click here for the qualifying results and here for the Round of 32 and Round of 24 match play results, and below is a short video of Mohr throwing one ball.
Monday, May 23, 2011
"The balls we used in the 70's would be like golfers today using hickory shafts."
Do you Facebook? If not, you might want to consider signing up. Even if you don't have the time or inclination to do much posting, you might want to befriend or "like" other people, groups, or organizations.
For instance, I "like" the PBA. As a result, I get updates from the PBA on my Facebook "wall" about players, tournament results, and other news concerning the PBA in particular and bowling in general.
This morning, I followed a link on the PBA's Facebook page to an article written by Tom Clark (I don't know if it's the same Tom Clark who is currently PBA VP and COO) for USATODAY in 2002 about the proliferation of 300 games since bowling's inception. The article begins by mentioning 84-year-old Joe Nagy Sr's 300 ring that he received from the American Bowling Congress in 1952 for being one of only 192 ABC members that year to bowl a sanctioned 300. Yet, in 2001, a staggering 42,163 sanctioned perfect games were bowled. This is despite the fact that in 1952, there were 1.6 million ABC members nationwide and only 100,000 more members than that in 2001. And in 1980, when there were 4.8 million ABC members or three times more members than in 2001, there were almost eight times fewer 300 games rolled.
The USATODAY article explores the issue of why people are bowling so many more 300's and other high scores today than they used to and what, if anything, can and should be done about it. Pros such as hall of famer Marshall Holman blame it on the newer hi tech bowling balls that flood the market due to a lack of reasonable restrictions placed on bowling ball manufacturers. Hall of famer Johnny Petraglia believes that this could be offset to a significant degree by making the bowling pins heavier. "Heavier pins," he says, "would bring back the need for a combination of power and accuracy."
You can read the entire article here.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
"Maybe growing up in California has given me a much better grasp of these issues, but this is not Big news to us. I can honestly say we on Tour have known for a long time about Scott. I have known Scott from So California since he was in Juniors, and never has him being gay affected how we have interacted and how we have become good friends. He broke most of my records in SoCal Jr's, which is how I first got to know Scott. Since then knowing him and Virginia has been great. glad he can show how good a player he is."--Robert Smith
Saturday, May 21, 2011
"The not-so-secret secret about bowling alleys is that they're doomed. Interest in bowling is minimal. Very narrow appeal and low hours of utilization. They do not and cannot generate the kind of revenue and activity to justify a premium location."
--Anonymous contributor to a discussion of downtown development
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Two public figures publicly disclosed recently that they're gay. One was Phoenix Suns President and CEO Rick Welts. The other was CNN reporter and news anchor Don Lemon. Today, PBA Rookie of the Year Scott Norton posted an article, Being gay doesn't define who I am as a person or as a professional athlete, to the PBA website disclosing that he too is gay and explaining why he's making it so public.
Scott's disclosure is no big surprise to a lot of us. He hadn't been hiding his sexuality. Go to his Facebook page and you'll see a profile photo of him with his partner. That and other such photos have been there awhile. But I imagine it is a surprise to a lot of people who haven't been to Scott's page but have only seen him bowl on TV or in person.
Some will no doubt be put off or worse by Scott's announcement. They disapprove of homosexuality, or they don't like homosexuals, or they think one's homosexuality isn't something that needs to be announced, or some combination of the above.
I personally applaud Scott's disclosure. I agree with him when he writes:
"It is extremely important for me to come out to show other gay athletes, both current and future, that it is important to come out to show that we are just like everyone else. Being gay doesn’t define who I am as a person or as a professional athlete. I'm also a professional bowler, lawyer, caring, compassionate, strong, and many other things...It's important to show people that being gay has nothing to do with one's ability to do anything as a man, least of all compete at the highest level of sports."
I don't know what difficulties Scott has faced in his personal and professional lives until now for being gay, and I don't know what, if any, difficulties and obstacles he'll face now. If he had made this announcement decades ago, it would have been a much bigger deal, and the repercussions would have no doubt been far greater. Yet, I can well imagine that there are still people inside and outside his two professions of law and bowling who will look down on him or even shun him for coming out.
I won't be one of them. I've heard Scott on PBA Xtra Frame. I've seen him interviewed on TV. I've seen him bowl beautifully on Xtra Frame and TV. I have the very strong impression that he is one class act on and off the lanes, and I wish him nothing but the best in his private and professional life.
