February 28, 2013

An Open Letter to the Pittsburgh Jack Rabbits

Dear LaMarr Woodley and the Pittsburgh Jack Rabbits,

I think you know why I'm writing you this letter. Your "performance" in the inaugural season of the PBA League has been abysmal. I know the team has no chance of getting to the step-ladders in the 2013 season, but that doesn't mean you can't start building for 2014.

Look at that fearsome bunny!
While I appreciate that the Jack Rabbits have taken on a novel international approach, I think more needs to be done. This team is not going to be a fan favorite with outings like you've had to date, so let me offer a few suggestions to help you make a significant contribution to this new league.

1) Pick Up a Free Agent

Clearly the bowlers on this team are not working out. I think it is time to put someone on waivers and pick up a free agent who is not already affiliated with a team.  There are a lot of great bowlers out there who are itching for some more time on the lanes and possible television experience.

Better yet, take some house league bowler or a rookie PBAer and give him a chance to impress everyone. It would make for a great story and get more fans interested in the league and the team. (My weekends in 2014 are wide open, by the way)

2) Engage Your City

I know these guys are busy traveling the country for tournaments, but during the off season I think it would be great if a few of you would come out to Pittsburgh for a meet and greet or bowling event. LaMarr, aren't you affiliated with some big sports team here in Pittsburgh? Invite your team to a Steelers game and let them see how big of a sports town this really is. If the team has a sense of pride in the city they represent they might subconsciously put forth a better effort.

Going back to point number 1, why not pick up a local bowler. Trade for Michael Machuga, he's a western Pennsylvania guy. But I know there are also other PBAers from the area that would embrace the opportunity.

Also, Pittsburgh as a whole does not seem to be a big bowling city. Lets get the team involved in promoting our sport to the local youth and teach them the values of bowling. It has exercise, teamwork, sportsmanship and it is a lot of fun. Don't miss a great opportunity to do some big things here in western Pennsylvania.

3) Change That Name!

Jack Rabbits. I get it, it is a popular rollercoaster at Kennywood amusement park. But have all the good names associated with Pittsburgh already been taken? Big Macs, emoticons, the polio vaccine and Mr. Yuk were invented here. Pittsburgh was the home of Andrew Carnegie, H.J. Heinz, and George Westinghouse. Hell we practically have our own language (n'at). You want a Pittsburgh name, call yourselves the Pittsburgh Yinzers.

If the team doesn't improve you'll be known as another famous Pittsburgh area rollercoaster, West View Park's the Dips.

Osku. LaMarr. Get it together, ok. For the good of the team, the league, and the city of Pittsburgh.


Zach from Bowling in the Burgh

February 25, 2013

Week 23 Recap

Game 1: 227
Game 2: 217
Game 3: 195
Series: 639
Week Avg: 213
Season Avg: 197

We started a bit late this week because the bowling center finally got the memo that leagues should start on something that resembles a fresh oil pattern. My guess is that that memo came in the form of a complaint from a league officer, but probably not the same officer that complained about us starting late.

I had a pretty solid first game, mainly strikes and single pin spares. I'm still having some difficulty stringing strikes together with regularity, but I'm content with doubles and spares for now. I stayed clean until my last ball in the tenth frame when I missed a 10-pin. Luckily our team had the game in hand and I finished with a 227.

The second game started a little rough. After an opening strike I missed a 7-pin in the second frame and a 4-pin in the third. It was a classic case of over-correcting, or making an unnecessary adjustment, after a bad shot. I don't know why I am having so much trouble with the 4-pin lately, but it might be time to think about switching to the plastic ball when shooting on the left side. I was able to shake off the two opens with a strike in the fourth frame and then had a big finish by striking the last six in a row. Unfortunately my 217 fell just a bit short and our team dropped the game by less than ten pins.

Strikes were harder to come by in the last game, but luckily my spare shooting improved. A late 4-7-10 split broke up my clean game and any momentum I had as the tenth frame approached. I was able to salvage a 195 game and another 600 series, but our team has begun to make a habit of dropping five of seven points each week. We were in third place heading into this week, but I'm afraid to see where we are for Week 24. We're going to have to make up a lot of ground quickly for a shot at winning the second half of the season and a spot in the playoffs.

I am now less than 3 pins away from my goal average of 200. I'm more consistent and striking with more regularity than ever before. I'm also more aware of what my body is doing during my delivery and am able to make quicker adjustments than last season. These were all problems I had identified a year before, and now that they have been corrected I think I am a few minor details away from throwing some really big scores.

