I used to watch pro bowling on TV all the time when it was on ABC back in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s, and I was familiar with all the big-name pin-bashers of that era. But I’ve fallen out of touch with the pro game in recent years and can no longer identify most of the big names.
So imagine my surprise on Sunday afternoon when I attended a friend’s birthday party at a bar whose TV was showing ESPN’s broadcast of the PBA Tournament of Champions, which was won by a guy named Jason Belmonte. Belmonte, it turns out, is a major player on the pro tour these days — 13 PBA titles, including five majors, after Sunday’s win — but I’d never seen or heard of him before. Once I got a look at him, though, I went bonkers, grabbing everyone I knew at the bar (and several people I didn’t know) and saying, “Look, look at this guy!”
The key to Belmonte’s style is that his ball doesn’t have a thumb hole, so he only has his middle and ring fingers in the ball. I’ve see other bowlers do this — it’s a way to get more revolutions and therefore more hook on the ball — but Belmonte adds an extra wrinkle: He holds the ball with both hands and kinda slings or shovels it down the lane, sort of the bowling version of Rick Barry’s two-handed free throw. Dig:
It looks awkward and seems like it would be hard to control, but Belmonte has mastered it — he’s no novelty act. And unlike other two-finger bowlers I’ve seen, all of whom have switched to a conventional three-finger grip when attempting to pick up a spare, Belmonte sticks with the two-finger grip for his second ball.
I don’t usually like the idea of athletes having personal logos. But Belmonte’s style is so distinctive that his logo — an unmistakable silhouette of his two-handed style, which he wears on his shirt — seems warranted:
He also has the logo on his ball, but I wasn’t able to find a good photo of that.
Interestingly, Belmonte is Australian — a rarity on the PBA tour, where almost all the players are American. The only other elite non-American player I can recall is Amleto Monacelli, a Venezuelan who was arguably the best player in the world for part of the 1990s, although I imagine there have been others. Anyway: Belmonte definitely puts a new visual spin on his sport.
You can’t spell “The Greatest” without “U” and “A,” or something: Very surprised to hear the news yesterday that Under Armour has struck a deal with Authentic Brands Group — the operation that owns and administers all the licensing rights to Muhammad Ali’s name and image — to come out with an Ali “lifestyle apparel” product line (beginning with this T-shirt, which launched yesterday).
Obviously, Ali is one of the most compelling athletes of the 20th century. But he’s also 73-year-old testament to how contact sports can inflict traumatic brain injury — a hot topic these days. Moreover, boxing seems like too much of a legacy sport for Under Armour, which feels more like an MMA company. Then again, UA has a Bruce Lee product line, so maybe they’re not as strictly youth-oriented as I perceive them to be.
If you want to feel just a little bit ill, check Nick Woodhouse, president and chief marketing officer of Authentic Brand Group, describes the deal: “Under Armour is irreverent, disruptive, they pivot quickly and they’re explosive. Those words also speak to Ali and how he changed the game.”
Think he worked enough buzz-clichÃ©s into that sentence? , thank the lordy Ali’s heyday was before the era of douchebag lifestyle marketing.
Mike’s Question of the Week
By Mike Chamernik
Today is the NBA trade deadline! Like most NBA fans, I’ll be refreshing Reddit and Twitter and keeping my eye on the ESPN crawl all afternoon, waiting to see if any blockbusters are made. I’m so excited — it’s one of my favorite days of the basketball season, and it isn’t even about an actual game being played.
What’s your favorite non-game-related event of the sports year? I’m talking about the NFL and NBA drafts, Selection Sunday, the Heisman Trophy presentation, the baseball trade deadline, Hall of Fame inductions or announcements, the ESPYs, MVP announcements — that type of thing. What do you like about it? What do you do for it? Do you get together with others? Ever attended anything in person? Chat online with other fans? Is there any aesthetic, uniform-related aspect you enjoy about the day, if applicable?
I’m a big geek for the NBA Draft Lottery. I like the team reveals on the poster board cards, I like the drama around landing the top pick. I enjoy the pomp and circumstance, like the intros to all the team representatives sitting onstage. It’s an excellent silver lining to your team missing the playoffs.
As always, post your answers in today’s comments. Thanks.
T-Shirt Club reminder: The Uni Watch T-Shirt Club’s March design, inspired by St. Patrick’s Day, remains available from now through next Monday. Full details here, or just go straight to the ordering page.
Raffle reminder: I’m currently raffling off the chance to design your own custom baseball bat. Full details here.