Below is video of highlights and an interview with Scott after he won the Chameleon Championship.
"I want to be an inspiration to people who have strokes or whatever...Work with it and things will work out."
Don Maloney is a pretty good bowler. This comes as no surprise given the fact that he owns a bowling center in Ohio. But what is surprising is that he was able to quickly rebound from a terrible, freak accident that almost cost him his ability to move and even his life "and [he] just about had to learn to walk again" to bowl 300 on the challenging lane conditions of none other than the USBC Open Championships in Reno recently. You can read more about this inspiring story and see a short news channel video about it here.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Many have criticized the PBA mercilessly over the past few years for everything from its comparatively meager prize funds and diminishing tour stops to ESPN announcer Rob Stone's sacrilegious "hambones" to recent telecasts featuring blaring rock bands, cheerleaders, smack-talking Dicks, and bleating vuvuzelas.
Critics complain that the PBA is demeaning professional bowling and selling out its base supporters who deeply love and respect the sport by resorting to crude marketing gimmicks to grab hold of younger, uninitiated fans with gnat-like attention spans, iPhones, Facebook, and a zillion-and-one increasingly gaudy, glitzy, and energetic entertainment alternatives vying for their attention and their dollars.
These complaints are especially prevalent in the PBA Forums of the PBA website. So, it's not surprising that Tom Clark, the Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer of the PBA, recently chose that very forum to meet his harshest critics head on. Challenging questions and thoughtful suggestions were submitted to him, and he responded with trademark forthrightness and wit.
Over the next few days, this blog will present and consider some of the highlights of Mr. Clark's responses and invite your comments.
Some Season Highlights
Yesterday, I quoted Mr. Clark's overview of the challenges the PBA and its players face in today's market and of the misperceptions he thinks a lot of the PBA's most vociferous critics have of the organization's struggles. These words followed a litany of what Mr Clark considers to have been some of the highlights of the 2010-2011 season. Some of the highlights he listed were:
~ The first PBA telecast on ABC-TV in 14 years and Nelson Burton Jr's participation in that telecast.
~ The TOC boasting the largest prize fund "in bowling history."
~ Extended live television coverage of some of the majors.
~ Chris Barnes accomplishing an extremely rare Triple Crown victory with a dramatic strike in the 10th frame of the WSOB.
~ An unsung competitor from Korea winning a title by beating his Korean opponent in the final match of the PBA Scorpion Championship.
~ Bill O'Neill's masterful domination of "a WSOB qualifying marathon across five patterns and 60 games in one of the most demanding tests of bowling ever."
~ Widespread media coverage of Mika Koivuniemi's 299-100 victory over Tom Daugherty in the TOC.
~ Unprecedented live match play round coverage of a major.
~ The first "all-two handed match in PBA TV history."
~ Mark Roth throwing the ceremonial first ball of the Mark Roth Plastic Ball Championship.
~ Former Miss USA Kimberly Pressler "working the sidelines" of a televised event.
~ Jason Couch and Parker Bohn reviving the past by meeting in the final match of a plastic ball tournament.
~ Mika Koivuniemi making the finals of all four televised majors.
~ Howard Stern talking on his radio show about the PBA for a month.
~ The Chris Paul PBA Celebrity Invitational making the PBA "look cool played by the coolest people on the planet."
~ Tom Hess' "emotional win at the Masters."
~ Norm Duke's "stone 8-pin" followed by Mika Koivuniemi's 10-pin miss to hand Duke the U.S. Open title.
Clark Criticizes Misreporting
Mr. Clark believes that the highlights he lists demonstrate that the 2010-2011 PBA season was a "super year." But he laments that the critics flooding the PBA message boards and other forums with unreasonable complaints and misinformation obscure this.
For instance, he tells of how he once joked on Facebook that the three "cheerleaders" working the crowd during the final telecast of the season were paid $7,000 (they were actually paid $50) each out of the "PBA player buffet budget," and a bowling webcast host who should have known better reported Mr. Clark's "facetious comments" as fact. This same host reported numerous other falsehoods as fact over the course of the season. Clark says:
"I share that story with you because it is just one small example of the type of incorrect information that somehow becomes accepted as “truth” or fact because of the lack of a filter on the burgeoning new social media on the internet. Unprofessional, unqualified, uninformed, often bitter, often frustrated, agenda-driven people suddenly have a voice, often an anonymous one like on this board, and too many spread lies, rumor and paint inaccurate portrayals that somehow shape public opinion and somehow in today’s world that is OK. It’s really sad, it’s unfortunate that it happens on serious issues that shape our lives and even here on this relatively trivial message board almost every single day."
