There is a persistent, though gradually eroding, stereotype of professional bowlers among some sports fans. You know who you are.
Stereotypes are rarely flattering, and this one is no exception -- a middle-aged guy with no athletic ability, usually overweight, who can roll a ball at a target a few times in a row but couldn't run around the block or jump over the foul line.
So, what about second-year touring pro Ted Glattke, a lithe 6 feet 1, 170 pounds, who high-jumped 7 feet, 1/4 inch -- in high school, no less -- and earned a track and field scholarship to the University of California-Berkeley?
Or Don Moser, runner-up in last year's Fair Lanes $150,000 PBA Open? He was a high school star in water polo, as grueling a sport as there is.
Or Brian Voss, at age 32 the eighth-leading all-time money winner on the PBA tour? He runs 20 miles a week and does an hour of stretching exercises each day, despite the time demands of the tournaments and travel.
Sixth-year pro Marc McDowell, 28, who rides a Lifecycle and lifts leg weights at health clubs in tour cities all over the country, recognizes the image problem. "It's pretty frustrating," he said. "It comes from people who haven't bowled a 42-game tournament. It's exhausting -- physically and mentally." McDowell, a high school football player and golfer, was a walk-on place-kicker at the University of Wisconsin as a freshman.
In fact, the current crop of pro bowlers, in Baltimore for this week's Fair Lanes Open at Kings Point, brings a variety of athletic backgrounds to the game. And, as the game has changed, so have attitudes toward conditioning.
PBA Hall of Famer George Pappas started on the tour in 1969. He has seen bowling evolve from a finesse game to one requiring power. "The advent of the urethane ball and the new releases bowlers have developed are reasons they do more conditioning to get the speed, lift and turns you need," he said.
"You can't have a good mental game and a weak physical game. The two go hand in hand. Twenty-five years ago, those who had the best minds dominated play. Now the game is built around strength and endurance."
The hand-eye coordination needed in bowling correlates to golf as well, and like a lot of the pro bowlers, Bryan Goebel plays both. "Bowling is more athletic than golf," he said. "They're not bodybuilders or Bo Jacksons, but they come out here with power in their arms and legs developed from other things."
Two-time PBA Player of the Year Amleto Monacelli, a soccer player in his native Venezuela, is one of them. At 5-8, 146 pounds, he's not an imposing specimen, but is considered to be one of the strongest players on the tour.
Monacelli does "a lot of stretching," he said. "Then 20 to 45 minutes of aerobics -- jump rope, jumping jacks, sprinting in place -- never the same thing so I won't get bored. Twice a week I do a dumbbell exercise routine for my arms for 20 minutes. That's all, because I don't want to get too tight."
Larry Lichstein, PBA player services director and himself Rookie of the Year in 1969, puts it bluntly: "There's no way a fat guy can come out here and make a lot of money. The kids will clean him out."
* After 12 games of qualifying for the 24 match-game slots in the $150,000 Fair Lanes PBA Open, the leaders are: 1. Pete Weber 2,827; 2. Jeff Bellinger 2,714; 3. Del Ballard Jr. 2,710; 4. Robert Lawrence 2,691; 5. Walter Ray Williams Jr. 2,667. 6. Pete McCordic, 2,663. 7. Gary Dickinson and Bryan Goebel tied at 2,659. 9. Ron Williams, 2,657. 10. Bob Learn Jr., 2,656. 11. David D'Entremont, 2,650. 12. Randy Pedersen, 2,644. 13. Ray Edwards, 2,640. 14. Frank Ellenburg, 2,638. 15. Bob Vespi, 2,633.
* The top local bowlers are: 33. Mark Bowers (Aberdeen) 2,568; 35. Jeff Harding (Frederick) 2,551; 36. (tied) Joel Eiler (Berlin) 2,546; 40. Danny Wiseman (Dundalk) 2,536; 48. Mike Lastowski (Aberdeen) 2,518.