by Jason Thomas November 23, 2008 19:00
The trouble with the PBA’s Ultimate Scoring Championship for the players who made the show is, it’s a bit like what happens to me when I go out and meet people who’ve read my columns. They say, “Hey Jason, I’ve read your columns! You’re a really funny guy! Can you say something funny right now?” And I’m like, “Uhhhhhhhh. Mmmmmmm. Uhhhhhhh.” If they haven’t walked away by then, I might come up with, “So this horse walks into a bar and sits down. And the bartender asks, ‘Why the long face?’” Zinga! Ba’dum dum.
So, when you get four guys on the show and say, “OK guys. You just made the show and you’re not only bowling for a title and 25 large and a guaranteed exemption for next season and god knows whatever else…but, could you also shoot a few 300 games while you’re at it? But, no pressure.” Can you say, “performance anxiety?” Plus, add to the formula that one of the guys (Robert Smith) withdrew from the event that took place just two days before and looked like he could barely walk (let alone throw one of the most powerful balls in bowling) and one of the others (Bill O’Neill) was coming off a second consecutive heart-wrenching runner-up finish about 15 minutes prior to appearing in his semifinal match (this show was taped right after last week’s Chameleon Championship in case you were not aware) and what you get is a textbook example of one of everyone’s favorite TV bowling announcer Randy Pedersen’s pet sayings, “Some days you’re the dog and some days you’re the hydrant.”
It would be really easy to criticize the PBA (today’s hydrant) for the medium to low-ish scores featured during what was hyped to be the shootout of all shootouts, but I’m not going to do that. Instead, I think the PBA should be praised for taking a risk and allowing us to see what might happen. Would I have liked to see the guys shoot scores that would make people’s eyeballs pop out of their skulls like Yosemite Sam looking down the barrel of a loaded cannon? Yes. But, is what the PBA (and especially what Randy Pedersen) did to explain and entertain us on this week’s show, make for good TV? Heck yes!
Now, instead of doing a blow-by-blow of each match, as has become my tradition, I’m going to try something a little bit different this week. I’m going to go ahead and tell you in short order the scores and outcomes of each match, then I’m going to discuss why the show worked for me.
Here’s how the matches went: First, Mike Scroggins beat Smith 238-205 in Semifinal #1, then, Mike Wolfe knocked off O’Neill in the other Semi, 237-215. In the finals, Wolfe defeated Scroggins 246-206 to win his fourth career Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour title. The finalists averaged a respectable 224.5 for their six games and, by my count, hit the pocket 54 out of 66 times. Interestingly enough, the man who missed the pocket the most (Wolfe, with four misses) had the day’s highest average and won the tournament. The players rolled a total of 40 strikes for the day, which works out to a 60% strike percentage and a 74% carry percentage (the number of strikes divided by the number of pocket hits). There was just one open frame for the day (rolled in the first frame of Match 1, by Smith).
So, why did I like the show? One reason. Randy Pedersen. Yes, that’s right folks, this week’s show finally allowed the PBA to showcase the talents of its play-by-play voice in the way that they deserve to be showcased. First off, because of the unique and ultra-highlighted lane conditions, it allowed him to show his vast knowledge of the game as the matches unfolded. The greatest example of this occurred in the early stages of the final match, when Randy explained that even though the players were not having too difficult a time hitting the pocket (which is goal #1 for any bowler) they were having a difficult time knocking down all ten pins, or carrying (which is goal #2). When it comes down to it, this is the fundamental equation of the sport of bowling, as E=MC2 is to the universe. Randy did a fantastic job of explaining this and, in the process, educated everyone watching about just how challenging it is to shoot really high scores and, in an extremely simple way, exactly what the greatest bowlers in the world are trying to do every time they hit the lanes.
Second, the three-match format allowed for a number of special segments, the best of which were anchored by the telegenic, humorous and self-deprecating Pedersen. In his first segment, Randy illustrated the specifics of what makes an easy lane condition, as the producers cut back and forth between a lane graphic that showed Randy striking from three different angles while standing in the same place on the lane. The hands-on demonstration illustrated Randy’s “still-got-it” skills as a bowler while also showing the folks at home exactly what pro bowlers are capable of when they have some room to get away with mistakes (especially in both directions…yippee, my favorite!) in execution.       
