Diandra Asbaty describes her 2007 World Ranking Masters victory as the moment she picked up the pieces of a devastating loss at the USBC Queens in Charlotte, N.C. just days earlier. But even she would have to admit that when she showed up to bowl the USBC Queens TV finals again last week, one important piece still remained to be picked up—that trophy she left behind in Charlotte back in 2007.
All Asbaty needed to do to bring that trophy home five years ago was win one game. She entered the 2007 Queens finals as the No. 1 seed, and proceeded to bowl a 143 game in a morbid performance that saw Kelly Kulick breeze to her first Queens title. Asbaty missed single-pin spares. She left one split, then another, and another. She never smiled. She hardly, it seemed, even paused to breathe.
Asbaty paused plenty on her way to her first tiara last week; she has $400 in shot clock violations to prove it. And that was exactly the point. Asked in 2011 what she would do differently if she ever got another shot at a Queens title, Asbaty’s response had nothing to do with winning.
“I will smile more, I will take my time, I will enjoy the moment and make sure everybody can tell how much I love to do this,” she said then.
The objective no longer was to win so much as it was to present herself like a winner. As long as she took care of that, she could not lose, no matter what the score said by the time the night was through.
It was easy for viewers at home to focus mostly on the 25 straight clean frames Asbaty bowled Tuesday night, the 270 game with which she blitzed fellow Team USA member Stefanie Nation in the semifinal, the 747 series she had tallied by the time she donned the tiara. But it was the things viewers could not see—the commercial breaks Asbaty spent standing on a chair to slap virtual fives with fans in the crowd or tossing towels to kids in the bleachers—that brought her closer to victory than any number of strikes ever could.
It was that personal victory—Asbaty’s triumph over the rushed, dour and flustered top seed people saw back in 2007—that she emphasized most in post-show interviews.
“There was none of that feeling like ‘Oh, I have to prove I am a good Queens bowler,’ or anything like that,” Asbaty said of her mindset on the 2012 Queens show. “I never thought I was going to redeem myself; all I wanted to do was not make the same mistakes again. I was going to enjoy it, and be me. I embraced what happened in 2007 because I think it tells a story of who I am.”
In a song called “Dark Eyes,” Bob Dylan sings “They tell me revenge is sweet and from where they stand, I’m sure it is.” From where Diandra Asbaty stood Tuesday night, many things seemed far sweeter than revenge. Things like the flight her husband, John, took down to Arlington on a moment’s notice to cheer her on, or her 20-month-old son, Madden, who watched from home in Chicago as his mom bowled for her first major title on national TV.
Even down to the shot she threw to win the title—a strike in the 10th to lock out top-seeded Carolyn Dorin-Ballard—winning was not the point. The point was all the things that made winning seem less important than it might have seemed that day back in Charlotte.
“I wasn’t going to try to win; all I wanted to do was be me,” Asbaty said after the win. “Before I threw that shot in the 10th I literally had a vision of Madden’s face, and I knew it was going to be OK whether I won or lost. Being a mother changes everything. It isn’t about me anymore. And I am just so fortunate that I can do what I love and show my son that you can truly reach your dreams if you work hard at it.”
Maybe that’s the thing about winning. Maybe the harder you try merely to win, the less likely it is to happen. Maybe the moment you realize winning is not everything is the moment you become a champion.