Bill Fong — from striving for perfection to struggling just to live

I ran across this story recently. Though it dates back some three years, I was captivated by it and thought I would pass it along.

Bill Fong was born in Chicago and to suggest he was driven by the sport of bowling would be an understatement. He joined his high school bowling team and went to the local library checking out stacks of books on bowling theory.

After college he became a hustler, staying at the lanes all night trying to beat some other kegler out of a few bucks night after night. He wanted to become a professional and when he decided it wasn’t going to happen to him, he moved to Dallas and took up golf. For 10 years he put all his efforts into his new sport of choice until the frustration of that game made him quit as well.

So naturally he matriculated back to his first love. Bowling five nights a week, Fong came to the Super Bowl in Plano, Texas on Jan. 18, 2010 for what his friends and competitors refer to as “that night.”

Super Bowl is a 48 lane house and Fong says each lane is a little different. He should know as he has documented the differences. Remember he checked out bowling theory books as a kid.

Warming up on lanes 27-28, Fong did not throw many strikes, so a run at perfection was something that did not cross his mind as the first game began. He watched his four teammates throw in the first frame and decided he should play a little deeper line. His decision was rewarded with a solid strike.

As the game went along, he continued to throw strikes, though some were less than perfect, which caused Fong to return to his seat and jot down notes on a folded piece of paper. He enters the 10th perfect and his first two balls are strikes. On the last ball, the nine pin stands until a messenger takes it down. A perfect 300 game. His accomplishment is announced over the loud speaker.

Some other bowlers come up to congratulate him, others didn’t bother. He has had perfect games before so this was not a big deal. As the second game begins, Fong decides to do something most bowlers would not consider after throwing a perfect game. He switches balls on the right lane, using a less aggressive rock. His decision once again is rewarded as he fires yet another strike.

In this game, using two different balls, he pursues the “perfect series.” Twenty-one 900 series have been recorded. This would be the ultimate for Bill Fong. Validation for all the effort he had put into the sport over the years. Heading into the 10th frame of game two, Fong is once again working on nine straight strikes. How cool would back to back perfectos be?

He throws three more and this time nearly everyone in the house comes up for congratulations. At the start of game three, Fong goes over to a competitor on an adjoining alley and suggests he is considering yet another ball change. Are you kidding me? His friend suggests he trust his instincts and he uses the less aggressive ball on both lanes in game three. The strikes again start coming.

By the sixth frame a large crowd had formed. The bowling alley gets quiet when he gets on the approach. Text messages are being sent and as the game goes on some 100 people have shown up to watch history in the making.

As Fong gets up for the 10th frame, he turns and looks at the crowd and, for the first time that night, becomes nervous. He tries to fight the feeling and releases the ball. It hits, the pins go down and the house goes crazy. Now, before throwing the second ball in the 10th frame, Fong is beginning to sweat profusely.

He somehow manages to throw yet another strike. One more and his life will be complete, or so Bill Fong thought. On the last shot, the ball arcs into the pocket and the unthinkable happens. The 10 pin wiggles but will not fall. The 900 series is gone, one single pin shy of the penultimate accomplishment.

Fong is disappointed. He feels like he failed. His friends take him back to the bar to buy him a drink. After all he has just set a Texas state record. Not much of a drinker, Fong consumes two before heading home. At home he gets sick and then suffers a stroke. A few days later he has another one.

The doctors believe that the sweating Fong suffered at the lanes was the beginning of the first stroke. They also believe that the strain of the try for perfection had a lot to do with it. There was also some discussion of what would have happened had he thrown that last strike. The possibility of a fatal stroke must be considered.

Today, when Bill Fong and his bowling companions discuss “that night,” they talk about the very real possibility that he could have died. Fong is asked if the chain of events no perfection, but survival versus the opposite outcome, would be his choice if he could repeat the evening.

He thinks pensively before saying he would choose living. Being that close to a score that no one could beat though

Tyson Shope fired a 783 to top the Wednesday Morning League. Tim Sturgill shot 657, Mark Huffman 650, Dave Jumper 634, Ken Lofton 633, Steve Norman 620, Harry Smith 617 and Ron Scheid 512 who rolled his first lifetime 500. Ben Hoyda shot 755, Steve Steinmetz Jr. 623, Brian Jakupca 576, Deb Nominee 570, Rhonda Fitch 485 and Kristin Fitch 448 in the Imperial-Majorette League. Tim Sturgill had 732 to lead the Rocket League. John Funk shot 660, Steve Barnes 616, Tyson Shope 605, Dave Jones 558 and Beth Jones 526.

Action from the K of C Lanes found Jim Ruess shooting 636, Paul Gosche 593, Bob Reinhart 592, Dick Gabel 539, Rick Hanna 521, Jim Ferstler 503, Bob West 499, Steve Schafer 489, Bill Mizen 476, Dan Coppes 470, John Ferstler 463, Dave Everhart 442, Paul Fey 440 and Jim Donaldson 419 in the 55 Plus League. In the Tuesday Night League Chris Johnson shot 688, Jim Rainey 583, Rick Smith 580, Andy Hess 569, Brett Elchert 568, Aaron Sherman 566, James Lord 565 and Bill Lord 558.

Rich Yates Jr. shot 710, Jim Mason 674, Greg Tiell 646, Scott Hartsel 631, Dick Gabel 623, Mike Kimmet 618, Chris Johnson 613, Lance Davis 606, Phil Neikirk 604, Paul Gosche 603 and Mike Kisabeth 603 in the Sportsman League. Twilight League scores included Hank Wagner 676, Marcus Hall 673, Tom Tiell 598, Rhonda Fitch 530, Michelle Wagner 518 and Robin Brownell 452. Tim Sturgill shot 684, Tim Bollenbacher 607, Brian Kidwell 597, Carol Timmons 485 and Dottie Funk 464 in the Sunday Night Rock N Roll League.

Al Stephenson is The A-T’s bowling columnist.

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