Mr. Clark also writes about how commenters on Facebook's PBA page were criticizing the PBA for allegedly paying only 16 of 250 spots in the WSOB when, in fact, it had a "better than 1:3 payout ratio," and about how other commenters insisted that the "exempt tour model was keeping people from their dreams (when the reality is most events were open last year, none were completely closed, and some of the most compelling stories of the year came from players who were not exempt at the start of the season)."
Mr. Clark concludes the opening part of his response with the following:
"I understand the frustration people in and around bowling have. But they shouldn’t have to make things up or wildly exaggerate to make a point...Thankfully, for every negative person there are many positive voices being heard because of the new media, and greater opportunities for people to share them so I suppose it all works out in the end...I personally appreciate the passion most of you here have for this sport. But pro bowling needs your help, not your venom. Please redirect that passion by demanding the media give coverage and respect to our sport, by thanking sponsors with your letters and financial support, by making sure your local center promotes the pro game, by supporting the professionals you admire on the lanes. Don’t get me wrong, criticism is great. Complaining and pointing out what you don’t like or think is wrong is great. As long as it is based on reality. Merely proclaiming bowling is dead or rooting for the PBA’s demise, and dishing negative facts without any confirmation or characterizing things as “atrocious” and the like while not doing anything positive is just really lame and really you should just go away. But wow, I’ve beaten that point to death."
I agree with Mr. Clark that people should check their facts before criticizing the PBA for things it hasn't even done and that they should keep in mind the tremendous challenges the PBA faces in making its product appealing to sufficient numbers of fans and sponsors and do everything they can to support the PBA in its herculean efforts to live long and prosper. On the other hand, I hope that the powers-that-be in the PBA don't defensively dismiss legitimate criticisms and suggestions that the PBA's most ardent fans serve up in the PBA Forums and social media. If we all work together, perhaps the PBA can survive and even thrive.
In my next post, I'll start addressing Mr. Clark's responses to the questions and suggestions that were put to him, beginning with Why the vuvuzelas?
If you wish, you can jump ahead of me and read the whole discussion here after, if need be, registering.
Monday, May 16, 2011
"If you knew the challenges of our stretched staff to set ‘em up for the world’s greatest players while still recovering from the economic recession, and the challenges the players faced with relatively limited opportunities, you’d think it was a super year with much to build on. But of course if you read this message board with the daily doom and gloom, you’d think the PBA is desperately trying to go out of business and can’t produce a moment of thrilling sports. Believe me, there is a wide majority of people outside of the bowling world that are becoming tougher and tougher to reach and any failure to do so is not because of Rob Stone or me or Mike J. Laneside or Dick Allen or most of the other targets on this board. Bowling’s perception issues long pre-date “hambones” and those listed above and everyone involved with the PBA are in the game, busting it every day in their own ways to gain relevance and respect because we love the PBA, bowling and will do anything to make it reach its greatest potential."
--Tom Clark, PBA COO and VP addressing criticisms of the PBA in pbaforum.com
The last time I saw a network TV series make bowling a prominent part of one of its episodes, I didn't like it. In fact, I thought it was ridiculous. It was an episode of CSI where, as I recall, two pros were battling it out in a big televised match when someone's head came rolling out of the ball return and, as you can well imagine, brought the match to a sudden halt and the CSI crew in to investigate.
PBA publicist Jason Thomas acted as a double for one of the actors in the bowling scenes and wrote about his experience here. Let me put it this way, it sounds like he had a lot more fun making the episode than I had watching it.
Well, it looks like network TV is about to do bowling another favor or, depending on how you look at it, disfavor this Thursday night at 9 PM with the season-ending episode of the Bones forensic drama series on Fox. Here is the "episode summary" I saw on TV.COM:
In the 6th season finale, the team investigates the disturbing, unidentifiable remains of a bowler that were found jammed in one of the bowling alley's automatic pinsetters. After hitting a dead end in the case, Booth and Brennan decide to go undercover and join a competitive bowling team in search of answers.
