Thursday, January 29, 2009

5 Days Until High Roller

I can't believe it's almost time to take my shot at the High Roller. I am getting seriously pumped up about it. This is even worse than right before we bowl at Nationals each year. I want to leave now just so I'm there. I have totally caught the bowling bug, 'cause now I even have bowling dreams. You should see how awesome I am in that footage. Smooth as glass. I think a woman even threw her bra at me after one shot, then the dream took a different turn....anyways. If my wife is reading this, "Just kidding, dear." Not really. It was awesome.

I met Keith at AMF Lewisville yesterday afternoon for practice. Not to practice meeting him, but for bowling practice. I've already met him several times, so I'm really good at that. If that was the tournament format, I would beat the crap out of everybody. OK, let me steer back on course. Sorry for the mental detour. There's no highway in my head, just a bunch of stoplights with turns in several directions.
So we practiced for about an hour. School had been cancelled for the day so there had been kids bowling open play all afternoon. That equals hook spots in the heads and not much oil overall. So instead of lining up for strikes, I focused more on playing a few different lines and hitting my target. I didn't strike much but it didn't matter because it also gave me several different spare attempts. I lined up in a specific area and threw my 4 different balls at the same line to see how each of them reacted. When bowling in a short-format tournament you have to be able to make moves/ball changes immediately, so knowing how all of your equipment reacts is extremely vital. There is no time to make small moves and take guesses.
I missed a few spares again. I need to fine-tune my shoulders being square at my target. I seem to get a little lazy from time-to-time. I know it's all a matter of focus, and I will not have any problems with that during tournament time, so it's more of a mental check I need to include before shooting any spares.
Keith threw the ball well. He has been doing that for a while now. If he can keep a high level of mental confidence in his spare game, I have a feeling that he will do well next week. His biggest weakness is getting frustrated too easily while trying to achieve perfection. He's not a big fan of watching some no-talent hack shoot decent scores while he is struggling. While it can be amusing during league sometimes watching him turn darker shades of purple while he watches someone throw it all over and still manage to string strikes, there is no place for that during tournament time. He knows that, and I know he knows that, so we should be good. Maybe it's good thing that I can barely pay attention to my own game. I rarely watch anyone else bowl. Mainly I am staring off into space thinking about what I just did and what I'm about to do. It's amazing how much concentration I have betweeen shots, and I have such problems staying focused while I'm on the approach. I guess it could be worse...I could be righthanded.

One last thing, I found out yesterday that there will be no showdown between Keith and me in the Finals. The format does not work that way. There are three divisions for qualifying; age 49 & under, age 50 & over, and 215 & under average. Keith and I are both qualifying in the 215 & under average division. That means that we can both advance to the Grand Finals on Saturday, but the format changes to single-elimination match play in each division. There will be a total of 96 people who make the Grand Finals, which I assume to mean 32 from each division. If that is correct, then it will take 5 consecutive wins to reach the final round, which isn't that bad. Then the winner of each of these three divisions will bowl one final game, and 1st-3rd will be determined by that game. So that means the best Keith and I can do is bowl each other to see which one advances to the final game. Still not a bad situation to be in, but the other way would be a better story.
Another practice round on Friday. I will try to post again Friday night to keep my ever-growing fan club riveted to the computer screen. Being delusional isn't so bad, is it?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Waiting for the ice storm, and the phone ain't ringing

I know I just posted, but I just finished turning in a bid, and the phone hasn't rung with the usual "problems of the day", so I'm back to empty more crap out of my head. This is way better than playing Spider Solitaire.

Did I mention that I hated watching my team struggle last night? Man, there's nothing better than watching your opponent have to over-think and second-guess themselves while they chase a crappy shot around, but it sucks big-time to watch your own team have to deal with it. Sorry, guys, I wish I could be more helpful.

Now for brighter thoughts...this time next week Keith and I will be in the middle of our practice session at the High Roller on Vegas. I am getting seriously pumed up about this tournament!!! I have wanted to bowl in the High Roller since college, but never had the money/time/talent to consider going. This year I was able to make good side money bowling, which I tucked away into my "bowling fund", and my boss is being very generous with my vacation time. And the High Roller has a new format which has a special qualifying bracket for 215 & under averages. My average last year was 215, so I just squeaked into this bracket. I feel like the past few years I have been steadily improving, and my mental game/confidence level is at an all-time high, so I am committing the money and giving it my best shot. I am riding this wave as far as it will take me. The planets and stars and all that other astrologial crap have been lining up for me, and I do not want to look back and regret not taking advantage of it.

