Preview: ‘Viper’ Finals on ESPN Sunday

by Bob Johnson 0

The stepladder finals for this Sunday’s PBA Viper Championship from the South Point Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas features two PBA Players of the Year and two other players hoping to add another PBA title to their resumés.

In the opening match of the second “animal pattern” tour event of the season, two-time Player of the Year Mika Koivuniemi will bowl against four-time tour titlist Mike Fagan.

Fagan is coming off a Player of the Year-contending season in 2011-12, which saw him win his first career major in the USBC Masters and collect a title in the Brunswick Euro Challenge. He also made telecasts in three other majors, and finished second to Pete Weber in a memorable U.S. Open.

After a 2010-11 season in which he made the TV finals in all four majors, won the 2011 PBA Tournament of Champions and earned Player of the Year honors, Koivuniemi is hoping to rebound from a 2011-12 season in which he made only one TV appearance.

The winner of the opening match will advance to meet five-time tour winner and reigning PBA Player of the Year Sean Rash.

Rash did just about everything at the 2011 World Series of Bowling except win a title. He made the TV finals in all four animal pattern events, the World Championship and the Mark Roth/Marshall Holman Doubles. However, his three second-place finishes in the WSOB, along with a win in the season-ending Tournament of Champions, proved enough for him to win his first Player of the Year title.

The winner of the semifinal will take on No. 1 seed Brad Angelo, who hopes to break a four-year winless streak that dates back to 2008 when he won the Viper Championship for his only tour title.

The next three consecutive Sundays after the Viper telecast will feature World Series of Bowling finals, with all 90-minute programs airing at 1 p.m. Eastern. The Chameleon

Championship will air on Dec. 30, the Bowlers Journal Scorpion Championship on Jan. 6, and the PBA World Championship on Jan. 13.

Each ESPN telecast will be complemented by special programming on PBA’s online bowling channel, Xtra Frame, just before and just after the telecast.

Bob Johnson

Bob Johnson has received more national writing awards than any other bowling writer — close to 70 over the course of his 40-year career. He began at age 16 as a staff writer and then assistant editor for the weekly Pacific Bowler newspaper in his native California, and within three years was writing feature stories for Bowlers Journal. He has written for the magazine ever since, except for a five-year span when he was hired as the founding editor of another magazine. He moved to Chicago in 2000 and spent 13 years in the Windy City, including five as Bowlers Journal’s Editor. In 1975, Johnson received the Robert E. Kennedy Award as California’s top undergraduate high school journalist. Five years earlier, on the lanes, he had shared the Bantam Division Doubles championship in the Orange County Junior Bowling Association Championships. Today, he continues to work full-time for Bowlers Journal as its Senior Editor, to write his popular “Strikes Me” column, and to edit Luby Publishing Inc.’s weekly business-to-business Cyber Report.