Like every good red-blooded American male, I hold these autumn Sunday afternoons very sacred. After a hearty breakfast, I take my place upon the couch, remote tucked safely by my side, some water and a veggie tray, er, I mean a cold beer and some chips strategically positioned on the coffee table, and I fire up the television just in time for the introductions…. Wes Malott, Bill O’Neill, Mike Machuga, and David Traber. The crowd, at least 200 strong, cheers wildly.
Surely, you say, 200 is a typo. Those multi-million dollar pro football stadiums hold more than 200 people. True, I reply, but bowling alleys do not, and you must not have realized that those names I rattled off are from the PBA tour. You know, the PBA. Professional Bowlers Association?
ESPN realized that the only way to compete with the NFL coverage on Fox and CBS is to present the excitement of professional bowling, and I’m hooked (pun intended for all you bowlers out there). To kickoff the show (pun intended for all you football fans out there), the bowlers walk through the pro shop doorway, which has been retrofitted with some beads like Greg Brady put up when he turned Mike’s den into a groovy 60’s hippie pad. Then they break into that fake jog thing where they’re still walking but pumping their arms like they’re jogging, and fake jog through the billowing smoke from the buckets of dry ice placed along the counter of the snack shop while Iron Man by Black Sabbath blares through the family entertainment center.
Thus begins the Greater Omaha Classic, brought to you by PBA tour sponsor Denny’s. Home of the Rooty Tooty Fresh n’ Fruity. Or maybe that’s IHOP. I don’t know – I usually opt for the smoked turkey crepes at Café Brazil. Way tastier food, way more flavorful coffee and hip waitresses that all want to sleep with me. Literally. They’d sleep with anybody after having to wake up at 5 a.m. to sling crepes. But there ain’t no Café Brazil in Nebraska, so Denny’s it is.
I’ve been to Omaha once. I had to go kiss a customer’s ass at my last job because one of our salesguys was a moron. Of course, I’m sure the salesguy thought I was the moron, and the customer likely thought we were both morons and probably wished we would just leave so he could go bowling. Turns out that most of this paragraph is rather unnecessary since the tourney actually takes place in Council Bluffs and not Omaha, but I don’t have any stories about Council Bluffs. Feel free to share your own. They can't be worse than my Omaha story.
The first match featured Wes Malott versus Bill O’Neill. Malott looks like he might work at Ace Hardware, his sponsor. Nothing wrong with that, but the guys at the Ace Hardware by my house are always off their game. They’re in my face when I’m doing something simple like buying a garden hose, but nowhere to be found when I need them to quickly tell me why there’s sparks coming out of my toilet and how to extinguish smoldering ass hair. I’ve digressed, haven’t I? O’Neill was more enthusiastic during the intros and tossed some free hats to the crowd. Nothing fancy like Easter bonnets, but just baseball hats. I heard the hats read “Bowlers Have 16 Pound Balls”, but I can’t get confirmation on that yet. O’Neill wins the match.
The second match featured Mike Machuga versus David Traber. I wanted Machuga to win so he could use the prize money to get a cheeseburger since he was in danger of being outweighed by an Olsen twin. The anorexic one. Traber reminded me of an obsolete shop teacher that had to give up his space to a new computer lab. Mahuga wins.
Why the PBA on Sunday instead of the NFL action, you ask? It was kind of by mistake – I was watching the NFL pre-game show on ESPN and didn’t change the channel in time. I stayed tuned in because I’m a bitter old man. You see, I was a bowling geek when I was a kid and I even attended those TV matches when they rolled through town. Went bowling with the old man on Sunday mornings as soon as I got him over his hangover by presenting him with a double Smirnoff Bloody Mary without any of that leafy green shit in it. I even got to bowl with PBA Hall of Famer and fellow Chicagoan Carmen Salvino. And by the time I was 12 I was always in the battle for highest league average, but gave it all up for the glamour of a baseball and football career. As Donald Trump would not have failed to point out to me, it was a catastrophic error. Turns out I couldn’t hit a curveball to save Crystal Bernard’s life, and my dual superpowers of being both skinny and slow failed to impress the football scouts or the cheerleaders. Had I stuck with bowling I could have been touring the country in my very own vintage Airstream trailer, performing in front of scores of fans weekly, and earning $35k a year in prize money with a little luck. But today is Mike Machuga’s day to shine, and he handily defeats Bill O’Neill to take his first PBA tour victory and a $40k payday.
I lost my touch after retiring at age 12; my curve ball doesn’t curve anymore and I can’t squeeze into those size 8 bowling shoes. Moist Rub and I were founding members of the infamous Housewives from Encino bowling team in the 80’s, but our sole purpose was to see how much we could torment the serious bowlers in the league without getting kicked out. Now it seems like the only time I bowl is when my sister-in-law comes to town and gets tired of getting her ass kicked in Monopoly. But after Leper Pop t-shirt sales take off, I plan on installing that bowling alley in my house. None of that automated crap, either. Scorekeeping by hand and real live old-school pinsetters, modeled after the Southport Lanes in Chicago. Stop by the house for a game if you’re ever in town. I’ll keep my balls out for you.