I'll probably force myself to watch this just to see if it paints bowling in an even more unflattering light than CSI did and, of course, to gather more grist for my blogging mill. In the meantime, you can check out the video below from another episode of CSI. I just discovered it today while looking for videos for this entry. I gotta get me one of them dice balls.
"We had a good run this week, and it's hard to be too disappointed. This format is a total crapshoot and for us to get a couple medals is OK. We're always disappointed when we don't win, but we brought home the gold in the important events."
Congratulations to Men's Team USA for winning the gold medal in the five-person team event and to Bill O'Neill (photo above) for taking the gold in all events and co-winning, with Chris Barnes, the bronze medal in the Masters event of the now concluded PABCON Championships in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Team USA ended up winning four out of six golds, 1 silver, and 1 bronze medal. Meanwhile, Canada's Dan MacLelland, who shined on the PBA Tour last season, took the gold in the Masters event.
After the five-person team competition that Team USA narrowly won over Puerto Rico, Chris Barnes had this to say:
"There's no doubt that the talent in the American Zone has gotten stronger and that showed today. It's always a good feeling when you get in a close situation and win. The bottom line is when it came down to the last game, we bowled well enough to pull it out while everyone was scrambling."
If Barnes is right, the era of Team USA's dominance in international bowling competitions, like its dominance in many other areas, may be swiftly drawing to a close. But it was fun while it lasted.
You can click here for the round-by-round results of the Masters competition.
Thursday, May 12, 2011
"When the question gets asked, "If you had to pick one bowler to hit the pocket for your life?" my answer is always Mike Aulby--he always hit the pocket for the money."
"Our first couple of days here were pretty rough, but we're pretty smart and once we see a pattern for six games, we know what it takes out there. We've gotten more comfortable with this bowling center, and we utilized one of our biggest strengths, which is communication."
Team USA continues to gather steam in the PABCON Championships in Guadalajara, Mexico. After taking only a bronze medal in the singles first event Monday, they have earned gold with record setting scores in both doubles Tuesday and trios Wednesday along with a silver in trios and seem poised to make a good accounting of themselves in the marquee five-man team event today.
Bill O'Neill averaged a stratospheric 260 on games of 296-248-211-258-268-279 to lead his trios team of himself, Chris Barnes, and Mike Fagan to victory, followed by the team of Wes Malott, Patrick Allen, and Walter Ray Williams Jr.
O'Neill's effort was made all the more impressive by the fact that he performed it on the 44 foot London oil pattern on the left lane and the 34 foot Stockholm pattern on the right lane. I don't know how anyone could average 260 on a dual pattern of such extremes, but I'm not surprised that O'Neill was the guy who did it! By contrast, his teammate Chris Barnes averaged 221 and Mike Fagan averaged 214.
After the bowlers complete the six game team event today, the top sixteen players in the all events standings will face each other in match play in the culminating Masters event Friday. Right now, Team USA has all six of its players in the top 10 with Bill O'Neill in first, Patrick Allen in third, Walter Ray Williams Jr. in fifth, Mike Fagan in seventh, Chris Barnes in ninth, and Wes Malott in tenth. Canada's Dan "The Man" MacLelland is in second place and has probably been more consistently excellent throughout all the events thus far than anyone else. Team Venezuela's PBA Hall of Famer Amletto Monacelli resides in fifteenth place.
You can read more about yesterday's trios event and check all the trios and cumulative results here.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
"After the performance this morning, we knew it was either us or nobody for a medal. It was just time for us to rise to the occasion so the team didn't get shut out."
After sweeping all the gold medals in the last two PABCON Championships and 25 out of 30 since 1997, it wasn't looking good for Men's Team USA this year. Mike Fagan was the only member to medal in the singles event that opened the competition on Monday, taking a bronze, and after the first squad of doubles teams bowled yesterday, no doubles team from the USA was in contention to medal. The only USA team remaining to bowl in the afternoon squad was the team of Patrick Allen and Walter Ray Williams Jr. And this didn't look particularly promising given the fact that Walter Ray had finished in 20th place in singles.
However, Williams Jr. began the six game set with a sizzling 298 and 278, and he and Patrick Allen continued on to obliterate the PABCON Championships doubles record and win the gold medal by almost 200 pins over the Canadian team of Dan "The Man" MacLelland and Michael Schmidt that took the silver medal. Williams shot 1456 and Allen shot 1461 for a combined total of 2917 and a combined average of 243 on a condition that saw many teams struggling. For example, the team of Chris Barnes and Bill O'Neill finished in 11th place and averaged 214 for their six game set.
