Until I saw the news today that the PBA Tour was moving to Fox in 2019, I can’t tell you the last time I thought about bowling on TV.
Oh, but it wasn’t always that way.
When I was growing up in upstate New York in the 1980s, every town had a bowling alley — and let me be clear, by “bowling,” I mean tenpin, not that candlepin stuff the calls itself “bowling” here in Massachusetts.
My home bowling center was eight lanes underneath a local restaurant. There was nothing fancy about it. You could bowl, rent shoes at the counter and get snacks and drinks. Maybe the little TV in the back would be on.
After a couple years with the younger kids in the afternoon, I bowled with the older kids in the morning. Then, in the afternoon, it was time for the “Pro Bowlers Tour” on ABC.
Chris Schenkel and Nelson Burton Jr. (unless he made the broadcast himself) were on the call, and the bowlers were larger-than-life characters, guys like Earl Anthony (my favorite because he was the best bowler and left-handed like me), Mark Roth, Marshall Holman, Mike Aulby, a young Pete Weber, Mike Durbin, Steve Cook, Bob Handley, Wayne Webb and Ernie Schlegel.
The shows were 90 minutes with a stepladder format — No. 5 takes on No. 4, with the winner facing No. 3 and so on until someone reached the final against the top seed.
And there was always the “Rolaids Tip of the Week.” I don’t bowl that much anymore, but I still remember “If you miss left, move left. If you miss right, move right.”
That was Saturday. On Sunday was “TV Tournament Time” on WRGB, the Albany CBS station.
Local bowlers competed for the top prize, with the winner coming back the next week. After the final match, the winner got to try his hand at the “jackpot split,” the 4-7-9-10 for lefties and the 6-7-8-10 for righties.
The owner of our local bowling alley had a run on the show. I bowled juniors with his son Warren Guernsey, who bowled professionally for a while.
Years later, when I was bowling in a league outside of Albany, I took part in a pro-am, bowling one game with Parker Bohn III. At one point, the PA announcer came on to alert us to a gentleman who had just walked in and was hanging out at the refreshment stand.
It was Mark Roth.
I don’t bowl much anymore, and I think the thumb hole on my ball needs to be redrilled — my thumb is a bit bigger than it used to be. But those days of bowling and then watching bowling? Those were the days.