Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bowling Quote--When Does a PBA Player's Televised Conduct Become Inexcusable?

"I am tremendously impressed by Pete Weber's accomplishment in winning his record-breaking fifth U.S. Open title at the age of 49, and I don't have a major problem with his antics along the way and afterward. But for those of who say they were okay because they brought more attention to a sport dying from the lack of it, I wonder if there are limits to their 'ends justify the means' rationalization. That is, can they think of anything a player might say or do during a televised tournament that's beyond good taste or sportsmanship but falls short of felonious criminality of which they WOULDN'T approve, even if it brought more attention and money to professional bowling?

I guess I just have my reservations about this "anything that brings more attention to bowling" philosophy that I'm hearing from so many quarters in the wake of PDW's latest televised appearance. Why the next thing you know, PBA telecasts will feature scantily clad cheerleaders and blaring vevuzelas. Oh, wait...they already have." ~ Steve Curless

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Why Bowling on the U.S. Open Pattern Is So Difficult

Sunday's stepladder finals of the PBA U.S. Open was, in my opinion, one of the finest televised finals of any PBA tournament I've ever seen. You may wonder why, since the highest score of the day was "only" 225, and a lot of people score or even average well over that at their local bowling center.

Well, they don't do it on a legitimate U.S. Open pattern. I've bowled on an approximation of this pattern in a PBA Experience league, and I can tell you from painful personal experience that you have to bowl exceedingly well just to shoot 180. Miss your target by a board right or left, be a little fast or slow with your ball speed, or vary your release even a tiny bit, and you can end up with a three count or even a gutterball or a badly missed spare.

This is a far, far cry from bowling on a typical house pattern where you can miss your target by five or ten boards on either side or fluctuate wildly in your ball speed or release and still crush the pocket for devastating strikes or convert single pin spares practically blindfolded.

Sunday's matches were so good because Ryan Shafer, Jason Belmonte, and, especially, Mike Fagan and Pete Weber executed terrifically well under incredible pressure on supremely demanding lane conditions. And this excellent video by bowling champion, coach, and self-described "bowling geek" Jason Doust masterfully explains why the U.S. Open pattern is such a challenge.

After you watch it, I hope you'll sign up for a PBA Experience league and gain a newfound appreciation for 225 games on demanding lane conditions and for just how superbly those guys bowled last Sunday afternoon.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Pete Weber Wins 69th PBA U.S. Open

"Dad, I know you were watching. I know you're proud, and I'm sorry I broke your record." ~ Pete Weber

Until Sunday, February 26, 2012, nobody owned more U.S. Open titles than the late, great Don Carter and Dick Weber. Then Dick Weber's Hall of Fame son Pete stepped onstage to defeat Ryan Shafer 223-191, Jason Belmonte 225-213, and Mike Fagan 215-214 in one of the best-bowled and most intense televised stepladder finals in TV bowling history en route to an unprecedented fifth U.S. Open, ninth major, and 36th tour title that had no less than bowling luminary and writer Jeff Richgels opining that PDW may well be the best bowler of all time.

And as much as raw statistics might still award that glittering honor to Walter Ray Williams Jr. or Earl Anthony, there's no avoiding the fact that, as Richgels writes, "Pete has been at the top of bowling through more eras than either Earl or Walter Ray, starting at the end of plastic through urethane to reactive resin...You simply can't deny that Pete has stayed on top through more changes in the game than any bowler in history. And look at how much his game has changed from when he was a teenager who arguably had the most powerful game in bowling to almost a finesse player who is little more than a tweener in the current era of two-handed ultra power players. What hasn't changed is his almost unreal competitiveness and will to win that has enabled him to rise to big occasions as much as any player in history."

Richgels writes that he's still not sure who's the greatest bowler ever but that Pete Weber's phenomenal performance Sunday at the age of 49 has "changed the debate" for him. I guess I'd have to say that the same goes for me. Bad boy that PDW has been over the years and was again on Sunday, there's no denying his stupendous bowling accomplishments that rise to the level that one of his opponents Sunday, the immensely talented Jason Belmonte, characterized as "inhuman." I'd call them superhuman.

