This was going to be titled "Live by the Position Round, Die by the Position Round: The Steve Jaros Story". But without mentioning the PBA in the title, nobody would know who Steve Jaros is. But if you are reading this, you must be interested in the PBA; if not, the Hit-O-Meter has already counted your visit (and I thank you). Now that you're here, set a spell and read a great story.
As mentioned here, in the PBA CRL Carmen Salvino Scorpion Championship in Vernon Hills, IL, all 64 exempt players bowled 14 games, cut to the top 32, bowled nine match play games (with each match winner awarded 30 bonus pins) cutting the field to 16, then bowled nine more match play games before cutting to the top four for the TV finals to be shown live on ESPN on Sunday afternoon.
In reading the final standings for each round, you would see that Jaros' finishes were as follows...
35th place after the first seven games of qualifying
15th place after 14 games (in the middle of the pack entering match play)
16th place after the first round of match play (barely making the cut)
5th place at the end of match play (barely missing TV)
But that doesn't tell the entire story. Before qualifying even began on Thursday (Thanksgiving Day), an equipment breakdown at Brunswick Zone Hawthorne Lanes delayed the start by almost two hours. That pushed the entire schedule back, and the 64 exempt players (and 16 women's players) finsihed after 11:00 PM. Jaros - who lives 70 miles away in Yorkville, IL - headed back home to his own bed to rest-up for Friday's bowling.
My-Sugar-Na, who attended Friday's match play rounds with me, steps in to explain how the rest of Jaros' evening played out...
His-Sugar-Na here - I had overheard Steve Jaros tell somebody that on his drive back to Yorkville on Thursday night, he got stuck in traffic and took him over an hour just to get past the jam. Turns out that the jam was three lanes of traffic, ALL MERGING TOWARDS THE EXIT to go to a mall that was opening at Midnight for Black Friday. In hindsight, he mentioned, he should have just stayed at a hotel near the bowling center. OK, back to Baldy.
In other words, Jaros couldn't have gotten much sleep, as he had to be back at the bowling center by 9:30 AM for the match play which started at 11:00 AM. He started the morning with a 258 game, but averaged only 224 for the next seven (I say only, as the field was averaging about 240). Also, Jaros lost five of those seven games, earning him only 60 total bonus pins. After the eight games, Jaros found himself in 23rd place heading into the ninth game (which is a position round, meaning he would bowl the player in 24th place).
The seeding for the position round was in itself quite a story, as eight bowlers (including Greenfield's Chad Kloss) were within 16 pins of the precious cut line of 16th place. When figuring in the bonus pins, it would basically be which one of the eight would bowl the highest game. Late into game nine, it came down to two players, Ed VanDaniker in 22nd place and Jaros. VanDaniker finished his game first, shooting 256 + 30 bonus pins - which meant that Jaros had to strike thrice in the 10th frame to win. Jaros did so, throwing a 258 + 30 bonus pins, and when the math was finished, Jaros had jumped from 23rd to 16th place in one game to survive to bowl in the evening block.
I have seen many, many times in pro sports where a team makes a furious comeback from a deficit with an emotional surge to tie a game or take a small lead, then all of the expended energy catches up to the team and they end up losing anyway. I had expected that it may happen to Jaros in this event, but it didn't happen that way I had thought.
In the first game of the last round, Jaros tied Ryan Ciminelli 279-279, beat Mike Scroggins 279-277 and tied Ken Abner 237-237. After surviving a leaster against Michael Fagan 212-166, Jaros cruised to a second place tie with a 255 average heading into the final position round. (Can you see where this is going? If not, read the previous two paragraphs again, please).
In the final position round, Wes Malott was 150 pins over Jaros in first place... the top seed in the TV finals wasn't in doubt. But for that last game there were six bowlers fighting for the other three spots. Jaros would need to either win his match (and get those 30 bonus pins), or have a big, big game to hold onto the spot in the top four.
Jaros lost to Malott 269-226. That 226 is an important number, made more important by the fact that if he would have gotten two strikes in the 10th frame of Game 32 instead of one strike than a seven count, I would have needed something else to prattle on about. Just a couple of lanes down, 4th seeded Ken Simard threw a 300 + 30 bonus pins to cement his spot on TV. Simard's opponent, Brad Angelo threw a 246 game and though he lost, he also clinched a spot in the final four.
It came down to the match up of two bowlers tied for 5th and 6th place - Jason Couch and Ciminelli. Ciminelli was leading Couch heading into the 9th frame, when Ciminelli left a 3-5-6 spare. While the crowd was still cheering Simard's 300 game on the next pair, Ciminelli bowled through the cheering and missed his spare. From that point, the game was Couch's, but the final four was still unknown. Couch had thought that Angelo's 246 game had excluded him, but he didn't realize that Jaros' score was in reach. Couch struck the first two times in the 10th frame, and when all was said and done, Couch had beaten Jaros for the last spot by three pins.
I didn't get to see where Jaros went once the bowling was completed. The PBA announced the four exempt finalists and the two women's finalists (Michelle Feldman and Missy Bellinder), and after the obligatory cheering, Jaros was out of eyesight. As a bowler, I have never competed at that level, but I have been in that situation numerous times where you think you have a game or a seeding won, but something extraordinary happens and you find yourself a few pins down. It wasn't Jaros not doubling in the 10th frame of the last game... but its the thought that somewhere over the previous 32 games - maybe 450 shots - could he have left one less split, made one more spare, or carried just one more 10-pin?
I am sure Jaros will be fine. People can pick on bowling all they want, but he is a professional, and he will regroup and drive to Buffalo for next week's tournament.