Volume 2, Issue 31, The 83rd Edition
By Angel Zobel-Rodriguez
The bowling world lost a great bowler this week when Barb DeMarco passed away. Don't go wracking your brain trying to place her, because it's not too likely she will ever be nominated to the Hall of Fame, nor did she set any bowling records. But never underestimate the power an individual has over another person.
Back in the fall of 1993, I was asked to sub on a morning league for a woman I didn't know. I was new to the bowling center, and bowled for a woman who was battling cancer. When I arrived, the lady with whom I was bowling said that she had someone willing to bowl in that spot in that league while her bowler was out, but asked if I would be willing to bowl a travel league for a few weeks until her bowler, Barb, got well. Since I was new to the area with a toddler in tow, it sounded like a plan to get out of the house. Bowling for free was an added bonus.
I met Barb the first week I subbed in Travel. She couldn't be more than 5'3" or 5'4" but she had presence. She also had a mischievous smile. I shot a lackluster 500 on the nose, but since it started with a "5" I was relieved, and more importantly, they seemed friendly and appreciated the fact I would trek all over the valley just to sub.
Up until that point, I'd never shot 600, but of course, I'd been trying forever. I shot my first 600 on a Monday night in November, a week after subbing in travel, and backed it up Tuesday afternoon with a 632 in a house I'd never bowled at. After that, I was Barb's secret weapon. Of course, secret weapons get discovered, and I was soon subbing in yet another league with PWBA members. Women with 167 books who average 207 for a night aren't soon forgotten, and pretty soon, I was subbing, everywhere, a lot.
Then the Earthquake arrived that January, and effectively shut leagues and bowling centers down for several weeks. When they did resume, Barb was ready for action. There were many times that I would sub when Barb, her teammates, or other ladies in Daytime Travel would go to on vacation, and I loved those weeks. Barb would purposely call my son anything but his given name, and he would tell her his name over and over until it finally sunk in she was having fun with him. He took to calling her Bobby in self defense.
One morning I must have missed three 10 pins in a row while subbing on her team. She turned to me and shouted, "Stop babying the DAMN ball." Barb may have only been a 150 bowler, but she saw when I was screwing up. Sure enough, the next ten pin I left, I got.
When I shot my first 700 the next summer, it took forever to get the award. But I brought the plaque down and showed it to her, and told her it was as much hers as it was mine. If anything good could come from her illness, it was this: Before I met Barb, I went bowling. After I met her, I was a bowler.
Things went pretty well for at least two years. Then Barb quietly told the secretary she was quitting her leagues. When asked the question, she simply said they'd know why. There was no question I'd step in and fill her spots. In the one league, she sent $3 a week for me to get into a card game. I'd never gotten into the cards before, and she was already paying for me to bowl. Her teammate looked at me, and said, if you don't want to get in, YOU tell her. She was right, and so I played the card game. Beginner's luck, I guess--I found out a full house of face cards is a pretty good thing.
For two years, Barb battled, and on good days she would come down and watch "her" team bowl. There was never a question it wasn't still her team, nor did we think for a second she was joking when she showed up after we'd had a few bad weeks in a row. And it seemed like any time she showed up, we'd do better. We talked about getting her a whip to crack down on us with, but we knew better, because Barb would have wanted to use it.
When I heard that Barb passed away this week, I was sad, but only for a moment. Her legacy will live on through all she touched, and through them to others who had no idea who she was. I am the bowler I am today because of Barb DeMarco. When that wasn't enough, I became a bowling writer. All because of a wonderful lady. So when I make my donation to the Bowling Hall of Fame and Museum in Barb's name, hopefully you will remember her too.