By the way, Patrick Allen leads all bowlers halfway through All Events, Walter Ray Williams Jr. is fifth, Mike Fagan sixth, Chris Barnes tenth, Bill O'Neill eleventh, and Wes Malott is eighteenth. Canada's Dan MacLelland is in second, just eight pins behind Allen.
Today features trios action. Team USA's two trios teams consist of Barnes, Fagan, and O'Neill on one team and Malott, Williams, and Allen on the other.
You can check all the results so far here.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
"It doesn't get any better. I consider myself extremely blessed. I just miss Linda. I wish I had someone to share it with."
Ron Mohr was a top amateur bowler in the 90's and has excelled on the PBA Senior Tour. He was the Senior Tour's Player of the Year in 2009 and was riding high until his beloved wife Linda had elective knee surgery last June, took acetaminophen to dull her post-surgical pain, and developed irreversible liver damage from which she eventually died in January of this year.
Mohr, 55, left the tour in 2010 and largely stopped bowling altogether until he decided to try his luck on the Senior Tour again this spring. He told himself that he'd see how he did in the first three tournaments of the season, and if he performed poorly, he'd quit the Tour and just bowl league at his home house in Anchorage, Alaska.
However, his fourth place finish in the first tournament, third place finish in the second, and first place finish last week convinced him to remain out on tour, and he'll compete at the next senior stop later this month in Pennsylvania. Once again, he is the #1 ranked player on the Senior Tour, despite the imposing presence of Walter Ray Williams Jr., and he's looking forward to the rest of the season.
You can read more about Ron Mohr's touching and inspiring story here.
Congratulations to Dick "Ritchie" Allen for winning the April 2011 Kegel Bowler of the Month award from the Bowling Writers Association of America. Allen won the season-ending 2011 PBA Dick Weber Playoffs title.
Well, it would have been nice to see Men's Team USA continue their dominance of the PABCON Men's Championships, but I suppose that all good things must come to an end. After sweeping all the gold medals in the previous two tournaments and winning 25 out of 30 golds since 1997, they had to settle for Mike Fagan's bronze medal in the singles competition. Columbia's Manuel Otalora (see photo above) won the gold, and Canada's Dan "The Man" MacLelland took the silver. Bill O'Neill was fifth, Wes Malott sixth, Chris Barnes seventh, Patrick Allen eighth, and Walter Ray Williams Jr. finished in 20th place.
Today's action will move to doubles competition. The Team USA pairings will feature Chris Barnes and Bill O'Neill, Mike Fagan and Wes Malott, and Patrick Allen with Walter Ray Williams Jr.
You can click here for the USBC press release about yesterday's action and watch a video below of bowlers competing in the tournament.
Monday, May 9, 2011
Here is video of an IAB or International Art of Bowling Boot Camp hosted by Jason Belmonte, Ron Hoppe, and Diandra Asbaty in Panama recently. You can click here for more information about the IAB and its schedule. It looks like a lot of fun.
While the regular PBA Tour may be on hiatus, some of its biggest stars are busy this week bowling for Men's Team USA in the PABCON Men's Championship in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Team USA is one of sixteen national teams competing in the five-player Team, Trios, Doubles, Singles, All-Events, and Masters events at the Pan American Bowling Confederation's Men's Championships. It probably comes as no surprise that Men's Team USA has won 25 out of a possible 30 gold medals since 1997, and should do well again this year with Walter Ray Williams Jr., Chris Barnes, Bill O'Neill, Patrick Allen, Michael Fagan, and Wes Malott making up the team.
Everybody practiceed last night on all the oil patterns, and the action officially begins today. Stay tuned to this blog for the results as they unfold.
Below is a video of Men's Team USA practicing on the PABCON lanes.
Even though Walter Ray Williams Jr. was unable to successfully defend his PBA Senior Miller High Life Classic crown this year, losing to the Steve Licklitter in the Round of 16 and paving the way for Ron Mohr to win the championship, I would have liked to see him try on the PBA's live and archived webcast service Xtra Frame. Unfortunately, they didn't cover the tournament.
