June 4, 2009 19:00
I heard the news about Mark Roth’s stroke around noon yesterday and, like everyone else, I was more than a little shocked. I don’t have much info on his condition, so I will not speculate on the severity of his prognosis or the potential expedience of his recovery. I also hate it when the media starts referring to people who’ve been injured or are sick (Farrah Fawcett and her weirdly exploitative documentary come to mind) in the past tense. But at times like these, I believe it is a perfect time to express our thanks to our heroes, because that is what they need at the time to help them get through their adversity.
Everyone knows that Mark Roth revolutionized bowling. When I was a kid, growing up loving bowling and dreaming of one day going out on Tour, Roth was certainly one of my idols (he was THE idol of my good buddy Robert Smith…and those of us who now enjoy watching Kongcable rip on it probably also owe a vote of thanks to Roth for inspiring little Robert to be that way). Personally, my all-time number one bowling idol was Pete Weber (see this for proof), and HIS number one bowling idol (nope, not his legendary dad Dick) was, yep, you guessed it, Mark Roth.
I’ll never forget the perpetual scowl Roth carried on his face as he mowed down opponents on TV and in person. To me, Roth will always be the guy who dared to challenge Earl Anthony’s machine-like precision with raw, animalistic aggression. When all was said and done, he was a close second to the great Earl at the time he retired from Tour competition, but he was the guy I’d always rather be watching and rooting to see, like John Henry, if he could take on the machine and win. He was also the first guy whose autograph I ever asked for…back in 1984 during his return-to-glory final Player of the Year season…and he gave it to me with a smile I’ll never forget in the café at Town Square Lanes in Riverside over a plate of eggs, bacon and hash browns.
In recent years, I actually had the opportunity to speak with Roth over the phone. Usually it was to give him some kind of bad news, like we were changing the rules on shirt lettering so he’d have to go out and get all new shirts. He always gave me a hard time about it, which made the job suck even more…considering he was one of my boyhood idols. I guess it’d be a little like a junior executive at a bank having to tell his favorite childhood baseball player that his bank was foreclosing on the guy’s house.
Anyways, I really hope that one day soon Mark Roth will once again be seen at a PBA event near you…hopefully even bowling. He’s already going to be at every event from here on out (probably to eternity), because every power player that bowls on Tour (and most players are these days) has a little bit of Mark Roth in his (or her) bowling DNA. I’m sure I speak on behalf of all bowling fans when I say we all wish him the speediest of recoveries.
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