What up world and welcome to another edition of The Blog About Nothing. It’s the week before Christmas, and just a few days before the start of College Football bowl season. It’s a good time to be a couch potato. As I sit here listening to one of my favorite rappers, Charles Hamilton, I can’t help but feel a little proud and reflective today. I’ll start with the reflection first though. Let’s do this!
I’ve said it a million times: I love sports. However, I was horrible playing it. Can’t play basketball, baseball, football, soccer etc… There was one sport that did have a major part of my life though. There was one sport which I actively engaged in, and was quite good at. That sport? Bowling.
I was introduced to bowling at five years old. I was in kindergarten and didn’t have too many friends, but I befriended another kid that didn’t have friends. He was mentally handicapped and I saw that other kids didn’t mess with him, so I decided to become his friend. I looked out for him, and I guess his mother seeing that, became good friends with my mother and suggested to her that I should try bowling. Her son was into it, and she thought I would like it.
The first time I bowled, I hated it! Hated it. I didn’t like putting on the shoes, or throwing this ball down a lane. I didn’t get it, but my mom didn’t give up on me. She and my friend’s mom, made sure I would go back and after a few attempts I loved it. I joined a league and for the next 14 years of my life, I was a league bowler.
I became good. Real good. By the time I stopped league bowling at the age of 19, my room was covered in trophies, medals, and plaques. Don’t get me wrong, I was not pro bowling tour worthy, or college scholarship worthy, but I had a high average, shot games well into the 200’s and kicked many a person’s ass out there on the lanes. I had that bowling swag, and it was something I was known for among my friends and family. My family, especially, took a sense of pride in my accomplishments and that made me feel so proud.
I also grew up watching bowling on television. If you are of a certain age, you would remember that bowling was often on television. Every Saturday afternoon on ABC, the Pro Bowlers Association tour would air their tournaments. I’d watch my favorite bowlers and try to emulate them. I’d try to have the swag of a Pete Webber, or the accuracy of Walter Ray Williams Jr., or the grace of Amleto Monacelli. However, the bowler I most looked up to was the one that looked like me.
I didn’t see many black people at the bowling alley. For the first few years of my bowling experience I would be the only black person in the leagues I participated in. So besides me, and my mother who would accompany me until I got old enough to go on my own, I didn’t see black people on those Fridays and Saturdays at the lanes. Not that it bothered me, though. I made friends with people of all nationalities, and the racism that I did encounter at times, rolled off of my back. For the most part I didn’t take that shit on, but I did feel good on the few occasions there was another black person in one of my leagues or I saw an African-American bowler on television.
That is why I looked up to George Branham III. He looked like me and he was on television doing something that I loved doing. I didn’t emulate his style, but I looked forward to those Saturdays when he was in the hunt for a PBA Title. In 1986 he became the first African American to win a Pro Bowlers Association tournament and went on to win eight TV finals matches in a row, which is still a PBA record. Branham III would go on to win five PBA titles in all, including the 1993 Tournament of Champions which is an event I remember to this day. I was all of 11 years old, but it filled me with some sort of pride to watch this man win a prestigious title.
Bowling, while still a highly participated activity, is not on television much anymore. In the now 14 years since I’ve stopped league bowling, I haven’t bowled much since. Probably less than 50 games in 14 years, which is pretty sad considering my history with the sport. It’s something I regret, but this week I got a reminder of my days of a young bowler, and the pride I felt in watching an African American accomplish something in the sport that was my first real love.
This past week, ESPN aired the PBA World Championship in primetime. Honestly, I had no idea bowling was still on television, until I was channel surfing and came across the 8pm start time. Right there and then I knew I had to watch and very early on, I saw a guy that looked like me! Gary Faulkner Jr., a left hander with skill and precision was tearing up the lanes. Faulkner, making his first televised appearance on tour, looked to be locked in, but every time he stepped up I was nervous.
He clearly wasn’t though because in his three matches on television, he only threw two bad shots. Just twice his placement failed him, but he made no major errors. In the final match he waltzed past the #1 seed, E.J. Tackett, who for the first few frames did not have a good grasp on the oil pattern and left several open frames while Faulkner Jr. just kept striking.
At the end of it all, Gary Faulkner Jr., became the second African-American winner of a PBA Title. A sense of pride once again washed over me, and I took to Twitter to celebrate and interact with a few like-minded people who were excited over what we just saw. Congratulations to Gary Faulkner Jr, and I have a feeling that you are going to win many more titles before your career is done.
I’m done. Thanks for reading. Next week is Christmas Day, but I will have a short blog up for your reading pleasure.
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