That bowling looks so simple, doesn't it? You tune into a Professional Bowlers Tour event, see some apparently ordinary Joe or Mark or Bill roll strike after strike and immediately you think, "Gosh, I could do that."
Well, don't kid yourself, rookie, says ABC bowling analyst Nelson Burton Jr. Knocking down pins in your Friday night league is one thing. Doing it on Saturday afternoon, as the professionals will do in the finals of the Greater Baltimore Open from the Country Club Lanes in Rosedale tomorrow (3 p.m., Channel 2), is quite another.
"If it was that easy, people would quit their jobs and try to do this for a living. I try to give tips to the fan at home to help him with his game, but it's not nearly as easy as they think," said Burton, a member of two bowling halls of fame and a six-time Emmy nominee.
For one thing, while the lanes are in the same locations where the public bowls, the pros don't compete on the same surface that you do. There's a Pro Bowlers Association lane maintenance crew that travels from bowling center to bowling center to oil down the surface, making it more difficult for the pros in much the same fashion that golf courses are reconfigured.
"Without the crew, the Saturday sessions wouldn't even be fun to watch. The pros would just roll strike after strike," said Burton, 52, who has returned to occasional competition on the regular and Senior tours.
Then, there's the conditioning. Oh, sure, the image of a bowler as the guy with a loud shirt and pot belly with a bowling ball in one hand and a half-consumed beer in the other may be prevalent, but nowhere near the truth.
"Oh, there are some Babe Ruth types on the tour, but people have no idea the kind of conditioning that goes into this sport and how good these people are as athletes," said Burton.
Time to kill
In a normal year, Jon Miller and Fred Manfra, your Orioles radio announcers, now would be in Florida, soaking up the rays, working on their tans and getting ready for the baseball season to come.
But even though there are no Orioles games, that doesn't mean that Miller and Manfra don't have meaningful work. Indeed, the pair will sit in on WBAL (1090 AM) tomorrow from noon to 3 p.m. to field your questions during "Sportsline."
The newly formatted show will be produced by Turner Sports, rather than CNN Sports, and pledges to be more issue-oriented than its predecessor, with phone-in opportunities for fans, as well as interviews with players from around the league, not just the ones in the featured game.
Also, the rapidly improving Craig Sager will provide an ongoing behind-the-scenes feature, called "Away From The Ball," which tonight will look at how Orlando's Shaquille O'Neal and Houston's Hakeem Olajuwon prepare for a big game. Reporter Nicole Watson will contribute occasional pieces on celebrity fans of the NBA for the new and perhaps improved "Inside the NBA."
Winding things down
The college basketball season begins its inexorable grind to the finish as ESPN kicks off "Championship Week" with five conference titles to be decided this weekend, including the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship from Morgan State's Hill Field House tomorrow at 2 p.m.
The Atlantic Coast Conference women's championship will be decided on Home Team Sports on Sunday at 1 p.m., and the Maryland men try to wrap up their first regular-season title since 1980 Sunday at Virginia (Channel 2, 3:45 p.m.). Brent Musburger has the call.