Matt Cannizzaro blogs about USBC Open

August 15, 2012

CannizzaroLARGE2012Hello everyone.

I'm back at my desk in Arlington, Texas, and successfully adapting to life at the International Bowling Campus. It usually takes time to get used to the hour-long commute, structured days and eating lunch at a normal hour, but I think the toughest part is the eerie quiet of the traditional office/cubicle environment.

There's a special element of mystery at the USBC Open Championships that keeps me on the edge of my seat waiting for something exciting to happen, and that remains constant thanks to the colorful glow of the scoreboards and the sound of pins crashing in the background.

Eventually, though, the last pin falls and the final scoresheet emerges from the printer. With that, it's time to move on, but the work is far from complete.

The half of the year the tournament is not going on is much different, which is both good and bad. Without the possibility of what could happen on any given day at the Open Championships, everything is pretty routine. We work from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., Monday-Friday, which leaves most evenings and weekends open for bowling, traveling or relaxing.

Initially, my days at HQ are split between reminiscing about the highlights of the most recent tournament and looking toward next year and how to make the experience even better for the bowlers. The transition is seamless.

All tournament and yearlong brackets results for 2012 have been posted and finalized (for the Open and Women's Championships), and even though the ink on the prize checks from this year may still be wet, the respective pages on have been adapted to generate interest in the upcoming events.

For the first time in history, both championship tournaments are headed to the same host city in the same year, which gives families the chance to travel together and allows for a variety of promotions and events appealing to both tournament crowds.

In 2013 and 2014, the Open Championships will be held at the one-of-a-kind National Bowling Stadium, and the Women's Championships will move across town to the Reno-Sparks Convention Center. Participants at the Open Championships will be wowed by the first phase of renovations at the Stadium (I saw the plans, and everything looks great), and the women again will enjoy the unique and exciting atmosphere of the specially-constructed lanes in a convention-center setting.

A new schedule, format (six bowlers on a pair for doubles and singles) and fresh oil for every squad will give the Open Championships a fresh feel, while the proximity invites curious women to compete for the first time. Also, a new registration system has provided some excitement, too. The entire process now is online and dates/times can be secured in real time.

I was among the first to experience the new set up and registered my four teams with ease. One of the teams is made up entirely of women, who will be competing at the Women's Championships on May 3-4 and then join us for our two days of competition May 5-6.

In the coming weeks, we'll begin planning the content for the tournament yearbooks and programs, compiling lifetime average lists, update all of the tournament records, finalize the plans for the look of the venue, iron out the details for the new Showcase Lanes and special side events at the NBS and much more.

We'll also hear from 2012 Regular Doubles and All-Events champion Matt McNiel as he begins the long process of preparing to put his titles on the line on bowling's biggest stage. In his new blog, he'll share his tricks and tips to getting ready for the Open Championships each year, which will include everything from equipment choices, staying sharp by bowling on Sport patterns, mentally preparing, and, of course, what things are like after a successful tournament.

The scoreboards may be dark right now, but being successful at the Open and Women's Championships, both behind the scenes and on the lanes, takes year-round dedication from the employees and champions alike.

Are you registered to compete in the 2013 Open or Women's Championships? Or, hopefully, both, if you're eligible? How are you preparing? What did you learn in 2012 that will help you improve in 2013?

Visit me on Facebook and let me know how you use the offseason to prepare for competition. And become a fan today (Matt Cannizzaro-USBC), so you don't miss anything from behind the scenes!

That's the news for now. See you on the lanes.

MattCubeLARGE TerryCubeLARGE

June 30, 2012

Hello everyone.

The calendar says there are 10 days left at the 2012 USBC Open Championships, and we're talking more seriously about teardown procedures and plans, but it's definitely not yet time to call it a year and start packing.

According to the white board on the wall across the office, we still need to be on our toes, and those at the top of the leaderboard probably shouldn't order the kegs and confetti just yet. Of all the years I've been here (this is No. 8), I think this is the most action-packed final week we've ever had.WhiteboardLARGE

The Lavery-Spahr brothers from Texas are bowling doubles and singles today, and they certainly have the potential to make some noise here based on the damage they've been doing in the Dallas area this year. Jodi Woessner, the 2010 Scratch and Diamond All-Events champion at the USBC Women's Championships also will be here for D/S today.

Yesterday, I heard from Bryan Komornik, who bowls with Ebonite Brand Manager Ed Gallagher and two very talented Ebonite HQ teams. They will be in town to compete Sunday and Monday, and they've filled out some post-bowling paperwork in my office in some capacity just about every year since 2006, including last year's Regular All-Events runner-up Ray Edwards.