I'll have more to say about all of this and about this year's PBA U.S. Open and Sunday telecast over a series of upcoming blogposts, but I want to end this entry with videos of yesterday's wonderful matches for you to savor. It's been a long time since bowling has received the respect it deserves, and, regrettably, Sunday's finals probably won't change that a whole lot.

But it should.

For a concise summary of the entire 2012 PBA U.S. Open, be sure to check out this article on Jef's Bowling Blog, and for a more detailed summary of the televised finals, you can read Bill Vint's wrap up on the PBA website. Finally, you can watch the videos below to behold what words cannot fully convey of all three matches.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Bowling Quote for the Day--Nothing Slows Down Belmo

"Belmonte's move might surprise some who would theorize that the mega-revving two-hander would be unable to play on the fresh flat pattern that is put down for each match play block. But Belmonte, who was the qualifying leader at last year's U.S. Open but missed the TV finals, has solidified his game so much in the past year that nothing seems to slow him down." ~ Jeff Richgels

Kamron Doyle Profiled in the New York Times

"When I first saw him, the bowling ball was bigger than he was. Now, he's at a whole new level." ~ Tommy Jones

Bowling gets little to no coverage by the news and sports media these days. I'm not sure why this is. I'm guessing it has a lot to do with most people having no idea just how demanding a sport both physically and mentally elite-level bowling happens to be, and lingering stereotypes of beer swilling, pot-bellied Archie Bunker types having a fun night out with the boys.

This is why it's such a blessed event for bowling and its fans when the sport draws the serious attention of the media, and when the medium happens to be the hallowed New York Times, it's an especially big deal. Well, the sensational 14-year-old bowling prodigy Kamron Doyle has just been profiled in the New York Times, and I'm hoping the exposure will attract interest in the sport, especially among the young people who are bowling's future.

I'll be blogging more about Kamron in the days to come, but for now be sure to check out the New York Times profile here. Kamron Doyle is the real deal.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Danny Wiseman Bows Out of Roll Off in U.S. Open

A strange thing happened on the way to the cashier's round of the 69th PBA U.S. Open Thursday evening. 12-time Tour titlist Danny Wiseman tied with John Furey, setting the stage for a sudden death roll-off to determine who made the cut to the top 98. But Wiseman unexpectedly decided to concede the final spot in the cashier's round to Furey without a roll-off and later posted the following explanation of his decision to his Facebook Fan page:

"so here ya all go...after bowling decent all week making everything but not striking much I had a horrible last game needing to stay clean (think I was -34). I hit the pocket, playing left of 5th arrow, every shot except for the 3-6-7-10 I made in the 8th frame. the 8-10's were in the first frame and ninth (on a re rack no less) because the rack was really tight. I left a few weak tens, two four pins, and a blower 7 also. So I talked to John Furey and told him no need for me to continue this aggravation when I have no chance to win (which is the point of this). 1000 bucks isn't going to break me and at this stage of my career I don't need to go try figure this out as I have yet to ever with this pattern. My tilt and roll and rev rate are not conducive, and yes I have tried many things to no avail over the years. I figured John could use the experience more than I as he is a future star. So I am not going to Detroit and Indy is in question. The T of C I am going to. I am working on some bowling related things to get into for the next stage of my life and career. Bowling full time is not one of them. Stay tuned and go like my fan page even after i "surrendered" LOL!...By the way, have been riddled with injuries and my left ankle was bothering me again and not sure I'd make it the 8 games anyway..."

PBA Xtra Frame commentator Jason Thomas said it was one of the strangest things he'd ever seen happen in a PBA tournament and that he never expected to see it again. But Wiseman received a very positive response from his fans.

What do you think of Wiseman's decision? Do you think he should have taken on Furey in a roll-off for the final spot in the cashier's round, or did he do a good thing in not contesting newcomer Furey's chance to compete further?

Stories Abound at 69th PBA U.S. Open

"At the U.S. Open, it's all about hitting your target and making spares, and I did pretty good at that." ~ Missy Parkin

The PBA U.S. Open may not pay out the most money to its top finishers of all the big bowling tournaments in the world, but it is arguably the most prestigious tournament of them all, and it is conducted on what are surely among the most demanding lane conditions of all elite bowling tournaments, the flat 42-foot U.S. Open pattern.