Part of me thinks that I should be getting nervous, but I don't feel it at all. I know there are going to be a lot of guys there that are "professional" amateurs who bowl in these high-stakes tournaments all the time. There is definitely a clear separation between my talent level and their talent level. But for whatever reason I have it in my head that I have a good shot at doing well. As I get older, I am learning how mental preparation helps overcome a lack of ability.

OK, timeout. I just went to the breakroom to get a drink and sat back down and read through what I have written so far. BORING!!!! The bottom line is this, nowadays when I shoe up against someone else, I don't feel any intimidation at all. Not that I have bowled straight up against top-tier talent, and I am definitely not top-tier, but I was thinking back to the scratch tournament I ran last month. There were some bowlers who entered that can score really high. The first game out, some guy that no one knew shot 289. I shot 226. And it didn't bother me at all. I knew I was going to catch him. And I did. And I ended up beating him. I don't want it to come across as being an ass or being cocky. I'm not trying to brag about anything, although it seems the more I try to explain it, the more it sounds like bragging. I just have an inner sense of confidence that is really cool. It's new to me, and it has made a huge difference in my approach. Even if I miss a spare, or throw a few bad shots, or have a bad game, it just gets erased and put to the side. The next shot/game/round will be better, and it's difficult to explain how it feels with sounding like a jackass. Maybe when Keith and I come back from Vegas with 1st and 2nd place checks we can both act like assheads. Nothing would be cooler than Keith and me bowling each other in the finals for $50,000. I could walk away from that match feeling good no matter who won.

League night results

Last night was not too much fun overall. It started when I got to the bowling center early to bowl a game or two before league to loosen up. I passed Dennis, the GM, as I was walking to the pro shop. He stopped me and said that he just wanted to let me know that there was a problem with the lane machine and they might be kind of f-ed up on the left side tonight. That's not a good thing to hear before even starting. So I decided to try playing a straighter line more outside than I normally play so I could hopefully stay out of a wet-dry situation and keep myself in-play. I've never been very good at killing the ball to play a straighter line, but based on my newly-acquired lane info, I figured it couldn' hurt. I had a really good ball reaction trying to play around 9-10 at the arrows and fade it out to 4-5.
This info is typically useless for league because they run the lanes right before league, which changes the shot that I warm up on. But when league started I figured I would give that line a try for a while to see what I could do with it. Jackpot!!!! I had a great ball reaction. Game 1: 256 with no opens. Game 2 was OK: 224, missed a 10-pin. I rushed to the line and didn't square my shoulders with the shot, WHIFF! Big dummy. Then a guy who used to be an assistant mgr at the bowling center showed up, so I talked to him for awhile which took my mind off bowling in between my shots. I had the front 6 in the third game, then fagged one by the pocket to leave a 3-pin. After that I left a 6-pin, missed it (those squared-up shoulders really are important!), blew out an 8-pin, and limped in the 10th by speeding by the pocket again to leave the 3-5-6, spare-strike for a 234 finish, and a 714 series. While I should be happy with those results, I feel like I couldn't keep my focus, and I could have scored a lot higher.

I was scoring well, but I couldn't get into it because my 4 teammates were gator-wrestling the lanes trying to find some semblance of a decent shot. All I kept seeing was hook, adjust, hook, adjust, push it through the hook, adjust. So I'm striking at will as long as I keep my frickin' head out of my ass, and they can't find anything consistent enough to get something going. I'm never sure whether I should continue to make suggestions as I see them make shots, or if I should just shut up and mind my own business. I keep imagining them thinking, "I'm busting my balls to find any kind of consistent shot, and getting nothing, and he is over there by himself not having to move, adjust, or anything!" There are lots more swear words as adjectives, but I will let the imagination fill in the blanks. Last night didn't seem to be the right time to ask anyone what they thought, so I went with the "shut up" theory. Bron finished strong with a 270 game, but everyone else had over-under, or so it seemed. I quit paying attention halfway through the third game. I didn't figure anyone wanted my advice.