Because I've reached such a high point, I'm a bit conflicted on how to handle this summer. I swore I would take the summer off from league bowling and dedicate a day or two each month to practice sessions, focusing on areas of my game that need improvement. But now I have a fear growing in the back of my mind that this down time might ruin the momentum I built up during the year.

Decisions, decisions. I guess I have a little more time to decide, but it will definitely be weighing on me until next September.

February 15, 2013

Week 22 Recap

Game 1: 192
Game 2: 216
Game 3: 214
Series: 622
Week Avg: 207
Season Avg: 196

Once again an observant teammate noticed that high school bowling teams were on our pair prior to the start of league, which I almost prefer because I am at my best when the lanes break down. I started with the C-System, but made the mistake of scuffing it prior to practice and knowing that the lanes would be drier. I decided on the ball maintenance because I wasn't thrilled with the reaction I was getting last week. I wanted to have a strong outing to bounce back from last weeks abysmal third game, but my practice shots indicated that that wasn't going to be the case.

After a high pocket shot in the first frame I moved my body a board left and found my line. I threw six strikes during the game, but couldn't manage to string more than two in a row. I also whiffed on a 4-pin and chopped a 3-10 split. I finished the game with a 192, just under average, and the team as a whole hovered right near our expected scores. The opposition, on the other hand, had a great game and blew us out of the water.

Around the eighth frame of the first game I was leaning toward a ball change; the stronger ball demanded a much tighter line with little room for error. I finished the first game with the C-System to try to locate a new line but then switched to the Python to start the second game. I've gotten much better at understanding when to switch between balls and there is no longer a learning period on adapting to new lines. I picked up right where I left off and was striking with regularity. My only open this game was an 8-10 split in the third frame. I did manage to strike out in the tenth frame and threw a 216. The team also had a good collective effort and we won the game.

I had to battle a little bit in the third game, the strikes just weren't coming as easily as they had in the second game. I saw a few ringing 10-pins and the ball started to run a little high. I kept the game clean and finished with a 214. Despite a good team performance, the opposing fourth bowler had a great finish to the game and their anchor basically just had to keep the ball on the lane his first shot in the tenth to win.

First, I need to congratulate our lead off man. He fell a few pins shy of his third career 600 series after throwing his second last week. He has been throwing a smooth, consistent shot and has been getting a lot of great pin action. Last week the team didn't really offer him any support, but this week we were just victims to great over average bowling by our opponents.

I was fairly pleased with my response to how last week ended. I simplified everything to focus on my follow through and release, which allowed me to spend the time between frames thinking about how to adjust to the lanes.

The team is hanging on in the standings, but we need a couple big weeks to reclaim first place. Should be fun.

February 8, 2013

Week 21 Recap

Game 1: 212
Game 2: 216
Game 3: 147
Series: 575
Week Avg: 191
Season Avg: 196

The evening started so well, and then I'm not sure what exactly happened. I got cocky I guess, or maybe a little too comfortable. Bowling has a way of humbling you every now and then, and I got a pretty healthy dose of that in my last game.

My first game was pretty consistent. I had three doubles, but was never able to string more than two strikes together. My only real slip up was not accounting for some heavy center oil and missing an easy 2-pin as a result. Other than that is was a strong 212, including a strike as my first ball in the tenth frame that clinched the game for our team.

The second game was even better. I managed to get a turkey and my only open was a split. I finished with a 216, setting myself up for another nice 600 series and taking another game for our team in the process.

And then it happened. I started with a strike, but then followed it up with a 5-10 split. I shook it off and made a nine count spare and another strike. Then a high shot left the 3-10 split. I left a 4-pin on my next shot, but failed to convert. By this point I was pretty frustrated: I wasn't throwing a good first ball and my spare shooting suddenly became nonexistent. To top it off our machine kept scoring incorrectly and forcing us to fix just about every frame. I focused hard on throwing a good first ball and struck again in the seventh frame. The rest of the game I buried the first ball in the pocket every time, but I could not carry the 10-pin. I opened on a 10-pin in the eighth frame and then picked one up in the ninth and tenth frames. I threw four consecutive shots in the pocket to leave a 10-pin and no matter how I adjusted it was the same result. Thank God it was the last game and I managed to claw my way to a 147. Unfortunately we lost the last game. Even worse is that we lost by so much that the other team took the total pin fall point as well. We squandered a great outing from our lead-off man who threw his second career 600 series. I simultaneously congratulated and apologized to him.

Luckily that one bad game didn't hurt me too much in the long run, though my pride took a beating. I was pretty inconsistent in my delivery and, as a result, I was not getting a consistent reaction on the lanes. Stay behind the ball; Follow through over my target; Hold my release. This should have been running through my head the entire third game. Instead I was fishing for adjustments and working myself up to the point where I couldn't make easy single pin spares.