They had covered the previous two senior tournaments, but they didn't cover this one. Why not? Because their viewership for the previous two tournaments was too low to justify it. As someone in the know confided to me, "Only 20 subscribers watched the live content of the Senior Don Carter Open, and only about 250 watched any of it on demand. I can't sell that to a sponsor, and our Xtra Frame production budget only stretches only so far."
I'm surprised and sad to learn this. I would think that the hardcore bowling fans who subscribe to Xtra Frame would be very interested in watching the senior action, especially with guys as good as Walter Ray, Ron Mohr, Tom Baker, Harry Sullins, Hugh Miller, George Pappas, and Mark Williams competing.
So why didn't they watch? Sure, I can understand how a lot of people might not have been able to watch the morning and afternoon sessions live. But why didn't more people watch them later on demand?
Professional bowling has a serious problem. Part of it is a lack of interest even on the part of its biggest fans. This certainly doesn't bode well for the PBA's future.
Nevertheless, Xtra Frame is scheduled to cover four PBA events during the rest of May and June. Three of them are senior events, including the Senior U.S. Open, and one is a regional event. I hope all you Xtra Frame subscribers will be tuning in and that those of you who don't yet subscribe will sign up and start enjoying the action.
The season doesn't end when the regular tour goes on hiatus. There's a lot that still goes on, and the more interest you show in seeing it, the more of it will be made available to us all.
And remember that it isn't only the bowling action itself that makes Xtra Frame so valuable. It's also the comprehensive and incisive commentary that accompanies it. It's a treasure trove of detailed information about bowling balls, lane conditions, styles, techniques, and strategies delivered by bowling leaders and legends and top coaches. It's the true bowling enthusiast's dream service, and it delivers tremendous bang for the buck.
Sign up and start watching today.
Last week, I posted about Walter Ray Williams Jr. seeking to defend his PBA Senior Miller High Life Classic title. He led both qualifying rounds and was seeded first going into match play. Because of his seeding, he was able to sit out the Round of 32 and the Round of 24 and was matched against the #16 seed, Steve Licklitter, in the Round of 16. Walter Ray lost three games out of four in the best-of-five match and Licklitter went on to lose in the Round of 8. Ron Mohr won the championship.
This reinforces what I wrote previously about how the bowlers on the PBA Senior Tour are a lot tougher than you might think and that even someone as good and accomplished as Walter Ray on the regular tour cannot expect to waltz in and dominate every event of the senior tour. Not only is the senior competition too good for that, but also the "softer" conditions and the match play format that follows qualifying makes it easy for the best bowlers to be eliminated by a momentary cold streak in themselves or by an opponent's hot hand or good fortune in match play.
Having said this, Ron Mohr, who won the championship, has done extremely well since coming out on the senior tour. He was the 2009 PBA Senior Player of the Year, started out strong in 2010 before losing his wife to surgical complications and sitting out the latter half of the season, and now he's come roaring back to place high in every tournament and win his fourth senior title. He is a force to be reckoned with on the senior tour and seems poised to give Walter Ray all he can handle.
Friday, May 6, 2011
"Bowling remains stagnant in regard to the number of bowlers who truly embrace the value of coaching. Inflated scores on 9-to-1 ratio house patterns have inflated egos while technology has duped bowlers into believing that their game can be improved by simply purchasing the latest and greatest bowling ball on the market."
Last year, Kelly Kulick could seemingly do no wrong. She enjoyed what was arguably the greatest season any bowler has ever had. I certainly can't think of a female bowler ever having a greater season than Kelly's last year when she won the PBA Tournament of Champions, the Women's U.S. Open, the USBC Queens, a PBA regional championship, the Malaysian Open, and placed high in other important national and international tournaments and led the women in virtually all statistical categories. It was a spectacular season by any reasonable person's standards.
This year has been more challenging. Kulick made it to match play but finished 49th in the TOC, made it to match play but got eliminated fairly early in the Queens, and has reported some trouble with her physical game. Yet, she still has the Women's U.S. Open ahead of her, and lest you think her best bowling is behind her, take a look at her recent performances in the 2011 Team USA Women's Pan American Trials at the International Training and Research Center in Arlington, Texas. Kulick asserted complete dominance over her fellow Women's Team USA members on all four international oil patterns put out for them.
Now that's versatility for you and proof positive that Kelly Kulick is still a bowling force to be roundly reckoned with.
