Doug Wolter: Right up my alley
Football season is over (sob), so the wife and I settled in for a relaxing Sunday afternoon.
Until then, I may have found a substitute for my football fetish. Upon returning from church Sunday morning I flipped on the ESPN channel and found a bowling broadcast that — while it didn’t leave me emotionally drained like an NFL broadcast sometimes can do — left me entertained beyond my expectation. After it was over, in fact, I had half a mind to grab my bowling ball and drive on over to the local Oxford Bowl for a line or two (I didn’t; I decided instead to take a nap).
Anyway, as I was saying, on Sunday ESPN featured the semifinals and finals of the U.S. Bowling Masters, and it was won by Australian Jason Belmonte. In the semis, Belmonte defeated one of the legends of bowling, Pete Weber (who I believe founded the sport back in the Wilson administration) 232-210. Deliciously, Weber — a famously edgy competitor — complained afterward that Belmonte broke the rules by dropping his towel in the ball rack between throws. Thus, fans — from a sport known for its boring displays of sportsmanship — got a nice dose of controversy for a change, courtesy of the man who likes to flex his biceps a la Muhammed Ali after notching a knockout.
In the finals, Belmonte — who was gunning for an unprecedented third straight Masters title — met an amateur, AJ Johnson of Oswego, Ill., who is a college student at McKendree University. Despite the lack of history behind him, Johnson in fact entered the finals as the No. 1 seed, having amassed the highest score average in his previous bouts.
So the final became an interesting study of experience versus inexperience. Belmonte is a true professional. For Johnson, Sunday’s event was his very first time in front of a live TV audience.
I cannot say for sure, because how can anyone really know what butterflies may be lurking in the bellies of bowlers, but Johnson sure did appear nervous — almost like a deer in the headlights. Both bowlers sputtered at the beginning, perhaps due to breakdowns of the oil on the lanes. But Belmonte recovered midway through and Johnson never did. The score was 202-157.
I felt sorry for Johnson. He looked, to me, like I must have looked the first time I ever had to complete an assignment entitled, “My Most Embarrassing Moment” for my high school speech class.
But it was a good way to spend an early Sunday afternoon without having to resort to tossing my TV remote against the set. Afterward, the wife and I played a friendly game of backgammon (which I won, by the way).
I’ve been rolling very lucky lately, actually. Which is more than I can say for Mr. Johnson.