California Bowling Writers

September 1, 2008

Imagine How Boring Olympics Would Be Without World Record Feats
by Dick Evans

In Real World, Michael Phelps Is Biggest Name in Sports After Setting Five World Records in Five Olympic Swimming Events; In Fantasy World, Michael Phelps Turns Back on Bowling Because He Can't Set Records; Mike Hennessy's Wit and Leadership Will be Dearly Missed by Bowling Industry; 35,888 Bowlers Share in $5.5 Million USBC Open Championships Prize Fund

World records are falling all over China and Michael Phelps is growing into the world’s greatest sports attraction. The Olympic Games capture everyone’s imagination every four years but Michael Phelps is capturing everyone’s imagination for a lifetime. His victories in world record times are being featured by newspapers and television networks as world news events – not just sports news, but world news. He deserves all the credit in the world after swimming in five events and setting five world records in each of his events to date. If you watch individual events like track or swimming or cycling or speed ice then you know that each athlete wants to win the event (his/her first priority) and also break an Olympic or world record. Why not. Records are made to be broken and fans know it and scream louder than ever when another Olympic record is about to fall. So do TV announcers.

So in my imagination, I asked Michael Phelps if he would like to be the greatest bowler in the world? The 23-year-old thought for only a moment and then said “no.” I asked him why after pointing out that bowling also is a challenging sport that demands great athletic skills, determination and dedication. His answer surprised me:

“If I were a super bowler and say had rolled 50 perfect games then skeptical writers/bowlers would doubt my ability and say I wasn't that good but benefited from soft water conditions, a new swim suit, a super launch pad, my goggles or maybe even my size 14 feet.

“And instead of being impressed with my 14 Gold Medals in Olympic bowling, they would say such a thing should never happen.”

Then I asked him if he knew that individual world records could not be broken in bowling – only tied at 300 or 900.

“You have got to be kidding me,” said the swimming marvel. “The challenge of being able to break Olympic and world records is what motivates me to do only three things in my life – swim, eat and sleep.

“Name me an athlete who doesn't dream of breaking records and I will point out to you a man/woman who doesn't dream of great things.

“I have broken 25 world records in my life and each one is more stimulating than the previous one. Breaking records offer you a chance to be immortal.”

He thought a minute and then asked:

“Suppose when the pioneers who established the original swimming rules say back in 1895, decided that one minute and 45 seconds was the fastest that any human being could swim the 200 meter freestyle. And the 1:45 time never could be broken, only tied? Do you think today's swimmers would be capturing the imagination of the world?

“Records are made to be broken.”

And with that Michael Phelps dove into the Olympic pool again to chase another world record.

Subhead – Hennessy’s Death

It has been a bad year for veteran bowling writers – Joe Lyou and Frank Kietz dying in California last spring and now Mike Hennessy dying on the East Coast.

Lyou and Hennessy started out writing bowling for daily newspapers and then branched out to other fields although remaining faithful to their journalist roots.

Last May in Kansas City, Hennessy was inducted into the United States Bowling Congress’ Hall of Fame and nobody who was in the auditorium will ever forget Mike’s speech. His wit was always a part of his charm.

The Bowling Writers Association of America decided to set up an interview booth at Bowl Expo last June and Hennessy was put in charge of making all the arrangements. He not only organized the project, but he also sat down and wrote many of the mini stories.

Hennessy’s work with proprietors, bowlers and writers never will be forgotten.

But in my mind, his fantastic family is Mike’s legacy.

SUBHEAD – $5.5 Million Pay Day

The United States Bowling Congress just announced that its 2008 USBC Open Championships will pay out $5.5 million in prize money and the checks are in the mail.

An amazing 35,888 individual bowlers from the giant field of 63,075 will share in the prize money.

No wonder the 2009 USBC Open Championships in Las Vegas could set a world record for the number of participants.

One other point in the USBC release caught my eye:

The tournament featured 31 perfect games, which is not startling in my mind. But it is interesting that only eleven 299 games were bowled and just two 298s. I would have expected more 299s and 298s than 300 games.

Scoring conditions must have been pretty tough because only two of the 63,000-plus bowlers managed to roll 800 sets.

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