We finished 11-21, which sucked big time. We were only a few points out of first place, and that bad showing dropped us to 4th or 5th place. Given the crappy conditions, we opted not to pre-bowl for next week. We will post-bowl in two weeks. Hopefully the lanes are better by then.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Post #2: Sunday's practice and more fun stuff

Well, I went to a practice sesion at AMF Lewisville this morning. First I went into my old bag to change the finger grips in my Special Agent, which rides around in the truck on the off chance that we time warp into 1995 and I come across a pair of lanes that are flying-ass dry. So I unzip the bag, grab the ball, and I'll be damned if the f-ing shell wasn't cracked! That's the third ball in the past year that has done that. Not that I ever use that ball but dammit! I'm sure that I will show up for league tomorrow and hear how the lane machine was set up wrong and all it could do was double-strip the lanes. I guess my Vis-A-Ball with the cowprint, affectionately known as CowBall by everyone, will be my new "scorched earth" ball.

So I start practicing different lines, shots, hand positions, blah, blah, blah. I feel like I spotted the ball really well. My spare game was right on, too. I missed one spare in two hours, and it was a ......7-pin. I was on lane 32 against the wall, and apparently someone last night decided to bowl with a damn drink in their hand because it was dried up all over the corner of the approach by the wall. So when that shot went into the gutter at about 9 feet, I bent down, picked up 3 or 4 pieces of kneecap that splintered off from sticking so bad, and never missed another damn spare the rest of the morning. I even spared the feared 2-7 baby split 3 of 3 times. I'm so cool. Nothing scares me. Except for Jehovah's Witnesses. Any group of young guys who all dress in slacks, white shirts, and ties and ride bikes around town kind of creeps me out. They claim to be speading the word, but I'm not sure I'm buying that story. I think I just had my first mental detour on my blog! These will probably be a common part of this blog. I tend to lose focus after a few...hey look, a butterfly!

Back to my train of thought; I recently changed my line for left-side spares after bowling in travel league a few weeks back and discovering through the magic of SpeedTracker that my spare ball velocity has increased from 20 mph to 22 mph, which was making most of my 7-pin shots slide into the gutter. Now that's all fixed up and I'm happy again.

League is tomorrow night. After we finish we are prebowling for the following Monday because three of us will be out. Keith and I will be in Vegas (Baby!), and Bron will be at his 22nd Annual JELQing Convention. I hear they give out free hand lotion, so that's good. I will update Tuesday on the results, and any goings-on that may occur during our marathon 6-gamer of fun!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

You have waited so long...

After dozens and dozens of emails (actually just one) of recommendations to start up a blog, I have decided to end my friends' misery of getting random emails from me about the world of bowling and plunge headfirst into a new level of bowling nerdness. From now on, the one or two people who are actually interested in my stats, thoughts, and random worthless analysis can now check in here to see what ramblings have left my head and come into the world via this tiny slice of heaven. In my blurred and somewhat skewed train of thought, I think that the emails I have been sending to my friends to report bowling results, break down these results, and comment on said results has actually helped me process all the information I take in. I'm not sure why I can't keep it to myself, but when I type it out and re-read it for grammatical and/or spelling errors (pet peeve) I seem to soak it in better. I feel like it has helped me improve my game a lot in the past few years, so whether it actually works or not, I will stroll down this path and see where it leads.

Our Monday Nite Men's bowling team is currently in third place, only a few points behind first, so I am sure this will be a frequent topic.
I am also currently preparing for my first entry into the High Roller in Vegas, so there's another topic. If I can talk my wife into letting me take her laptop with me, I will post a "diary" of sorts about the daily adventures of Keith and me while we are there. I just realized that there will be lots of name references that some people may not be familiar with. I may or may not explain who these people are, so bear with me.
Our Monday Nite team will also be heading to Vegas in March for our 4th USBC Nationals Bowling Tournament. We are 3 for 3 cashing in the team event, so the pressure is extremely high to continue our trend. That $50-$60 each has been crucial in maintaining our status in competitive bowling.

That's all for now. I will be out for a practice session this morning (Sunday), so I will be back on here soon to report my investigative findings.