Now that the 2011-12 PBA Tour season is in the books, and we still have five full months until the start of next season at the World Series of Bowling this November let's take a look back and recall some of the great storylines from the season. Here are my picks for numbers 6-10, with the top five coming at you later this week...
#10 - Blanchard's Fall
While this story may not make newly selected PBA Rookie of the Year Josh Blanchard's list of moments he'd like to remember, the "fall heard 'round the world" garnered a great deal of media attention and gave the young up-and-coming star a fantastic opportunity to educate folks on some of the finer points (You use tight thumbholes? There's oil on the lanes? Pros have interchangeable slide shoes? I never knew!) of our sport. Blanchard handled the attention with great class and used the platform to make a name for himself as one of the Tour's sure-fire future stars. And he bounced back in the very next tournament with a top-four appearance in the season's first Xtra Frame Tour event in Fountain Valley.
#9 - Newell's Gutter Ball
Making his first career "TV" appearance (technically, it wasn't a TV appearance because it was an Xtra Frame only event, but to hear it from Newell, he was every bit as nervous) in the PBA Ricart Ford Open. After telling sideline reporter Jackie Bowling how nervous he was in spite of the fact that there were no ESPN cameras on hand, the man with the mohawk and "Captain America" belt dumped his first shot of the opening match against Dom Barrett straight into the gutter. After telling himself, "Well, it can't get any worse than this!" he calmed down and shot 740 for three games to defeat Barrett, Rhino Page and Ryan Ciminelli for his first career PBA Tour win.
#8 - International Dominance at WSOB
When the Dream Team dominated the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, no one thought the rest of the world would ever catch up to the Americans in the sport of basketball. For a long time, critics and experts thought the same thing of American dominance in the sport of bowling. But with the arrival of a bevy of international stars to the PBA Tour in the past five years, the tide completely shifted in favor of international dominance at this year's World Series of Bowling. International players won every single animal pattern event on the schedule (Stuart Williams of England - Viper, Jason Belmonte of Australia - Chameleon, Dom Barrett of England - Scorpion, Belmonte - Shark) with Finland's Osku Palermaa claiming the PBA World Championship. The dominant performance of the Internationals declared, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the world now stands on equal footing with the Americans at every level of the sport of bowling.
#7 - Shafer's Heartbreak at the World Championship
And speaking of the PBA World Championship, an American who could have ended the run of the international players was Ryan Shafer, who was the heavy emotional favorite going into the final match of the season's first major. With 12 career TV appearances in the majors without a win, many hoped Shafer would shake off the bad luck and post a "W", especially after his emotional reaction to advancing to the final round. But it was not to be, as a late miss on a 3-6-10 leave would cost Shafer the match and his chance to erase all of those past heartbreaks. As always, Shafer handled the loss with class and marched on with another solid performance in the U.S. Open, where he finished 4th. Fans of Shafer can only hope that next time things will be different.
#6 - Belmonte's 300
With as much power as he packs in his two-handed delivery, and with the frequency with which he is making it to the TV finals these days, it was bound to happen eventually - a perfect game on TV for Jason Belmonte. During the second eliminator match of the Mike Aulby Division Finals of the PBA World Championship, Belmonte went on a tear on the Shark pattern (that he had chosen as the high qualifier on the telecast). With laser-like precision and devastating power, Belmonte labelled twelve straight strikes to shoot the 21st televised 300 game in PBA history, earning a $10,000 bonus for his efforts.
Well, there are the first five in our list of the top 10 storylines of the 2011-12 PBA Tour season. I'll be posting the top five later this week. In the meantime, what were some of your favorite stories from this past PBA Tour season?