Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Freakish Robert Smith

"If there was one guy I'd want to watch it's Robert Smith. It's like watching John Daly rip a drive — it's fascinating. Robert Smith is like Marshall Holman on steroids. I love watching him bowl...he does things other people can't do."
--Marshall Holman

"Problem is, the nature of the current game doesn't allow Smith to be Smith for long. After a few games, sometimes even from the start of competition, the lane's oil breaks down under the power of the new equipment churning it up. This forces Smith to move first to the extreme inside part of the lane searching for fresh oil, then ultimately he begins lofting the ball way down the lane to avoid the dry early part of the lane. It is spectacular, but these moves ruin Smith's chance for consistency and sink his ship."
--USA Today

Now that I'm working full time and studying as much as I can, I've had to put my bowling on indefinite hold except for a very occasional practice session with my wife or a friend. However, I still regularly watch bowling on TV, as I have for over forty years, and last week I was thrilled to see one of my favorite bowlers of all time win his first championship in more than two years. That bowler was Robert Smith, and I guess the main reason I like him so much is because he can do freakish things with a bowling ball.

I don't exactly know why, but I'm very drawn to people with astounding physical or mental ability, whether it be in sports, intellectual or artistic endeavors, or music. Take guitar players, for instance. I am fascinated by guitarists with amazing technical skill such that they can play mind-bogglingly complex musical passages with blinding speed. Hopefully, they can also appeal to the mind and heart with their playing, but tremendous technique alone will grab hold of my attention. My two favorite guitarists, in large part because of their freakish technical skills, are John McLaughlin and Allan Holdsworth.

I guess one could say that Robert Smith is the bowling equivalent of an Allan Holdsworth. He's a freak. What makes him freakish is the amount of speed and revolutions--i.e., power--he's able to put on a bowling ball and do it with enough accuracy and control on challenging lane conditions to win PBA national tournaments. While the average professional bowler averages about 300 rpms with the balls they throw, Smith averages over 600, and does it with tremendous speed. In fact, I remember reading that he throws the ball with so much more power than other bowlers, amateur and professional alike, that he's the bowling equivalent of a baseball pitcher throwing a fastball around 140 mph while the other fastest pitchers are in the high 90's. Not only that, but when he has to do it because his ball is hooking too much, he will loft the ball way down the lane and still generate tremendous power with decent accuracy and consistency. For those who don't bowl, this may not mean very much. But if you bowl or know anything about bowling, you can't help but be impressed by this.

Anyway, after spending most of last year recuperating from a debilitating injury to a hip flexor muscle, he won a tournament on TV last week and did in in a way that only he could. Below are parts one and two of his victory match.

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