The PBA Masters

I watched the PBA Miller Masters this weekend (thank God for Tivo.) I think I like the new style of the PBA. Bowling is something that has helped me recapture part of my childhood. My family bowled a lot when I was a kid (early 80s) and my grandmother bowled all her life. I credit that exercise with helping her live to 78 and outliving almost nine of her thirteen brothers and sisters. When I was a kid, I bowled on a Saturday morning league (thank you YABA.)

A while ago, on the fifth or sixth viewing of The Big Lebowski, I said to my brother (the Dude incarnate) and his friend (Walter incarnate), “you know what, dude? We should go bowling.” And we did. And it was good. So the family joined up on a league as a team, and I’m bowling again. I’ve always been a bowler. It’s just that about two years ago I remembered that I was a bowler. When I was a kid, I would spend almost every weekend with my grandparents. (It kept my parents sane.) Every Saturday at about noon during the tour, they would watch the PBA on The Wide World of Sports, and I would watch it with them. Now, I watch pro bowling again. (It isn’t as bad a vice as pro golf.)

The PBA has changed, but I don’t think this is a bad thing. I was worried when I heard that the PBA wanted to jazz things up, and they were starting by holding the season opener in a baseball stadium. My worried have been alleviated, though. I think that they have captured the perfect blend (to me) of the tradition of bowling and the energy of the future. I liked the stadium. I was impressed with the crowd, and it had the feeling of an event. I thought that the guys in the Halloween costumes were hokey, but having a live band wasn’t a bad touch. To me, though, the crowd made the venue.

Which brings me to the bowlers. Seeing Boghosian, an amateur, competing in the Masters was something that made me feel good. It reminded me that you don’t have to be a tour bowler to get into the money and on TV. You just have to enter and perform. Wiseman, however, was the highlight. This guy is, in every sense of the word, the future of professional bowling. He has character and personality, has a distinctive look, is energetic and expressive, and a hell of a bowler. He has the sportsmanship that is tradition in bowling, and I think puts a great face on the PBA and the (new) USBC. Guys like Patrick Allen are good on TV (watching the emotions pour over PA over the course of the finals was high drama) and my home team guy, Patrick Healey, are fine sportsmen and athletes, and I think they represent the sport well. Guys like Wiseman, however, are going to be the superstars of bowling, if there ever are any.

I want to see pro bowling updated, but I don’t want to see it become an “extreme sport”. Extreme sports seem to attract the most unethical, loathsome jackasses possible, and bowling seems to have avoided that. I think that if the PBA can stay on the delicate course they were on at the Masters, they could have something going. I don’t know that they will capture the attention of the world at large, but I think they may be able to attract the bowlers that have stopped watching back. ESPN, by the way, deserves kudos for the coverage they provide. Aside from the occasional Bradshaw/Long style inanity, the commentary was leaps and bounds better than ABC, and the production itself was a much better package.

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