Tour Trials Final Thoughts

by Jason Thomas June 1, 2009 19:00

So it’s been two days since the conclusion of Tour Trials. More than enough time to bang out some TT analysis, right? Well, since the PBA’s now paying me to do stuff, they surprisingly insisted that I actually do some work other than watching their TV shows (that I would have already watched anyways) and write some rambling summary of what it is I saw.

So instead of getting you a Tour Trials analysis ASAP I: spent three hours updating the TV schedule page on PBA.com (whaddya mean I can’t just upload an Excel spreadsheet into the database and have the site update it automatically?), put together a promo for The Bowling Show (which will be debuting on PBA.com this Friday by the way), designed some new photo templates for stories on the home page (you like?), took part in several bona-fide PBA conference calls, answered a few dozen emails, encoded some footage of Tour Trials, and, well, that’s about it I guess.

But now I finally have a free minute (well I guess its not free exactly) to write more about my Tour Trials thoughts. First, I just want to congratulate Tim Mack for earning one of the eight exemptions. Tim is a great person and a great talent who’s probably suffered more through the “expectation machine” than maybe any other bowler in PBA history (or maybe at least a close second to Rick Steelsmith). Like Steelsmith, Mack has suffered through a number of near career-ending shoulder problems (two surgeries that I know of) and he’s continued to fight on and compete at the highest level.

Here are two things you may not know about this guy that, if you’re one of the detractors, may make you change your mind. Number 1 is that T. Mack was a late starter to bowling. Despite his bowling pedigree, his preferred sport was football, and he actually was good enough to earn a Nat’l Championship ring at Penn State back in the early ‘90’s as a long snapper. Tim’s not a very big dude in football terms, so just the act of making the team at 5’9, 190 was a feat in itself. After college, he got serious about bowling and quickly became a top amateur player on the International scene, which leads me to Number 2.

Tim was good buddies with Robert Smith (whom many of you know I grow up with) and one day, the two of them showed up while I was at the local bowling center practicing to try and get out of a big slump. I thought I was doing well because I’d shot a number of 230’s and 240’s and then Tim asks if he can join me. The guy had no equipment with him so he pulls an old AMF 3-dot off the rack and types his name in. Robert decided to watch. He also didn’t have any bowling shoes so he bowled in moccasins with no socks. The score of our match? 300-235. (I had the 235). The reason I remember this moment so well is because it was one of the biggest moments when I realized that a PBA Tour career was not in the cards for me…how could it be when there were guys out there who could shoot 300 with rubber and no bowling shoes while I’m grinding for 230’s with reactive?

The other great thing about Tim is that he’s absolutely electric to watch on the lanes, so hopefully he’ll get a few chances to show America and the rest of the world what I’m talking about this next season. OK, so enough about Tim.

The next guy I wanted to mention is Joe Ciccone. The interesting thing about him this week is that he was even there in the first place. I mean, if any of you have any doubts about the importance of self-confidence in this sport, then all you have to do is look at Joe Chicky. The guy is one of the most talented college players of all time, then goes on Tour and makes a name for himself as a very versatile, consistent player…but has a few soul-crushing setbacks on TV and goes into the tank for a season and misses his exemption. He thinks about life for a while and decides, “Eff-it. I’m just gonna go into Detroit and whatever happens happens.” Win. Win. It will be interesting to see if Mr. C takes this attitude into his newly reborn exempt life. If he does, he will get that first win very soon I predict.

Next on my list is Cassidy Schaub. Just when you thought a once-in-a-lifetime talent comes along in Jason Belmonte, this guy shows up like a week later and says, “Don’t forget about me!” It’ll be interesting to see how Cassidy does on Tour though, because I’d imagine with two hands, playing straight is not his strong suit and on the left side on Tour the guys are forced into a little phonebooth-sized box to play in until the cows come home. Guys who know how to milk that little box like a dairy cow (PA, Scroggins, Parker, Rhino) can make a living, while the guys who are proud to be “that lefty who can play right of fourth arrow” go hungry.

George Lambert IV is probably the guy I’m least surprised to see make it. This guy bowled great on Tour last year every time he laced them up and it seemed like his name was always on the top part of the leaderboard. I’m not sure how he didn’t earn his exemption through points? He seems like a nice kid too. I met him when I directed the Missy Makeover piece for another bowling site a while back and the two were dating at the time (not sure if they still are but I haven’t heard anything on that for a while).

Besides Beasley, who’s already a Tour veteran, the other guys I don’t really know that much about. I’ve heard Stevie Weber is a good player (plus he has a perfect name for bowling) but I’ve never actually seen him throw the ball in person. Tom Smallwood has a great story (just got laid off from GM so decided to try his hand at the Tour), plus he’s from the Detroit area so he’s got to be licking his chops that the PBA’s moving the entire first half of the season to his back yard with the World Series. Stuart Williams (isn’t that the name of a mouse…no wait that was Stuart Little) is interesting because he’s another international player (he hails from the UK) to go along with Belmo, Oskuu, Mika and Amleto (if he decides to bowl more).

Did I miss anybody? Of course, I didn’t even mention the players who just missed. The one I’m most bummed about is Andrew Cain, but mostly because he wrote a great blog on PBA.com and now I’m worried about how I’m going to fill that space next season. AC – call me and let me know your plans…after you’ve had a chance to rest and recuperate of course. To the rest: I admire your courage for even trying it and I wish each of you the very best in reaching your dreams of becoming an exempt player in the future.

What did you think? Please e-mail me with your thoughts at jason.thomas@pba.com

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