For league bowlers, it’s roll-off time — but beware of distractions

With bowling leagues coming down the homestretch, it’s time to focus on the roll offs. Every league will proclaim a champion after the top teams meet to duke it out. It’s the best time of year to be a bowler, assuming, that is, that your team is in the roll off.

Bragging rights and some cold hard cash is in the offing if your team can pull off the win. The roll off will be fraught with tension and part of the problem is the time of the year. Most bowlers are sports fans and a whole lot of stuff is going on in many different sports as March turns into April.

Many bowlers are also golfers and as the weather warms they are anxious to hit the links. Mother Nature is making it nearly impossible to golf yet in this area, but here is a look at the distractions that can befall bowlers as they try to focus on the task at hand.

Whether you are watching an athletic contest on the TV screens during the roll off or just talking at the table, focusing on bowling is difficult. For example, nearly every sports fan fills out a bracket for March Madness. If Loyola-Chicago didn’t bust your bracket or the Buffalo Bulls topping Arizona, then surely UMBC destroying the No. one overall seed did.

The Ramblers had the star of the tournament and it wasn’t a player. Sister Jean, the 98-year-old nun that serves as team chaplain, stole the show with her wit and candor. Even with a busted bracket, you still may have fared well if you chose Villanova to win it all. The Wildcats won each of their six tournament games by double digits.

If there was an individual that stood out in this year’s tourneys, it had to be Arike Ogunbowale from Notre Dame. Every kid that has picked up a basketball has practiced game winners in their driveway. Getting a chance to make one in real life is rare and hitting the shot is rarer yet.

So all Ogunbowale did was hit a 3-pointer with a second left to knock off undefeated UConn in overtime in the semifinals. Then she turned around and hit another 3-pointer to win the championship game with one-tenth of a second left. Are you kidding me? Trying to cover that 10 pin while reliving those two moments is tough!

The Major League Baseball season has begun, and that takes our mind off the pins. This early in the season everyone’s team has a shot at winning the World Series. Discussing the relative strengths and weaknesses of your favorite team as well as their opponents takes up a lot of time. Worrying about getting the ball to the head pin (darn the oily lanes) doesn’t seem to be that important.

The golf season is in full swing, with the first major of the year — the Masters — taking place in Augusta as you read this. If you saw the Par 3 Contest, you had plenty to talk about. Sixty-eight-year-old Tom Watson won the event with a 6 under par. He was playing with Jack Nicklaus (78) who shot 4 under and Gary Player (82) who shot 2 under. As well as they played, they were upstaged by G.T. Nicklaus, Jack’s grandson who aced the final hole, where caddies are often given the opportunity to try a shot.

Jack called it his biggest thrill at Augusta and he has had a few of those! Do you suppose Tony Finau was part of the conversation? All he did was dislocate his ankle during the Par 3 Contest pop it back in place and then shoot 2 under par in the first two rounds of the tournament. Just a normal day on the links…

Sergio Garcia, the defending champion, made all of us amateur duffers feel better about our game as he dunked five shots in the water on the par 5 15th hole, recording a 13 – tied for the highest score on any hole in the history of the tournament. I can see guys saying how even they could do better.

Well, maybe…

Finally the NFL Draft is coming soon. The woeful Cleveland Browns made some significant roster changes in the offseason. Now, they have the first and fourth picks. There will be a lot of talk as to who they should, or will, draft as bowlers don’t let the roll off get in the way of their discussions.

All of this talk would never have bothered my concentration if I was bowling in a roll off. As I used to say — you can’t ruin a man’s focus if he doesn’t have any to begin with!

Whichever team handles the distractions the best will ultimately win its league roll off. It won’t hurt if they know how to bowl either! I will let you know who wins league titles as the bowling season winds down.

Imperial-Majorette-Sportsman: Shawn Fitch Jr. 758, Kevin Yarger 729, Rich Yates Jr. 727, Brian Harrold 659, Jim Lord 618, Rich Yates Sr. 616, Jason Ball 616, John Streacker 612, Tom Wilkinson 606, Deb Nominee 534, Tina Whitaker 471, Phyllis Riley 421 and Mary Ruggiero 420.

55 Plus: Jim Ruess 580, Paul Gosche 523, John Ferstler 499, Bill Mizen 486, Dick Gabel 483, Jim Donaldson 470, Jerry Gillig 456, Bob Reinhart 450, Hank Collett 439, Jerry Coleman 434, Jim Ferstler 421, Al Thomas 404 and Paul Fey 336.

Rocket: Jason Ball 629 (298), Rodney Ohms 605, Tyson Shope 558, Mike Distel 555 and Tom Tiell 548.

Al Stephenson is the bowling columnist for The Advertiser-Tribune.

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