The other great Randy-centric feature really let him cut it loose and turn on his megawatt personality. In this one, he visited the prestigious Detroit Athletic Club (which has been involved in the Detroit-area tournaments for a number of years now) and interviewed a number of the members. I cracked up out loud when Randy asked one of the guys if he “knew who Randy Pedersen was” and the only name the guy could come up with was Walter Ray Williams. Randy then asked the guy if he “wanted to bowl for some money!” He later questioned a stogie-chomping dude about the requirements of joining the club. After the guy listed a few simple qualifications, “you have to be a good guy, a decent bowler, etc.), Randy said in Lloyd Christmas Dumb and Dumber fashion, “so you’re telling me there’s a chance for me to join!?” The guy then looked back at Randy and, while blowing a giant cloud of smoke in his face, said, “Uhhhh…I don’t think so.”
Now, this brings me to an age-old debate in the history of PBA bowling show criticism, which is, “what’s better, more bowling or more feature segments?” I’ve heard a lot of folks argue (Walter Ray Williams is a big advocate of this position, by the way) that what the fans really want is more bowling. I have found in my experience speaking with fans that the majority follows this rule, but with a big caveat…which is, if the features the PBA had run in the past had been more entertaining, then would perhaps a big number of these folks be singing a different tune? I mean what if we had Randy giving Angelina Jolie (played by an actress) a bowling tip about how to pick up splits and using her kids as the pins? Or Randy inviting Robert Smith to demonstrate the power release and getting too close to Robert as the ball comes off his hand, setting fire to his clothes? At any rate, I think these are the kinds of things that need to be done to showcase the talent that we have on the show because, as we all know, Randy is the only bowler who makes the show every week (Bill O’Neill’s current run aside) and as much an effort as possible should be made to promote him as a star. And I don’t think Randy should have any reason to shy away from or feel unworthy of the spotlight. There’s a reason he was picked to be the play-by-play guy (awesome personality, nice looking, funny, and one of the all-time great bowlers in history) and, like I said of Lebron James back in my Week 1 review, the PBA needs more guys who, like him, embrace the spotlight in order to help our sport begin to garner the respect and attention we all know it deserves.  
Let me also not forget to mention the progress that Rob Stone has made in the booth. He is clearly sucking up the ins and outs of the game like a sponge and is really doing a fantastic job of serving up softballs for Randy to hit out of the park. He is also cleverly picking his spots when it comes to promoting the Hambone (which is actually now listed in the official Wikipedia online entry for “Tenpin Bowling” as THE term for four strikes in a row…very nice going Mr. Stone) and I believe his restraint shows just how much respect he has for the bowling and the bowling purists out there.
Before I sign off, I just would like to add that I hope that the PBA continues with the Ultimate Scoring Championship again next year. Just because it failed to live up to the hype (solely from a scoring standpoint as I mentioned) this time around is no reason not to give it another shot next season. Hopefully, the next time the PBA will get to be the dog, or should we say, “the bid bad Wolfe,” as Mike was today (well, technically, last week…whatever). Congrats to Wolfe on the win! See you next week! Happy Turkey Day everyone!
What did you think? Please e-mail me with your thoughts on this week’s show at jason@jasonthomasbowling.com and be sure to check out my other weekly blog as well as an all-new special “The History of Bowling” episode of The Bowling Show at bowlersparadise.com.
Until next week!
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by PBA Editor November 10, 2008 19:00
Xtra Frame will feature live coverage of the Ultimate Scoring Championship round of eight match play finals starting at 7 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Nov. 11.
The coverage will feature the most exciting matchup of the night, complete with commentary, two varying camera angles and lights similar to the televised finals. The majority of the coverage will be focused on the featured match, along with highlights from the other matches.
The Round of eight match play finals determines which four bowlers will qualify for the ESPN televised finals which will air Sunday, Nov. 23 at 1 p.m. ET.
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by PBA Editor November 9, 2008 19:00
The Ultimate Scoring Championship certainly lived up to its name as Patrick Allen of Wesley Chapel, Fla. shot a record-tying 3,647 (+847) total, averaging 260.50 for the 14-game block in Monday’s Round of 64 qualifying at Taylor Lanes, the fourth stop on the Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour. 
“My game plan for tomorrow is to strike more than the other guy,” Allen said. “You’re not remembered for leading qualifying, it’s whether you make the show on Sunday.”
Eleven players shot 300 during Monday’s Round of 64. Ritchie Allen and Parker Bohn III saw perfection in the first seven-game block. Whereas nine more perfect games were registered during block two (Mitch Beasley, Edward Van Daniker Jr., Bohn III, Pete Weber, Patrick Allen, Sean Rash, Mike Wolfe, Tony Reyes and Steve Jaros).
Bohn III of Jackson, N.J. was the only player to shoot two 300 games during Monday’s qualifying, bringing his PBA career total to 82.
