Ja­son Bel­monte: Ten­pin bowler.

Ja­son Bel­monte, 33, ten­pin bowler 13 PBA ti­tles (seven ma­jors), three-time PBA player of the year, 2012 Aus­tralian Mas­ters win­ner

The Saturday Paper - - Contents -

“You can do that for a liv­ing?” That’s the first ques­tion I get, to which I promptly re­ply: “Ab­so­lutely you can.”

I try to be re­ally open-minded about the cul­ture here in Aus­tralia to­wards ten­pin bowl­ing. It’s much like when you go to other coun­tries, for ex­am­ple the US, and you try to ex­plain to them how pop­u­lar cricket is. To them cricket is the most bizarre game.

I like that the ball al­ways comes back to you. You never have to go chase that thing around any­where. I love the com­pe­ti­tions, it’s what drives me. I mean, I leave my fam­ily for six months of the year to do what I love, and the ex­cite­ment and the fierce com­pet­i­tive na­ture that bowl­ing can bring to me, it re­ally does, I guess, quench a thirst in me.

First and fore­most, we’re hu­mans. We’re not go­ing to like ev­ery­one, and it doesn’t mat­ter what in­dus­try you’re in or what you do for work, there are al­ways go­ing to be peo­ple that you clash with. It’s no dif­fer­ent in bowl­ing.

This is go­ing to sound re­ally nasty, but when I play soc­cer in the back­yard with my son Hugo – he’s four – if I score a goal, I’m still quite vo­cal that I scored against him. It’s within my char­ac­ter to just want to be a lit­tle bit more vo­cal and a lit­tle bit more an­i­mated about it.

I started bowl­ing when I was 18 months old. My par­ents built a bowl­ing cen­tre when I was born. So I was lit­er­ally born into the in­dus­try and at the time, in 1985, the light­est bowl­ing balls we had were 10-pound [4.5-kilo­gram] bowl­ing balls, so as a tod­dler the bowl­ing ball was just far too heavy for me to use a tra­di­tional style. I couldn’t use it with one hand so I would pick it up with two hands, kind of wad­dle to the line, throw it down as best as I could and then re­peat that.

The two-handed style I use is ex­tremely con­tro­ver­sial in the bowl­ing world. When I first came out on tour in 2008, there was a be­lief that the style should be banned. But there’s no rule to stip­u­late what I was do­ing was in fact il­le­gal. So there was a huge push back from the competitors.

When I started to truly dom­i­nate the pro tour from 2012 on­wards, I think that’s when the con­tro­versy prob­a­bly hit its peak. I was win­ning a lot more tour­na­ments than my fel­low competitors. I think it’s a bit like hu­man na­ture, it’s a de­fault mech­a­nism in peo­ple that if some­one is do­ing some­thing bet­ter than you, for many peo­ple – I shouldn’t say all peo­ple – for many peo­ple the de­fault mech­a­nism is, “Well, he’s do­ing some­thing that I can’t do, so it shouldn’t be al­lowed.” It was re­ally, re­ally dif­fi­cult. Be­cause my fam­ily and my friends are ob­vi­ously all Aus­tralians and based here in Aus­tralia, when I trav­elled for any­where be­tween four and eight weeks at a time and you’re in this en­vi­ron­ment or you’re sur­rounded by fel­low competitors who, whether they dis­like you per­son­ally or for your bowl­ing style or for any other rea­son… It was re­ally dif­fi­cult to kind of put that aside and just fo­cus on my bowl­ing.

I love to have a drink with any­one. I don’t re­ally care who I’m with just as long as it’s a good time and we’re in a friendly en­vi­ron­ment. So when I went to this tour and I was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing not such a friendly en­vi­ron­ment – for me to walk into, it was a real shock. It was re­ally hard to be able to go to bed at night, knowing I’ve got to go to this place again where there are con­ver­sa­tions about me, in locker rooms or on the line, and it’s all neg­a­tive.

I’m much older now. I think I’m a lot more wise. You tend to just turn the old ear­lobes off when you see or you hear that.

There are tens of thou­sands of play­ers around the world who have adopted the new style. I of­ten say that one of the proud­est things that I can do is help young chil­dren to use me as an ex­am­ple when fac­ing their haters.

Why do they care so much? I don’t know. It’s the same peo­ple that, you know, post things on so­cial me­dia that you just shake your head at. It doesn’t make any sense. Why does it bother you so much that you know there’s a lady stand­ing in front of you at the gro­cery store who’s tak­ing 30 sec­onds longer to un­pack her groceries?

I mean, you know, I don’t nec­es­sar­ily like the way that Rafael Nadal pulls his un­der­pants out be­fore ev­ery serve. But is it re­ally in my best in­ter­est to tweet at him and say it’s dis­re­spect­ful, and I hate that you do that and you should stop it im­me­di­ately? I’ve got bet­ter things to worry about than hat­ing on in­ter­na­tional

• competitors.

RICHARD COOKE is a jour­nal­ist and writer for tele­vi­sion. He is The Satur­day Pa­per’s sports ed­i­tor.

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