Yet another Professional Bowlers Association season is upon us – I know, I know, where does the time go? – and it is stuffed with more storylines than Don Draper’s secret lives. Here are three that keep me dreaming of converting 7-10 splits:
– There is a left-hander, the irrepressible Rhino Page, who remains my Bowler of Destiny.
– There is a right-hander, the incomparable Walter Ray Williams Jr., who remains the best bowler of our time.
– And there is a two-hander, the inconceivable Jason Belmonte, who, yes, delivers the ball two-handed.
(I am writing about bowling because we are a nation of bowlers. Heck, we were bowling before we were a nation – Columbus, three days prior to discovering America, stopped in at a West Indies alley and rolled a 601 series.)
Rhino Page is molded in my image – a southpaw, with large dreams and large ears. In a certain light at a certain time of day, we’re both good-looking guys. (My apologies to Rhino for using artistic license and lumping him in with me.) Both of us are better at what we do than most people realize.
In 2007-08, Page was the PBA’s rookie of the year. After winning one title then, he followed it up in 2008-09, as the Bowler of Destiny, with another title. But he broke my heart – shattered it in 39 pieces from my beanbag chair to my water bed – at the Tournament of Champions.
Trying to win his first major, Page dug out of a 31-pin hole against Patrick Allen with eight straight strikes; it was more scintillating than watching Michael Phelps swim for eight gold medals.
He needed a strike-9-spare in the 10th frame to win. He got the strike, then threw the worst shot of his career – I swear, the ball would not have hit the Bering Sea if he dropped it out of a Bering Sea fishing boat – leaving six pins standing and Couch Slouch slumping.
(Distraught and depressed, I could not work for two weeks, prompting my 10-year-old stepdaughter Mia to comment, “When you are working, what is it you do?”)
Rhino and I have come to terms, and he has promised me a major title this season.
Walter Ray Williams Jr. owes me nothing – we owe him everything for an unmatched career. He is a six-time PBA player of the year and a six-time world horseshoe pitching champion, making him the most dominant two-sport athlete in U.S. history.
(Yeah, I know, it’s bowling and horseshoes. Nobody’s saying he climbed Mount Everest with one hand behind his back, we’re just saying he is a remarkable performer in two athletic pursuits.)
Williams got his record 46th PBA title as the 2009-10 PBA season opened last week, the 17th consecutive season he has won at least one event. He just turned 50 – 50! – and has been winning so long, guys are now trying to beat him by throwing the ball two-handed.
Which brings us to Australian Jason Belmonte, the 2008-09 PBA rookie of the year who won his first title in March. He only puts two fingers in the ball – he doesn’t use the thumb hole – and, from the right side of his body, slings that baby with both hands.
Belmonte’s revolutionary style is powerful and surprisingly accurate. He is proving it might be a better way to bowl.
Belmonte, 26, has been bowling two-handed since he was 18 months old.
You can check it out yourself: Belmonte bowls for the PBA’s Scorpion Championship on Nov. 29 on ESPN. I’m going to watch it on The Big Screen.
(What, you have a problem with me watching and writing about bowling? My pen, my paper, my pulpit. When you get your own column, you can write about the history of varietal chutney, for all I care. Bowling just strikes me right and, last time I checked, it was the seventh most important thing in my life. Now go set your DVR for Jason Belmonte.)
Ask The Slouch
Q. If you decided to have a child – heaven help us all – would you let the little Slouch play soccer growing up or would you send the tyke straight to the bar at age 5 to gamble, drink, smoke, eat chicken wings and begin the life of a social-draining degenerate right away? (Roy Munk; Brunswick Hills, Ohio)
A. If I happen to procreate, I don’t believe you will be on the short list for godfather.
Q. I didn’t see Ed Hochuli refereeing an NFL game last week – was he handling the “official review” of the election in Afghanistan? (Danny Sullivan; San Francisco)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.