Andrew’s Angle

by Andrew Cain January 20, 2009 19:00
I was always under the impression that “fog” was synonymous with “San Francisco.” A trip to southern Oregon has since changed my mind. As I mentioned last week, the PBA Tour continued its western swing with a short journey over the Siskyou Mountains and into Medford. 
Roughly the same time last year, I made the same trip out of Reno, but with a much different perspective. Black ice took precedence over dry roads, packed snow covered the now-visible roadside brush, 14-degrees was now 40, and Mt. Shasta was merely an indistinct blob on my GPS compared to the towering crag (14000+ feet!) that looked as though it punctured the skyline. The weather conditions were completely opposite of what I expected, but nevertheless I prepared in case of a sudden change. How many people do you know from central Arizona that carry around a set of tire chains and ice scraper in their backseat? Quick follow-up question…for those who said they do know someone, how often do you tell them they’re nuts? 
Descending into the Rogue Valley (which, despite having nothing to do with X-Men, may be the trendiestname I’ve heard for the region that primarily consists of Medford, Ashland, and Grants Pass), I thought smooth-sailing was in order. That is, until I saw the cloud – dark, ominous, heavy, and sitting on top of the city. Quick, turn on the fog lights!
Fog lights? Yes, I have those too, along with my winter driving survival kit. I’ve never truly used them for fog (remember where I live?), but I always thought they would actually help me see a little better. Although I know the scientific reason for why they work, I’m still convinced that their only real function is cosmetic and they truly just serve to make your car look cool.
Ok, so now that I’ve beaten the weather conditions to death, let’s talk about the real reason for being in Medford…bowling. The Bayer Earl Anthony Medford Classic was the talk of the town for the entire week. Big kudos to Ric Donnelly and his staff at Lava Lanes for hosting a phenomenal event (I believe 7 or 8 years running now) and making the players and fans feel like they are indeed at a first-class sporting event. Not a day of the week went by where local radio or TV stations weren’t broadcasting live from the parking lot, which, from my rookie perspective, is the way I always envisioned elite bowling would be treated. 
As for the actual play this week, one of the oldest stops on the Tour used a brand-new pattern: The “Earl.” No, not the Duke of Earl (if you think I’m too young to remember this song, just know I was exposed to oldies my entire adolescent life while in the car), but Earl “the Pearl” Anthony, who may this week be named the #1 Greatest Bowler in PBA History and is arguably the greatest left-handed idol of all-time. What better way to honor him than with a lane condition that is extremely demanding, low-scoring, and is flatter (oil ratio of 1.3 to 1) than anything competed on aside from the US Open. Not only is the pattern itself challenging, but the fact that we have never seen it before adds an additional element to the contest, and perhaps the most important. Professional bowlers are not the best because they “throw the ball better” or are simply more consistent; professionals make a living because of their unsurpassed abilities to recognize and adapt. That is not a guess or conjecture, it is fact. 
I have had a relatively rough year so far, but I have definitely learned. Vince Lombardi once said, “Football is a game of inches, and inches make a champion.” That phrase is generally accepted as true, and bowling is no different. Forget the leaders for a moment – there will always be a few who match up and come out of game one swinging for the fences, but the difference between the cut (32nd) and 50th place is often a hundred pins or so. Bowling is a game of frames, not games or blocks of 7…frames. A hundred pins over an entire day of qualifying is not equivalent to even one measly spare per game. Those pins by which I miss most weeks are not the result of any inability to play at this level, but of my need to develop better skills of quick recognition and adaptation. One. Just one frame faster can make the difference. Lanes change, and the fastest player to see the transition and follow it is put in the best possible position to be successful. Not necessarily win, as there are plenty of other factors (ahem, remember Walter Ray’s heartbreaking 8-10 split?) which can intervene, but most certainly be successful in the long run.
After the first 5 games Thursday morning, I was in 3rd place, high lefty, feeling confident. By Thursday night, I was done, in 49th place and 80 pins behind the cut. That’s an extreme meltdown, but it serves to show how quickly you must adapt to remain competitive amongst the best bowlers in the world.  I received a couple emails asking what changes I made physically last week. Well, for those who have seen me bowl, I have a rather unique swing that bumps out to my left and tucks back in (near my ankle, where it should be). Unfortunately, that realignment is sometimes too great and it causes my angles to be far too open to attack the patterns properly.   I worked last week on opening up my hips and shoulders more to accommodate my swing and allow it to be more parallel to the lane, gaining me more freedom to close down angles. I’m sure I will get a half-dozen coaching tips regarding how to “fix” my swing via e-mail, but I can tell you knowing how to work on the physical alteration is not as important as mentally buying-in to the difference. Everyone on Tour has different physical prowess, but mental savvy is what opens the doors to winning; I’m convinced a Tour-caliber player could make the cut throwing it over-handed or backward (or both!) if they performed with aggression and true conviction. Confidence really is the key, and I plan on being ready when the fog finally lifts.
As a final note, I want to make a brief mention about the pro-ams Lava Lanes sets up for our yearly event. They are highly anticipated and attended, and the players’ favorites are arguably the Calcutta and the High-School Baker Tournament. We usually only get to participate in pro-ams, but these events allow us to compete alongside aspiring bowlers and have a vested interest in their triumphs. They are unquestionably a fun alternative to our standard formats. I had the pleasure of bowling with the young ladies and gentlemen from Hidden Valley, Klamath, and Grants Pass (who are now rockstars on the internet…check out the picture above!), and I am proud to see that with the rise of high school bowling, our sport’s future will be secure. Now for the “first” of the week…who else but Big Wes? I went with a more obscure choice last week, but this one was e-a-s-y to pick out. Then man made his millionth telecast of the year and is the first to knock down two titles in the season – not to mention back-to-back in Medford (hopefully he will at least let me borrow the second Rolex for this free press coverage).
Well, that’s it for now…enjoy the Tournament of Champions next week and remember to check out (my sponsors appreciate it) and feel free to talk back via email at!
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