Volume 2, Issue 32, The 84th Edition
By Angel Zobel-Rodriguez
I'm sitting here in a room on the eighteen floor of the Tropicana in Las Vegas. I should already be home. But thanks to some of the most incredible bowling I've ever witnessed, I rebooked into a room last night, and I'm waiting for the telecast to be videotaped later this afternoon.
This week was a Christmas gift from my husband. The PBA was supposed to bowl this stop at Cal Bowl in Lakewood, a simple drive from my Southern California home. But ACDelco left the PBA sponsorship ranks, and soon after, the bowling center canceled their involvement with hosting the tournament. And so left my visions of being a PBA fan/groupie from the comforts of my own neighborhood.
Never fear. My husband said (being a typical guy, and hates to shop anyway) he would fly my son and I to Reno for that tour stop. We could hang out a few days, and come home. Thankfully, the Orleans stepped in, and so the stop became the PBA Orleans Casino Open. Woohoo! Within driving distance, good prices on rooms, and of course, entertainment. But remember, with a 9-year-old in tow, there's not much gambling. That's OK. I'm here to watch BOWLING.
The format was a bit different, with start times of 8 AM all week. Folks who know me realize that I'm not a morning person (and neither is Michael), but if you ask around, we were there for the first shot each morning. Good coffee and great bowling are great partners. The players bowled two days of qualifying in nine-game rounds on Monday and Tuesday. Then it was on to six games of matchplay, with Thursday being the first and only day with two rounds of bowling. Being a large center, it allowed for one squad, so during qualifying, competition was done by 1 PM, and once matchplay took off, the rounds lasted less than 3 hours.
There was the constant buzz of the proposed buyout of the PBA. By now, it's obviously the world's worst secret. I heard about it a couple of months ago from people not even affiliated with the PBA, but it seemed too good to be true (but then again, why would the commissioner of the PBA visit a 170-average bowler at an ABC-sponsored event, unless there was hope that 170 average bowler had millions of dollars and very much wanted to be involved with the PBA). But by now, the Wall Street Journal and numerous other papers have picked up the story, and several players were willing to comment (off the record) so it seems that Chris Peters, the former Microsoft guy, wants to step in and give the PBA a kick in the pants. No one I talked to seemed disappointed by the move, so if someone is willing to infuse cash into their coffers, and bring in outside people to actually promote this sport as a sport, I'm not going to complain.
Like I said earlier, the days were finished by lunchtime. So after a few days, my son and I had done most of the touristy things in Las Vegas (the half-scale Eiffel Tower at Paris was trez cool). But then there was the episode where I played ambulance/taxi for Chris Barnes. It seems the Orleans is very interested in having the PBA in their center and went so far as to construct locker-like cubby holes for the players to put their equipment in between rounds. Chris had the misfortune of getting a top locker, and when he was removing his equipment, a 16-pound bowling ball dropped from about waist high onto his foot. He unfortunately was not wearing his shoes when it happened. When matchplay started a few minutes later, Chris was out there, limping. In true Rocky fashion, he managed to get through the round, and as they finished, I asked his ball rep, Rick Benoit, who was taking him to the hospital. When I heard that they would have some paramedics take him, I volunteered. I think there was a Mom gene that kicked in somewhere. The thought of the 1998 PBA Rookie of the Year sitting in a doctor's office or a hospital calling for a ride back to the bowling center with some cast on just didn't sit right with me. When he emerged a couple hours later, the diagnosis was a toe broken in several places, minor surgery, and several stitches. Surely, he wouldn't be bowling in the morning.
Oh yes he was. And from where he started in the morning Thursday, he steadily climbed. Through the teens, to twelfth in the morning, and in the afternoon block, he just kept going. Now this is not to say everything was fine. Chris had to cut away the top of the shoe in order to get it on. He padded the end very well to keep from going through the roof during his slide. By now everyone in the bowling center had heard of the dilemma, and was watching him bowl with both sympathy and amazement. And what to do with the shoe? Apparently that seems to be the biggest question of the week: What will he do with the shoe? Of course, just tossing them in the can when he's done seemed logical, but now with so many questioning it, should he auction it off on Ebay and donate the money to charity? Bronze it as proof for his disbelieving grandkids someday?
A couple games into the final block, Chris had reached eighth place--the last spot for the show. By the time position round came, it wasn't a question of if Chris could make the show, but how high he would finish. One more big game, and Chris found himself in fifth. Not only had he made the show, but he wouldn't be bowling the first shootout match against contenders who found themselves in sixth, seventh, or eighth. He would only be three matches away from the title. I found myself on the phone with Mario with the news, and warning him I'd be home a day late. I couldn't watch this long, and leave now.
The show is in a few hours, and I've written this much. I'm ready to have breakfast and watch some great bowling later this afternoon. So forgive me if I don't finish. You'll know the outcome, because the telecast will air Sunday anyway. And even Rocky didn't win the fight in the first movie, and the movie still won the Oscar. In the end, I got my dream of covering a PBA event from start to finish. I have to thank Mario for being so understanding. And special thanks to Rick Benoit for the use of his laptop, because without him, I'd still be sorting through a bunch of scraps of paper.