Book Heaven

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Location: South Amboy, New Jersey

I am deeply involved in trying to solve the discrepancy between being interested in zen and trying to acquire all the things I've been accumulating

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Pity the Bowler

There is one professional athlete we should all feel sorry for. Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be professional bowlers! On the subsistence scale, professional bowlers rank only one little notch up from itinerant blues musicians and things don't exactly seem to be looking up for them. Although I always kind of enjoyed watching bowling on tv, my interest waned when ABC and Chris Schenkel disappeared from the telecasts. When one of the major tournaments was held in my backyard recently, I became interested again and was positively shocked that the bowlers' lot has not improved. These guys can't really even enjoy their sport because week in and week out, they're scuffling for pesos ... and very few pesos at that. They slog around the country in their mobile homes, entering upwards of thirty tournaments a year, and if they're really really lucky, they might crack $100,000 in earnings. Subtract out the cost of about $1,000 a tournament and if you're one of the lucky ones, you could net about $70,000. Of course, you could count on your fingers the bowlers that make over $100,000 a year while there were 217 golfers who passed the $100,000 mark last year. In the history of bowling, there have been very few bowlers who had $200,000 + years, and the most I ever saw one win was Walter Ray Williams who had a $400,000 plus year ($417,450 in 2002-2003). I think this may be the only year of this magnitude any bowler has ever had. If three bowlers crack the $200,000 barrier in any given year, it's nothing short of a miracle. This year alone, there were 141 golfers earning over $500,000, and I've never heard of most of them before.

On the Professional Bowlers Association website, one player I always liked, Buffalo's Tommy Baker was touted as the tour's eighteenth player to win over a million dollars. His earnings on tour totalled $1,268,882 but that was from 1976 to 2004. In fact, he had only one $100,000+ year, and this is from a guy that's in the PBA Hall of Fame! On the other hand, golf's leading moneywinner last year, Vijay Singh, pulled in almost 11 million dollars, far in excess of the PBA's purse total for the entire year.

I think I may have one book about bowling, and even that one was a publisher's proof that I bought for 97 cents. You can't even find a book about bowling in a bookstore. Of course, you could find a few on the internet (my favorite title was Bowl Better Using Self Hypnosis) but every single one of the books is about technique. There doesn't even seem to be a single book about the history of the sport and it's unlikely barring any unexpected resurgence there will ever be any lavishly illustrated history published. So, the next time the PBA tour is in your neck of the woods, adopt a bowler and take him to dinner. I'm sure he won't be expecting anything fancy.


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