Uni Watch News Ticker
By Mike Chamernik
Baseball News: The Pirates are using matte black helmets for spring training. … The Brooklyn Dodgers (who were the Robins at the time) were considering the nickname “Canaries” in 1931. … The Nationals have a few bobblehead days planned for their 10th-anniversary season, with each promotion honoring a great moment in Nats history (from Tommy Turner). … New logo for the West Virginia Black Bears, the Pirates’ short-season single-A affiliate (from Phil). … The Astros produced an awesome program in the mid-1960s. What a different era (from Cort McMurray). … Here’s a breakdown of Kansas’s uniforms from over the years (from Phil). … New uniforms for the Mount Pisgah Christian School, a high school in Atlanta (from John O’Connor). … Nicholls State wore what looks to be two different shades of grey last night (from Phil). … The NCAA has prohibited chrome softball helmets (from Phil). … At the Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, Nick Douglas caught a Tom Glavine bear that was tossed from a float. “Probably the strangest thing I’ve caught at a Mardi Gras parade,” he says. “Even stranger was that it was dirty coming off the float, as if it had been on the ground and then thrown.” … Aaron Husul sends in some screenshots from 1891’s Baseball by Newton Crane, an ebook on Google Play. … MLB historian John Thorn posted a photo of the 1888 Indianapolis Hoosiers posing at the West End Grounds in Boston (from Jonathan Daniel). … Sandy Koufax talked about the Pirates and Mets’ uniforms during this 1972 NBC baseball telecast (thanks, John Philips). … Matt Ryburn was going through his 1991 Topps collection and found a few cards that we might find interesting: The White Sox in throwbacks, Curt Schilling during his Orioles stint, and ballplayers in glasses. ”¦ Fashion Week oddity: a dress made of baseballs (from Phil).
Football News: The Titans had a backwards helmet logo in the loading screen for NFL Blitz 2000. Timely realization, I know. … Beware for the easily squeamish, but Jublia, who makes a toenail fungus medication, has a football-themed ad (from Douglas Ford). … Fun While it Lasted has some new reviews of their last couple WFL Football Card Sets (from Bill Jones). … Carl Schultz came across two wonderful vintage pennants the other day. … A Canadian university is limiting the number of uniforms its team can wear (from Phil).
Hockey News: In 1979, Guy Lafleur put out a disco album. (That, by the way, is the most 1979 sentence ever written.) Here it is, along with some good album photos of him in uniform (from Mike Styczen). … College of Faith, a ministry using college sports as an evangelizing tool, uses one of the Sabres’ old alternate logos. “I guess they missed the part of the Bible that states, ‘Thou shalt not steal,'” says Andrew Jobe. … Senators goalie Andrew Hammond has a combo of the Hamburglar and Alfred E. Neuman on his mask (good spot by Matt Larsen).
Soccer News: UEFA didn’t allow Real Madrid to wear its black dragon shirts yesterday, so they wore pink alternates instead (from Phil). … The Colorado Rapids are looking for a new jersey sponsor (from Phil).
NBA News: Former Trail Blazers F Jerome Kersey, who passed away on Wednesday, was one of the relatively few NBA players to wear a captain’s “C” (from Mike Engle).
College and High School Hoops News: Arizona State retired James Harden’s number. … Georgia Regents University will wear camo on Saturday. … Couple of women’s hoops notes from Jesse Gavin: Division III schools Wartburg and Dubuque went color vs. color over the weekend, and one of the Wartburg players wore a mask. Also, the River Ridge-Scales Mound high school team has both the program’s initials and nickname on the front of its jerseys. … Fordham wore pink unis and Dayton wore camo shooting shirts in the schools’ womens basketball matchup last night (from Pat Costello). … An ESPN graphic referred to Syracuse as the Orangemen last night. The school changed the name to just the Orange in 2004 (from Tony DiRubbo).
Grab Bag: Formula One is barring drivers from changing helmet designs during the year. The rule isn’t for safety (like with the NFL’s “one helmet” rule); it’s for easier racer identification. “I am totally in favor of this, as the helmet does aid those of us watching on TV, and presumably at the track, in identifying the drivers, particularly teammates driving otherwise identically-painted machinery,” says Andrew Jobe. “It’s hard to keep track when certain drivers change up their designs every other race.” … Stanislaw Olechowski sends in an excellent curling photo, from the Curling Club on Lake Loch Leven, Kinross, Scotland, in 1959. … New logo for the city of Minneapolis (from Craig Van Someren). … Vintage memorabilia from Disney theme parks are up for auction (from Tommy Turner). … New logo for the National Watermelon Association. ”¦ Scotland’s cricket uniform has tartan-patterned sleeves (from Vasav Swaminathan).
What Paul did last night: There have been a few periods in my life when I spent a lot of time poking around in abandoned buildings (including, as longtime readers may recall, a 2010 trip to check out the ruin-porn of Detroit). But for whatever reason, I’ve never done any of this type of exploration in my own city — only on the road.
But that doesn’t mean there are no abandoned buildings worth exploring here in New York. For the past three years a photographer named Will Ellis has been documenting his visits to such buildings on his website, Abandoned NYC, and now he has a new book of the same title. Last night he was giving a presentation less than a mile from my house, so I went to check him out.
The presentation was great — awesome photos, interesting stories. But the real treat was Ellis himself. I’ve known a few of these serious urban explorers over the years, and they tend to be badass anarcho-artist types. Ellis, though, comes off as sincere, unaffected, and humble — a sweet, normal guy. You could totally bring him home to meet your parents and they’d love him (although they’d probably wonder why he spends so much time inside abandoned buildings).