“Pete (Weber) and I had a good doubles score, shooting 600 (in one game) on the same lane,” Bohn III said. Bohn III and Weber were two of five bowlers who shot 300 in game nine of qualifying.
“It’s almost equivalent to playing 480 yard par-5s in golf, lots of birdies and lots of eagles,” added Bohn III, referring to the Ultimate Scoring Championship oil pattern.
The Ultimate Scoring Championship, a new event introduced as part of the 50th anniversary celebration, spotlights the incredible scoring potential of the world’s greatest bowlers on a wide-open “house shot” lane condition that is found in most league bowling today. It is also the first event of the “Extreme Swing” which includes five “creative” format championships during the season. The four other events this season include the GEICO Plastic Ball Championship (Feb. 18-22), Etonic Marathon Championship (Feb. 23-March 1), Don Johnson Buckeye State Eliminator (March 2-8) and Go RVing Match Play Championship (March 18-22).
The Ultimate Scoring Championship has not disappointed, with the field averaging 226.18 in qualifying, compared to 211.39 in the Pepsi Viper Championship and 214.88 in the Lake County Indiana Golden Anniversary Championship.
Joe Bailey of Pittsburgh, Pa. and Mike Edwards of Tulsa, Okla. tied at 3,157 (+357) for the final 32nd spot into match play, averaging 225.50, forcing a one game roll-off. Edwards advanced over Bailey, 196-193.
Three of the players who shot 300 unpredictably missed the cut.
Tuesday’s competition continues with single-elimination best 4-of-7 match play, until four players remain.
Ultimate Scoring Championship Format:
The field bowled two 7-game qualifying blocks for a total of 14 games on Monday, Nov. 10 in which the top 32 players advanced. Bowlers making the cut return on Tuesday morning, Nov. 11, competing in a single-elimination best 4-out-of-seven match play format in the Round of 32, Round of 16 and Round of 8. The final four will advance to Sunday’s finals which will be taped and air on ESPN on Sunday, Nov. 23.
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by PBA Editor November 8, 2008 19:00
P.J. Haggerty of Clovis, Calif. said Sunday was the best he has bowled so far this season and he certainly backed up that statement with his performance. Haggerty led Sunday’s Tournament Qualifying Round (TQR) with a 1,771 pinfall to easily earn a spot in the Ultimate Scoring Championship at Taylor Lanes. He bested the field by at least 54 pins and averaged 253 over the seven game block.
For Haggerty, it was a bit of personal retribution after not advancing past the TQR last week at the Lake County Indiana Golden Anniversary Championship in Hammond, Ind.
“I worked on my game last week after not making it out of TQR,” Haggerty said. “I worked with (PBA exempt player) Jeff Carter who helped me out with my timing and swing, and it all came together today. He definitely had a big part to my success today. It’s nice to bowl well. I haven’t bowled well the last three weeks but I felt good today.”
Advancing out of the TQRs is nothing new to the 23-year-old. Haggerty advanced into the main field seven times last season. He led the TQR field last year in Taylor in the Motor City Classic where he eventually finished 48th. His career best finish is 18th which he achieved at the Bayer Classic in El Paso, Texas, Feb. 6-10, 2008. So far this season, he advanced past the TQR at the Pepsi Viper Championship where he finished 44th.
Haggerty is confident that he can continue his success into Monday’s Round of 64 qualifying.
“The lanes always play differently from TQR to qualifying, but I’m just going to attack it like I usually do and try to stay with the (high-scoring) pace,” he said.
Also earning spots in Monday’s Round of 64 were Ryan Ciminelli of Cheektowaga, N.Y. with a score of 1,717, Gilbert Sanchez of Milvane, Kan. with 1,672 pins, Gregg Zicha of Glen Ellyn, Ill. with a score of 1,645, Johnathan Bower of Middletown, Pa. with 1,639 pins, John Slavich IV of Schaumburg, Ill. with a score of 1,638, Bill Rowe of Hamilton, Ontario with 1,635 pins and Corey Young of Steeleville, Ill. with a score of 1,633.  
Monday’s competition continues with the qualifying round of 64, cutting down the field to the top 32 players.
PBA Single Elimination Match Play Format:
The field will bowl two 7-game blocks for a total of 14 games on Monday, Nov. 10 in which the top 32 players will advance. Bowlers making the cut will return on Tuesday morning, Nov. 11, competing in a single-elimination best 4-out-of-seven match play format in the Round of 32, Round of 16 and Round of 8. The final four will advance to Sunday’s finals which will be taped and air on ESPN on Sunday, Nov. 23.
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