If there is one thing that has become clear as the PBA Tour bids adieu to the first month of its 2019 season, it is this: Bowlers can be one tough crowd.
After Jesper Svensson had the audacity to average 259 in the first block of the PBA Oklahoma Open on Jan. 8, that tough crowd’s tendency to detract from the achievements of others kicked into overdrive. Oh, the chutzpah of this flame-throwing two-hander whose style is ruining the game!
“I hate the two-handed crap,” one person posted in response to that story on Bowlers Journal International’s Facebook page.
Another: “Two-handers . . . seriously . . . tell them to get on the hockey rink and I will give them a two-hander. And if they come with wheels on their hockey bag, I will whack them multiple times.”
(Careful with that one. They know a thing or two about how to wield a hockey stick up in Svensson’s frosty Swedish climes.)
Perhaps 12-time PBA Regional champion Lee Vanderhoef put it best with this retort: “I don’t care if you throw it two-handed, over your head, backup, backwards, chest toss . . . if you stay behind the line and figure out how to knock ‘em all down then good for you.”
Or, as Jon Gruden once said of winning in the NFL, “I don’t care how you win in the National Football League, congratulations!” The spirit of that quote applies as much to a player talented enough to win at the highest level of the sport of bowling as it does to any pro football team that ends a Sunday having posted another W to their season record.
But that was not all. Not only did Svensson post that sizzling block because he employs the two-handed style, but because he also is . . . come close and I’ll whisper it into your ear . . . a lefty. Gasp!
“They just keep feeding the left,” one person posted before punctuating his dismissal of Svensson’s talent with the all-purpose slang term of the social networking era: “SMH.”
Never mind that the stats disproved the notion that all the lefties were having a field day on that 42-foot Mark Roth Pattern — for more on that, go here — or the fact that scoring pace possibly is the most wildly overrated aspect of professional bowling.
Then came reaction to yesterday’s unforgettable conclusion to the PBA Lubbock Sports Open TV finals. Sean Rash took the approach in his 10th frame with his 14th PBA Tour title all but locked up to face down a spare the former PBA Player of the Year topples in his sleep — the 10-pin.
Enter his opponent Dick Allen, one of the tour’s wiliest players and a 20-year veteran of the pro ranks whom Bill O’Neill praised in this tweet following Allen’s stunning victory as a player who “cashes in on every opportunity he gets.”
Test that take of a former U.S. Open champ who just bagged his 10th PBA Tour title to become Hall of Fame eligible against those from people who have not. The reaction was reminiscent of those takes on Svensson's bowling a few weeks earlier. Once again, for some reason, a guy who achieved something on tour had to be cut down a notch.
“The luckiest win ever,” one person put it in a Facebook post.
“He got lucky and he knows it,” posted another.
Allen was “lucky he was even in a position to win,” wrote yet another.
Never mind that Dick Allen advanced to the title match by crushing Kyle Troup in a 90-pin blowout, 278-188, in the semifinal on a championship pair that featured two distinctly different lane patterns — the Scorpion on the left and the Wolf on the right.
Never mind that both Rash and Allen each left precisely the same split during the title match — the 4-10, which Rash left in his 5th and Allen left in his 7th — and each employed completely different strategies on their respective spare balls. Rash went for it and instead left both pins standing to go 8-. Allen, for his part, went for the wood and picked off the 4-pin.
If you were following Bowlers Journal’s Twitter feed throughout the telecast, where we were live tweeting the action as it unfolded, you saw this one:
A little count went a long way in a match decided by a single stick, 201-200, for a difference of $12,000 between the runner-up prize of 13 grand and the $25,000 check Allen took home.
Lucky? No. Smart.
Never mind that Allen’s scrappy performance, in which he answered Rash’s double in frames 3 and 4 with a double of his own, included sparing a 4-pin in his 5th and striking in his 6th following Rash’s 5th-frame misfire to lead the match by better than a mark halfway through.
It was Allen’s smart and gritty bowling, not Rash’s miscue, that put him in position to win the PBA Lubbock Sports Open title. It was his veteran’s comprehension of familiar sports phrases like “Never give up” and “You never know” that kept him focused enough to stay within striking distance — just in case. It was Allen who created for himself that “opportunity” O’Neill alluded to in his tweet.
Those were the calculations that positioned Allen to take advantage of his opponent's error.
Was the first ball of Allen’s 10th frame, in which he had to double and get 8 on his last ball to snatch victory from Rash’s clutches, an oil painting? No. He rolled a 2-pin. His next shot was good enough for the PBA’s Jerry Schneider to describe it in this release as a “solid strike.” Twenty down, eight to go. Was Allen’s final shot, which checked up high and barely got the eight pins he needed to fall, the best shot of the man’s life?
“I was very fortunate on that last shot because that could easily have been six,” he told Schneider.
But you know what Dom Barrett said after he barely shaved off the 6 in the 4-6 split he left in the 10th frame of the 2018 U.S. Open as the Wichita crowd held its collective breath, a pin he had to have to secure his one-pin victory over Jakob Butturff?
“Nobody’s going to remember that.”
You know what people will remember? That when Dick Allen needed a double and eight in the 10th frame to win his 6th PBA Tour title, he got a double and eight. To reduce what he accomplished yesterday down to one rolled 2-pin in the 10th is to diminish everything else he did yesterday to win.
Whether those who watched want to characterize Allen’s performance as gritty or lucky, clutch or craps, a paraphrase of Jon Gruden seems in order here: I don’t care how you win in the Professional Bowlers Association, congratulations.