A big, long dream for Central New York bowlers


Officials announced this week that the bowlers of the United States will visit Syracuse in 2018.

They will build that magnificent stretch of lanes in Oncenter, and for seven months, they will come.

A lot of numbers were presented in The Post-Standard/syracuse.com piece by Rick Moriarty, beginning with Onondaga County’s purchase price of $1.8 million for the United States Bowling Congress’ premier event, hitting upon the estimate that 60,000 bowlers will bring another 20,000 family members and friends and landing on a convention and visitors bureau official’s hope that all of that will yield some $70 million pumped into the Central New York economy.

But I come here this morning not to ponder any sort of trickle-down economics. Suffice it to say that a lot of people will spend some money here. Will the above one-plus-one truly equal two? Only the cash registers will know for sure.

I am here to say that I’m happy the U.S. Bowling Congress Open Championships will be here. In 2011, the city hosted the women’s version of the huge event. I went to the OnCenter a couple times. I enjoyed watching my friend, Margie Chetney, bowl so very well to qualify for the 64-woman, double-elimination, bracket-style USBC Queens portion of the tournament. I loved watching Kelly Kulick, the woman who in 2010 had won the Queens, the U.S. Women’s Open, and the men’s PBA Tournament of Champions. By the time Missy Parkin, of California, took the 2011 USBC Queens title, Syracuse had hosted one heck of a fun event.

They all bowled so much better than me.

Yet I am one of those with bowling in my blood.

My first experience with the game came as far back as my memory bank goes. My grandfather managed what the Bialczak men called “The Club,” a dank space in the basement of a Greenpoint, Brooklyn, church. On one side sat two bowling lanes. They were built in pre-automated days. I recall watching the “club members” knock down pins while adroit teens crouched in very small shelters above the pins. The kids were called pin-setters. Their job: avoid getting knocked in the noggin, jump down, clear pins after the first shot and place all 10 back up after a strike or second shot, and put the bowling ball on the top of a ramp to roll back to the bowlers.

The two generations of Bialczaks prior told me I was too young to set pins. However, when nobody else was using the pair of lanes, they let me set the pins up myself, run back to the business end of the alley to push a ball toward the pins, and repeat that process over and over and over again, a 4-year-old kid struggling with the lightest ball in the joint. A 10-pounder with too-big finger holes, I believe.

I was hooked.

When we moved from Brooklyn to Long Island, I was, shall we say, saved from pin-setting duties.

I’d go and watch my dad bowl in leagues where the lanes had these machines that swept, set, and ball-returned on their own.

We’d sit together and watch the Saturday PBA step-ladder finals, listening to ABC’s anchor Chris Schenkel call the shots of the likes of Carmen Salvino, Dick Weber, Earl Anthony.

My parents let me join a youth league. Then on Saturday mornings, I was the one attempting to maneuver my hook successfully into the pocket.

I’m still hooked.

And I’m still struggling to get that hook into that pocket. Too many Brooklyn hits on the wrong side of the head pin. Maybe because that’s the borough in which I was born and then found my love for this game.

In any case, I look forward to my weekly three games in the Thursday Night Men’s League at Bowling Green in North Syracuse. My average sits very near the bottom of the 62 bowlers in the league. No mattter. Do I dream of higher averages? Certainly. Earlier this season I threw my best set ever, a 652 that given my prodigious pins-given, still puts me No. 1 on the league’s high-series-with-handicap list.

The thing is, I get to compete and have fun. My teammates have the same mind set. Last month, for the second year in a row, Steve Vicik, Randy Dearstine and I bowled in The Post-Standard Masters. And for the second year in a row, we hoped for the best … and still had fun with our not-so-much scores.

So last night, as we talked about Syracuse getting this big, grand, open-to-all U.S. bowling get-together, Steve turned to Randy and I and planted the seed. “Want to sign up?” he asked.

That sort of scene likely will play out in one way or another in many lanes around Central New York for many, many months to come. Yes, the big bowling event will be good for Syracuse.


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