You can read the USBC's press release about the Pan American Trials here and watch videos of all four eight game blocks below.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
Congratulations to Mika Koivuniemi for winning the Chris Schenkel PBA Player of the Year award, to Scott Norton for winning Harry Golden Rookie of the Year honors, and to Jack "The Ripper" Jurek for taking the Steve Nagy Sportsmanship award.
Koivuniemi won the PBA Tournament of Champions, was the only player to make it into the televised finals of all four "majors," earned the third highest amount in prize money for a season in PBA history at $330,040, and led the PBA Tour in average at 222.50. Norton, who won the Pepsi Chameleon Championship his first time on national TV, was the only rookie to win any national title this year. And Jurek, who also won the Steve Nagy award in 2006, was, according to the PBA press release, "an overwhelming choice" to win the award again this year.
I can't say that I disagree with any of these choices. The only question I have is about the Rookie of the Year voting. Scott Norton received 445 votes, while "no other player received more than 15." My question is, Wasn't Dan MacLelland also a rookie this season, and didn't he qualify for four telecasts and outpoint Norton by a wide margin in the major statistical categories? If so, why did he lose to Norton by such an overwhelming margin? It seems to me that either he wasn't officially a Tour rookie, or a grave injustice was served in his receiving so few votes relative to Norton.
You can read the PBA press release on the award selections here.
I posted an entry the other day about PBA publicist and Xtra Frame announcer Mike Jakubowski's recent column on pba.com. In that column, Mr. Jakuboswki argued that bowling "purists" who want PBA telecasts on ESPN to faithfully mimic the staid ABC telecasts of yesteryear should come to their senses and realize that the PBA needs to keep up with the times and its younger demographic if it's going to survive much less flourish in an age of "computers, video games, cell phones, texting, 500 television channels and the Internet."
He cited contemporary examples of bleating vuvuzelas at NHL playoffs, pounded thundersticks behind the backboards at NBA playoffs, "racing sausages" and females sporting foam fingers and rally hats at MLB games, "thumping music" in many sports venues, and the slick promotional silliness of professional wrestling as laudable examples of ways to draw and keep more fans and suggested that the PBA needs to follow in their footsteps if it's to survive.
Well, maybe he's right, and the collegiate bowling program videos below, referred to me by frequent commenter Kerry, may be a foretaste of where PBA telecasts are headed. While you're watching, be sure to check out that Michael Fagan guy.
What do you think? Is this the direction in which the PBA should take its telecasts?
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
"Competitive bowling (not league bowling) started going downhill when people realized they were outgunned by ball staffers and chose to sit at home rather than have all their money taken constantly with no real chance to compete with the pro who can switch balls to go carry out corner pins he is having trouble carrying. The game isn't and hasn't been on any semblance of a level playing field for many years. Hard to entice people to compete when laziness is rewarded through handicap and bowling balls with snow tire shells and weight blocks designed to make everything easier."
--Comment on PBAForum.com
Posted by Steve at 10:39 AM
Walter Ray Williams Jr. was still leading the PBA Senior Miller High Life Championship after both rounds of qualifying and will look to win this event for the second consecutive year in match play today. After yesterday's round, he said:
"Out of the gate I liked my ball reaction much better in today’s round than yesterday but I had a couple bad games. In the 168 game I had a problem adjusting to the pair of lanes I was on and in the 195 game I actually had a good shot to the pocket but just didn’t carry...When you lead qualifying you just hope to keep the momentum going. Hopefully I can keep throwing a lot of strikes because I’m going to need them. The guys on the Senior Tour are good and just like regular tour you can’t take anything for granted."
Unfortunately, the PBA's excellent subscription webcasting service Xtra Frame, which carried this tournament last year, will not be doing so this year. I have it on good authority that this is because its viewership of previous senior tournaments this year has been very low.
Come on, Xtra Frame subscribers. Watch these tournaments. Let the PBA know that you want to see more of them. These seniors can bowl! And I'm not talking only about Walter Ray.
This season's PBA Tournament of Champions may have lacked the drama and significance of last season's, but it featured the highest prize fund in PBA tournament history and its share of entertaining elements. Below is a video of the entire telecast in one big chunk instead of the customary six or more little ones.
