“Geez, Michael. You leave this post about your being a ‘celebrity’ bowler on your blog for almost a month. You gonna tell us how you did?” - What you all are likely thinking.
As I indeed mentioned a while back, I was invited to bowl as a “local celebrity” in the Junior Hall of Fame Tournament, which was held a week ago Sunday, November 11th at AMF Bowlero. At the time, I was excited to be included with a list of Wisconsin, Illinois and national Hall of Fame bowlers, as well as some of the most elite talent available in a 200 mile radius.
And if you don’t mind me saying; except for three Hall of Famers… my kids and I kicked some AXE!!!
The adults were randomly paired with existing teams of two junior bowlers, who I had met just moments before we started bowling. The lucky guys to be paired with me were (using real names for a change) Armando Astemborski (center) and Yair Macagon (right), both young teenagers that bowl league in Brown Deer.
The first game was a sign of things to come. I bowled a game in the high 230s, and Yair (with a 106 average) had a game around 155. The second game, I again bowled over my average, and this time it was Armando (with an average around 125) stepping up with a big 201 game.
I thought we were bowling quite well, but there were 96 teams, and only the top 48 made the cut to the Survivor rounds. The other two teams on my pair (one of which was led by my bowling buddy Should've Brought the Invasion) were bowling even better than us. One lane to my right was an adult from Chicago who threw a 300 game, and on the same lane was another adult from La Crosse who bowled an 804 three-game series.
Like I said, I thought we were bowling well, but I didn’t know if it was enough. We bowled the last game of qualifying, and I flamed out the last two frames and barely hit 200, and both Yair and Armando also came back to earth. All 96 teams also bowled two “Baker Style” games (Side note; “Baker Style” has all team bowlers combining on a one-game score. In this tournament the adult bowled the first frame, one junior bowled the second, the other junior the third frame, and rotating until the game is complete). We bowled our Baker games, then it was time to wait for the results to be tabulated.
During the break (in which they also announced the raffle prize winners) the guys asked me over and over if we made the top 48. It was frustrating as I had nothing to compare, except the bowlers around us who were putting up huge scores. I will admit to thinking that we were a long shot to advance.
Then they announced it… 15th place out of 96 teams! It just so happened that we were surrounded by high scores during qualifying.
We took our places for the first Survivor round of two “Baker Style” games (the top 24 out of the 48 teams survive) and we averaged – with handicap – 256. Certainly we would survive that cut, but the second Survivor round would cut to the top 5, which would roll-off for the finals. They tabulated the scores… and we jumped up to 8th place! We were just 40 pins out of that 5th spot. It would take quite the effort…
And wouldn’t you know it? Yair and Armando and I managed to average – with handicap – 267 for our two “Baker Style” games. But would that be enough? We probably made up 40 pins on 5th place, but there were three other teams ahead of us. I had been focused on our games, I never paid attention to what those teams were doing. More waiting.
First place was so-and-so with a whatever score.
Second place was another team with some score.
Third place “The James Gang”!!!!! We made the roll-off!
Unfortunately, that is where the magic ended. We bowled a one-game match against the eventual Champions, Hall of Famer Joe Alivo, and juniors Sean Looby and Adam Wrycha and got spanked pretty good.
We ended the tournament in 4th place, and all three top teams had Hall of Famers… Alivo, Roger Dalkin and Dale Traber. Certainly no shame in being included with those guys. Actually, I am quite honored.
Yair and Armando each won a two-ball bowling bag and, more importantly, a $300 scholarship. And me? I gave something back and had more fun bowling than I had in a long, long time.
I am not usually reserved with my opinions, and in bowling circles I am known to opinionate on what is wrong with the sport (the sport is too technology dependent, there are too many expensive new bowling balls released, then lane conditions are designed to counter the effectiveness of the balls, then ball companies offer equipment to the already-elite player). That equipment cycle, as well as my age and some nagging aches and pains gets me quite down on the game a lot.
But watching the delight of Yair and Armando, and just having fun with nothing in it for me at all, well it was pretty damn cool. It actually takes me some effort to look back and realized that I threw the ball great all day long, too. Shannon Labinski and her team of volunteers ran a great tournament, and did themselves proud.
And I can’t wait to do it again next year.