There are only two things you need to know about bowling:
1. Anyone can bowl, and anyone should bowl.
2. No one bowls as well as Jason Belmonte.
(You are about to get two columns for the price of one, a great deal, and it includes FREE BOWLING SHOES.)
I will be perfectly blunt — if poker is not our national pastime, then bowling is; it’s one or the other. What, you think baseball’s our national pastime? Baseball ? Please. Do you ever sit around the kitchen table playing baseball?
Socrates famously said it best: “An unexamined life that doesn’t make time for a weekly bowling outing is not worth living.”
(Historical Tidbit I: Socrates also is credited — incorrectly in this case — with first saying, “Trust is a must or your game is a bust.” That was PBA Hall of Famer Billy Welu.)
(Historical Tidbit II: The “Socratic problem” was actually the philosopher’s inability to convert the 4-6-7-9-10 Greek Church.)
Bowling remains the most underrated recreational endeavor in American life. Bowling relaxes and restores the spirit. Even when you bowl bad, you feel good. Bowlers are lovers, not fighters.
Bowling has tested my loyalty of late because the old-fashioned bowling alley morphed into the newfangled bowling center. In addition to being much more expensive, these places are loud and dark.
I used to walk into the lanes and expect to see Norman Rockwell or Norm Duke. Now it’s like walking into Studio 54.*
(* Yes, this is a 1979 reference because I guarantee you I have ZERO readers born after 1979.)
While I may not welcome the vibe of my local Bowlero or Lucky Strike, I root for these places to survive because we — as a republic — need bowling to survive. Democracy dies in darkness, and without a free press and without a beer frame, we are left to taking deep, shuddering breaths in a pitch-black hell on Earth.
Plus no one would get to see the greatest bowler on the planet again.
I am begging you, America: embrace Jason Belmonte.
What Tiger Woods is to golf and Roger Federer is to tennis, Belmonte is to bowling. All of them are the best of their generation, but Belmonte has been the most dominant and he changed the game.
He bowls with two hands.
It’s as revolutionary as if Picasso painted with the brush between his teeth.
Belmonte’s two-handed approach is fascinating to watch. Gripping the ball without putting a thumb in the thumb hole, he generates tremendous power. More remarkable are the speed and control he exhibits with this style; he is pinpoint accurate again and again.
The 35-year-old Australian — good looking, charismatic, gracious in victory or defeat — is an overlooked commodity. Still, his success has spawned a generation of two-handed bowlers, just as Jimmy Connors and Chris Evert popularized the two-handed backhand in tennis 45 years ago.
This month, Belmonte won the PBA Tournament of Champions, equaling Earl Anthony and Pete Weber with his 10th major title.
He then went for a record 11th major in the Players Championship, in which three of the five finalists — Belmonte, Kyle Troup and Anthony Simonsen — were two-handers. In a dazzling title match, Belmonte never missed the pocket, but in the fourth and decisive 10th frame, he left a 7-10 split — two 7-10 splits! — and Simonsen won.
How dominating has Belmonte been? In 46 career majors, he has finished in the top five 23 times.
After you let that sink in, ask Siri where the nearest bowling center is, call a car service to pick you up and go roll three games, then email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to thank me.
(Please, no emails after midnight; I’m usually asleep by then, dreaming of Jason Belmonte.)
Q. If you were Zion Williamson, would you shut it down? (Marty Littman; Chicago)
A. I would stop playing games, but I would not stop going to classes — those are free with your one-and-done scholarship, and Duke probably has a couple of decent professors.
Q. Any chance that the Robert Kraft story will have a happy ending? (Bob Dalton; Fredericksburg, Va.)
A. If Kraft’s misdemeanor charge of soliciting prostitution ultimately goes to replay review, I believe he will be exonerated.
Q. Would you rather watch an NBA All-Star Game or Premier League soccer game? (Michael Kolb; Spokane, Wash.)
A. Honestly, I will take a 1-0 Premier League game over a 178-164 NBA All-Star Game any day of the week.
Q. Can we eliminate Jupiter, Fla., as a candidate site for the New England Patriots’ training camp? (Terry Golden; Vienna, Va.)
A. Tom Brady and Julian Edelman said, “We’re going to Disney World!” Robert Kraft said, “I’m going to Orchids of Asia!”
Q. Are all AAF players eligible for the rookie of the year award? (Rafael Aguirre-Sacasa; San Francisco)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
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