I still say they could have put Nelson Burton Jr. to better use.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
"If I read Mike correctly, pretty soon we can expect to see the Professional Bowling Order (PBO) consisting of Belmo, Osku, Mika, and Gomez vs. The Baker Boyz (Barnes, O'Neill, Jones, Couch) in the main event. Angelo could provide the plot twist by jumping to the PBO side. Gemini jerseys will be replaced by ratted t-shirts and face paint. Plenty of plastic water bottles to go around."
--Comment on PBAForum.com regarding Mike J. Laneside's column on PBA.com
Walter Ray Williams Jr. Off to a Blistering Start in First Round of PBA Senior Miller High Life Classic
I wrote the other day about how Walter Ray Williams Jr. has bowled well on the PBA Senior Tour but hasn't been as dominant as many might have expected due to the quality of his competition. Well, maybe he read my post and decided to prove me wrong, because he tore up the first qualifying round of the PBA Senior Miller High Life Classic at the George Pappas Victory Lanes in Mooresville, N.C. yesterday by averaging a blistering 253 for eight games. He is the defending champion, having won the tournament last year in his first outing on the Senior Tour after winning Player of the Year on the regular Tour.
Walter Ray had this to say about his opening round:
"I was a little concerned at the start of the round because I wasn’t getting the ball reaction I wanted but somehow I was still getting the ball to the pocket. Eventually I got everything synched up where my timing, equipment and ball reaction all came together. I’m feeling good and after some work I like where my game is now. I’m getting back to where I was, so everything’s heading in the right direction."
It sounds to me as though Walter Ray's opponents may be in for a rough season.
You can read the entire PBA press release here.
Monday, May 2, 2011
"Many other professional sports combine entertainment elements within the sporting event, why can’t professional bowling?"
--Mike J. Laneside
PBA Xtra Frame's outstanding bowling announcer Mike Jakubowski (aka Mike J. Laneside) posted an article yesterday on the pba.com website that should provoke a lot of thought among bowling fans. It certainly has in me.
In his article, Is a Little Fun Really the End of the World?, Mr. Jakubowski argues that professional bowling needs to change with the times and do what's necessary to appeal to today's audience. Thus, bowling "purists" need to quit living in the somber Chris Schenkel style 60's and 70's of PBA telecasts and lighten up and embrace the vuvuzulas, blaring music, cheerleaders, and smack-talking, in-your-face competition of the season-ending Dick Weber PBA Playoffs of the modern era.
Here are some key passages from his article:
"Only a very small percentage of the audience in each sport sits in their seats the entire game or watches the entire telecast at home, watching every nuance, digesting every statistic, interpreting every announcer utterance. A very small percentage, the rest are there to have fun...The world of sports entertainment has changed by leaps and bounds over the last generation, while some professional bowling fans cling to the notion that presenting professional bowling the exact same way it was presented 30 or 40 years ago can engage a new generation of fans brought up on computers, video games, cell phones, texting, 500 television channels and the Internet – and most importantly, sponsors to support the sport. What other sport is presented the exact same way it was presented 30 or 40 years ago?...Pro bowling is starting to resemble professional wrestling? Good, it’s about time. I will take their television ratings, their merchandising outlets, their live audiences, their pay-per-view revenue and their sponsorship opportunities...Professional bowling never was, and never will be professional tennis or professional golf; no matter how desperately some bowlers or fans want it to be. Selling those models to a public that doesn’t buy it will never, ever work. Ever. No matter how often ‘purists’ post to Facebook or opine on message boards...This is the new world of instant social networking, smart phones and reality television. Instead of pining for something we can never be, how about we lean into what we really are?"
If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you know that I've been pretty critical of the PBA's attempts to make its bowling telecasts more "entertaining." I was especially displeased with its coverage of the "Bottlegate" incident and with the vuvuzelas and the Dick's antics in the Dick Weber PBA Playoffs, and I expressed the hope that the PBA wouldn't try to turn its telecasts into the "bowling equivalent of Wrestlemania."
Yet, judging by Mike J's column, that's exactly where the PBA may be headed because that's where it thinks today's fans and professional bowling's future appears to be if it's to have any future at all.
How do you feel about this? Does Mike J have a point? Do you think the PBA can stay alive and perhaps even become more prosperous by making itself more appealing to a broader demographic less interested in bowling per se than in being entertained, and how far in this direction do you think it can and should go before it goes too far to hold your interest?
I'm going to give the matter more thought and read what others have to say about it. Then I'll post more on the topic in an upcoming entry.