In this year's U.S. Open, 394 of the finest professional and amateur bowlers from several continents gathered at the fabled 82-lane Brunswick Zone Carolier in North Brunswick, N.J. on Tuesday to loft and grind their way through three 6-game blocks over three consecutive days of qualifying before the field was winnowed down to the cashier's round of 98 for another 8 games of qualifying Friday morning prior to being cut to the top 24. Those top 24 will now bowl one 8-game block of round-robin match play on Friday evening and two blocks Saturday to determine the four stepladder finalists for Sunday's live ESPN telecast at 3 pm ET.

If you've been watching PBA Xtra Frame this week, you've seen some remarkable bowling, enjoyed expert coverage by Mike J. Laneside, Jason Thomas, and Jackie Bowling, heard some great guest commentary from the likes of PBA legend Mark Roth, Johnny Petraglia Jr., PBA Commissioner Tom Clark, and 14-year-old bowling phenom Kamron Doyle, and you've no doubt gained a huge appreciation for just how incredibly difficult it is to cash in the U.S. Open and how tremendously well someone has to bowl to make it to the top 24 on those lane conditions.

You would have also seen the aforementioned Kamron Doyle become the youngest bowler ever to make the cashier's round of the U.S. Open, finishing in 61st place, ahead of a panoply of big name bowlers including Walter Ray Williams Jr., Tommy Jones, Kelly Kulick, Amletto Monacelli, Tom Baker, and Dick Allen in the cashier's round and a plethora of other outstanding bowlers who didn't cash.

You would have seen 64-year-old bowling legend Johnny Petraglia remarkably make the cut and finish in a very respectable 78th place.

You would have seen USBC Queens winner Missy Parkin bowl phenomenally well against her male counterparts to average 210.84 and finish 9th in the cashier's round, setting her up for match play and a possible TV appearance on Sunday. No woman has ever made it into match play in the PBA U.S.Open before. She also finished higher in the recent USBC Masters than any woman ever has before when she ended up in 11th place.

You would have seen multiple PBA titlists Jason Belmonte and Osku Palerma two-hand their way into the top 24, while lesser known but no less exciting two-hander Brian Valenta lofted the ball 30 feet down the lane while standing on the approach of the adjacent lane to crush the pins repeatedly and impress even the hard-to-impress Mark Roth who was a guest commentator at the time.

You would have seen Sean Rash shoot a desperation 289 to leap from well down the field into the top 24 with two games to go and then flail his way out of the cut.

You would have seen 50-year-old Pete Weber bid for an unprecedented 5th U.S. Open title by finishing 10th in the cashier's round.

You would have seen P.J. Sonday using mostly one strike ball all week to finish the cashier's round in 5th place, while defending champion Norm Duke, Masters Champion Mike Fagan, and a bevy of other great bowlers including Chris Barnes, Bill O'Neill, Dan McLelland, Rhino Page, and Jason Couch did what great bowlers do and make it to the top 24 for match play of the U.S. Open.

And last but not least, you would have seen Ryan Shafer show why he has to be far and away the best player never to win a major title. He ran away and hid from the rest of the field by averaging a blistering 224 on impossible lane conditions and leading second place Mike Fagan by 170 pins.

If you don't get PBA Xtra Frame, it's not too late to sign up and catch the 24 games of match play and expert commentary today and tomorrow. In any case, be sure to tune into ESPN on Sunday to watch the televised finals of the greatest bowling tournament of them all. And you can get the official scores and major backstories at the PBA website.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Sean Rash Makes a Boy's Wish Come True

"One thing athletes do great is give back. I enjoy opportunities like this. When I was young and asked pros for help, they were always willing." ~ Sean Rash

A lot of people don't like Sean Rash. Some even seem to almost hate him. I guess they have their reasons, especially if they've only seen him on TV or read about some of his antics online.

I had the good fortune of spending all day with him at a local bowling clinic I attended last summer, and I happen to respect him for his awesome bowling talent and skill and to like him for his earnest forthrightness, even if I take mild exception to some of the things he's said and done since he became an irrepressible force on the PBA Tour.

And I suspect that if more people were to view the video below of Sean's making a young cancer patient's wish come true, they would see, respect, and even like him as much as I do. At least I hope they would and do.