I follow sports as much as the next person. I love baseball. I enjoy a Sunday of football. I enjoy Wimbledon, and the PGA on TV. These are the faces you see plastered on the TV all of the time. Unfortunately, you don’t always see good things there. You have the MLB and their issues with fighting the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs). You have the NFL and bounties on players, issues with illegal hits, lawsuits from the medical issues former players are facing, and players who make tens of millions of dollars while playing who are bankrupt shortly after. You have Tiger Woods and his personal struggles, his kicking clubs and acting like a child, while being paid millions. And people will try and have you believe these are the kinds of role models for young kids, who are addicted to watching the sports on TV.
There are very few people in all the major sports that have maintained a great reputation, and for me are worth admiring. In baseball for me it’s guys like Ken Griffey Jr., or Derek Jeter. In football I honestly don’t have a single person that stands out…Peyton Manning is close. In Basketball, Magic Johnson stands out. But the one person who has caught my attention is professional bowler Diandra Asbaty.
I’ve grown up involved with bowling. All my life, it’s a sport I have loved, worked hard at, and followed intently. Bowling isn’t a glamorous sport. It’s on ESPN, but it isn’t exactly going to dominate the ratings going against Giants vs Cowboys on a Sunday. And I know, many people have their views on whether or not bowling is a sport. To that I simply say to go out and bowl as much as the top professionals do, and tell me how you’re feeling at the end of one day…then do it for a week. And then a month. It is a complex game, and takes every ounce of mental and physical strength to do it at the top level.
Women’s bowling is even less covered than the men’s bowling. The WPBA folded due to various reasons, leaving the top women bowlers to either compete with the men in the PBA, or to bowl the few tournaments in the year that matter. For the women, the Queens is the equivalent of the USBC Masters, but it is for women only. (It should be noted that several women have done very well in “open” events, including Kelly Kulick winning the PBA Tournament of Champions, and 2011 Queens champion Missy Parkin winning a PBA Regional Title, as well as going deep in the USBC Masters in 2012.)
I watched this year’s USBC Queens Championships very intently, following it through qualifying, and watching the live stream of matchplay online. I watched the ESPN live telecast. And there’s been a bowler that I’ve followed for a while, who has captivated me with her own story. It isn’t one that is talked about because it isn’t glamorous. It isn’t filled with a ten-year deal for $250 million. What it is, is real. And it is why it is hard not to admire Diandra Asbaty.
I’ve followed Diandra for several years. She has been a promoter of the USBC, which is the national sanctioning body for all of bowling. She is a member of Storm Bowling’s staff (Storm is one of the largest manufacturers of bowling products), as well as Roto-Grip (another very large manufacturer of bowling products). She is one of the founders of the International Art of Bowling (IAB), an instructional seminar taught by herself and Jason Belmonte (a multiple PBA Champion, known for his two-handed delivery) and Ron Hoppe. She is the Director of Marketing and Sales for High 5 Gear, which is a great fit since she created her own clothing line. She is running a tournament for youth bowlers, the Elite Youth Tour. Sounds like quite a bit, right? She’s got a blog, too. And she’s married, with a young child. And when she won the USBC Queens this year, and showed a very real, very unscripted emotion that resonated through the television screen and brought tears to my own eyes, I could not help but think. Isn’t THIS the kind of person that young kids should admire?
You don’t see her kicking ball returns. You don’t see her cursing on live TV. You don’t see her doing some wild gyrations, even on a big strike. What you see is a successful businesswoman, a person who has defined herself as one of the best female professional bowlers of all time. A person who has done all of this while being a wife, and a mother who takes that job as seriously as anything else she does. I pay attention to those who comment on meeting her at tournaments, who come to the IAB seminars. Regular folks who meet her anywhere, doing anything. You can’t help but see how genuine she comes across. And let me be clear…I’ve not been able to meet her yet myself. And maybe that’s the amazing part of this…that someone I’ve never met, someone I’ve spoken to via messages a few times, has had such a profound impact on me.
When Diandra threw the shot of her life, the strike to replace the memory of a terrible performance in the final match in 2007 of this very tournament, to give her the Major Championship that she had dreamed of as a child (think any baseball player winning their first World Series), she had that look of shock…of complete release of emotion. Unscripted, nothing played up for the cameras. The tears flowed. She screamed like a giddy child. And it was real. I couldn’t help but tear up at the sight.
I’m a dad…I have a son who will turn 6 in September. He watches bowling on TV all the time. He absolutely loves it. He hasn’t yet caught on to baseball like me, or any of the other sports, in the way I’m sure he will over time. But if there’s someone I’d want to have him emulate, why not someone like Diandra?
What is it that we hope for in our children’s future? That they be bright, articulate, respectful, successful, find someone they love and can spend their lives with, and maybe even start a family. Everything that I’ve found Diandra to embody. If she ends up with those millions, it will be from hard work…from hours spent doing the things she loves. She is to bowling what I see in Phil Mickelson in golf, in Arnold Palmer. She appreciates all of the people who helped her get to where she is, and all the people she can try to help to get to where she is now.
We all can learn something from Diandra. She’s a teacher, which is a profession I admire greatly. She is a parent, the toughest job many of us will ever have…and one that never ends. She is a dreamer, who has made her dreams come true with the kind of dedication that it takes to fulfill them. And she’s stayed true to herself and who she is. That is something far, far less likely to be seen from most of the other “stars” we watch on television.