Apparently I am not as mentally prepared as I thought, which is fine. If I have reached a point in my game where I don't really have to worry about the physical aspects then I have really turned a corner this season. Its a bit harder to practice stressful situations and this is the area the separates good bowlers from great ones. If I want to take my game to the next level, I will need to learn how to beat myself and overcome my frustrations.

February 1, 2013

Week 20 Recap

Game 1: 202
Game 2: 202
Game 3: 200
Series: 604
Week Avg: 201
Season Avg: 196

A teammate gave me a heads up when I arrived that a bus load of high school students had been bowling on our league's lanes about a half hour prior to our start time.  This meant that the lanes would not be freshly oiled before the start of our session and that there could be some interesting burn on the pattern to start the night. I decided to start with my stronger ball and if I needed to work down my arsenal I could with some ease.

To start the first game I stood and shot one board left of where I had seen my success in recent weeks. For the most part it was pretty successful and my only open was an errant shot that left a split. I had an uneventful 202 and we took the team win, but things were about to get pretty intense.

To start the second game the ball became a little more unpredictable and I had a harder time maintaining a consistent line to the pocket.  I left an 8-10 split and after a few attempts to adjust back to a strike I switched down to the Python and spent a couple frames fine tuning my new line.  While finding the line I left another 8-10, but was able to string a few strikes coming into the tenth frame. I was the last to bowl and I needed to throw two strikes just to give us a shot at the team victory. This was the most nervous I had felt in a long time, but I was able to put it out of my mind to throw a perfect first strike. I calmed down a little before my next ball, but the butterflies came back quickly as I missed my mark two boards to the left. Luckily heavy center oil held the ball close to the headpin and carried a Brooklyn strike. On my last ball I needed one pin to tie and two pins to win. Visions of televised PBA gutter balls came pouring into my mind as I waited for my ball to return. But I was confident that I could keep it on the lane, and a pocket hit left only the 9-pin and secured another win for our first place team.

Much of the third game stayed true to the others: many good shots and one bad one that resulted in a split and open. I actually felt more comfortable this game, but as I finished the ninth frame my stomach started to churn again. There was a very real possibility that the winner of this game would once again depend on my tenth frame performance. I was fortunate that our fourth bowler had an excellent 29-pin tenth frame, but I still needed to strike on my first ball. I was a little more relaxed this time because everyone was amused at how close the last two games had been. I struck on my first ball and needed just nine pins to take the game.  As I held the ball on the approach, the last thing I told myself was "Just don't split."  I should have listened to me because a bad shot left the 6-7-10 split and there was an audible buzz of whispers over my shoulder before I turned from the foul line. I wasn't worried, though. I had been shooting at the 6- and 10-pins all night and hadn't missed a single one. I didn't have to make the split, I just needed those two pins. As soon as the ball hit the return I picked it up, got in position and took my shot. Just after my third step I heard a yell from behind the seating area and I remember thinking just before my release that it didn't bother me. Unfortunately I missed my mark to the right. I imagine that my face turned white for a moment because I thought the ball was going in the gutter, but it managed to hang on enough to take out the 10-pin and leave us in a tie for the third game. I guess the yell worked, but I also didn't help matters by rushing that final shot instead of taking that extra deep breath the situation required.

My wife was livid and promptly proclaimed the yell "an asshole move" to anyone within earshot. It is a pretty laid back mixed league, so none of us really expected it. What I really didn't expect was who did the actual yelling. It was a pacer for the opposing team.  That's right, a pacer. Which means he isn't a member of our league, his scores had no bearing on the game's outcome, and he had no long term interest in the result. I shrugged it off because frankly if people feel that they need to be loud to throw me off my game that means that I am doing my job and bowling well. What irritated me, though, is that he walked right up to me afterward, shook my hand, and said with a big smile on his face "I really wanted you to miss that shot." I think I agree with my wife on this one.  Sportsmanship: Get Some.  Needless to say I'd really like to see this team again before the season is through. And I hope they bring their pacer with them.

Anyway, even though my scores weren't anything spectacular I was still over average for the night. I have a current streak of five 200+ games in a row and nine out of the last ten. What made me happiest about the evening was the ball change.  I think at most I maybe waited one or two frames longer than I should have, but overall the transition was seamless and I don't feel that my score suffered because of it.

For now I think my team is still at the top of the standings which is pretty exciting. I can't wait for next week, bowling has been pretty exciting lately. I love bowling anchor.