Sunday, January 11, 2009

Bowled Over

This morning, I decided to visit the National Bowling Stadium here in Reno for the PBA Tour's -- er, make that the Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour's -- NBS Championship, shown live on ESPN.

The NBS is, well, a bowling stadium. Instead of looking down on a basketball court or hockey rink, the seats overlook 78 bowling lanes. I wound up in the nosebleed seats, but I could still see just about all the pins except the 7 on either lane. Plenty of folks in the stands had their NFL gear on; I would have had my Ray Lewis jersey, except it needed a wash from my wearing it in a smoke-filled room the night before.

The only bowler I had heard of before was tournament leader Walter Ray Williams, Jr., who was going for his 46th PBA title . . . far and away the most in PBA history. As it has done so for many years, the televised finals are a stepladder format featuring the top five bowlers. Numbers five and four square off head-to-head, then the winner plays number three, then that winner plays number two, and then that winner plays number one for the championship.

So in the battle of five versus four, Patrick Allen beat Bill O'Neill in a not too interesting match, 218-200. Then Allen beat Chris Barnes in a strikefest, 267-236. Barnes had a chance to beat Allen, but in the 9th frame, he whiffed a 7-pin spare shot right into the gutter. Game over, man, game over.

In trouncing Wes Malott 268-215, Allen started off with seven strikes in a row, winding up with ten in all. This brought him to Walter Ray.

Allen jumped ahead, but the crafty 49-year-old Williams (who is also a master horseshoe player) kept up, and had a chance to win in the 10th frame with a strike working in the 9th. If he struck on the first two balls, it was over. If he went strike-9-spare, they'd be tied.

Williams threw a strike. Then in the first of his two extra rolls, he unbelievably left an 8-10 split. He fell on the floor as if he'd been shot. Allen ran halfway down the rest of the NBS. Even if Williams managed to convert the split (which he didn't), he'd have lost by one pin. The final read Allen 225, Williams 223. Allen took home $25K and a one-year tour exemption.

Oh, did I mention each lane had a different oil pattern, requiring different strategies for each one? That was a challenge, but the pros made it look easy.

I enjoyed it, and would go watch a PBA tournament finale again.


Joe of St. Thérèse said...

I've seen bowling live, interesting to say the least, I'd go again...Though it's still football season...I'm rooting for the Ravens my team deserves to be kicked out the league for that performance against Arizona on Sat.