Missy Parkin, the 2011 USBC Queens champion and the runner-up at the recent Bowling's U.S. Women's Open in Reno, Nev., will be headed this way (we're live streaming her D/S on BowlTV on Monday at 12:40 p.m. Eastern), and we'll soon be welcoming six-time Open Championships titlist and USBC Hall of Famer Les Zikes, who will become the 16th member of the elite 60-Year Club.

The weekend doesn't end there. Someone said Mark Scroggins and some of his former and current West Texas A&M bowlers would be here, too. And, I just saw Wichita's Matt McFayden in the hallway.

Later in the week, 2005 Intercollegiate Team Championships winner Emil Williams Jr. and some of his talented former Lindenwood University teammates will hit the lanes armed with 140+ days of notes and knowledge Emil has collected since we kicked things off on Feb. 11.

We'll close things out with 2004 Team All-Events champion Craig Auerbach and the duo of Anthony Pepe and Alex Cavagnaro, who finished third in Regular Doubles last year with the help of a 300 from Pepe.

The last couple of days also usually includes former Team USA  member Ashly Galante and some high-profile teammates, so that could add to the excitement. And that's only the ones we know about. Since these people all are on different teams, our attention will span the house for sure.

I've heard stories of titles being won on the first day (Mike Neumann - 1990; Fran Bax - 1983), and I've experienced interviewing a champion who took the lead on the final squad (Jack Wilson - 2008), so our questionnaires and honor score applications will stay accessible until the lights go out and Duane Hagen ceremoniously closes the 2012 tournament somewhere around 7:30 p.m. Central on July 10.

Shortly after the final scoresheet comes out, the scores should become official, and the winners will be called. This is one of my favorite moments of the tournament, especially when we call a first-time winner. I can't imagine what the wait is like, but the sighs of relief and ensuing excitement are awesome. (There's no particular order to the calls. Mr. McNiel, you know the drill). And sometimes, it is fun to make them sweat a little. Is that mean?

Usually, the leaders are on the edges of their seats, phones in hand, refreshing the leaderboards or webcams. And other times, they're in the strangest places.

In 2006, Team All-Events champion Sam Lantto was out walking his dog, so the whole neighborhood was in on the call. In 2008, Regular Singles winner Bryan Young was at the movies, and his phone was off. In 2009 (or 2010), Regular Singles/Team All-Events champ Bo Goergen was in the shower (I believe he even got out to talk to us). And other times, just the possibility of winning is enough reason for a party, and the festivities are in full swing by the time we call, especially if we're on the West Coast.

Then, it's time for US to party. That's right, when the final press release is sent, it's party time for the tournament staff. We have an employee tournament and celebrate another successful run of the world's largest participatory sporting event. A night of blowing off steam on the lanes and saying goodbye to our local employees usually is bitter-sweet.

After a good night's rest, it's back to the office to pack up and focus on the important stuff, like finalizing the prize funds and yearlong brackets products, stopping only to answer calls and emails about when those will be posted or when prize checks will go out (brackets stuff will be up as soon as we can do it, and prize checks typically are mailed about 30 days after the close of the tournament, unless there's an official extension due to a protest or anomaly).

Just about a month from now, I'll be back at the International Bowling Campus working on things for next year's tournaments in Reno. It's like clockwork and all part of the media relations timeline.

Don't forget to visit me on Facebook and become a fan! (Matt Cannizzaro-USBC)

That's the news for now. See you on the lanes.


June 18, 2012

Hello everyone.

As we cruise into the final days of the 2012 USBC Open Championships, I can look back and honestly say I learned a lot this year.

Since the tournament runs from 7 a.m. until 2 a.m. daily for more than 135 days (this year is a near-record 151 days), it's easy to get a little burned out or frustrated by the fact that every day essentially is the same, and there is very little down time. Plus, you find yourself answering the same questions over and over. However, you really can't look at it that way and still be successful.

You see, I may have been in the venue for many, many hours each week since February, but the bowlers haven't. Every single day is opening day for nearly 500 bowlers, and they should be treated as such.

Just like the bowlers in late February, the bowlers in June have looked forward to being here for a year, too. They've likely practiced, worked hard and spent a lot of money to join us here. Their experience should be equal, if not better than the bowlers before them, since we should be even more polished. It doesn't take any more than a deep breath to remember that.

If it weren't for all of our dedicated bowlers, my dream job wouldn't exist. So, a big thank you to all of you, especially the ones who stop by to say hello or send notes to let us know you've been watching our live stream broadcasts or reading our stuff. When you hear that someone appreciates something you've done, it's as powerful and energizing as a case of Rock Star energy drinks.

Yesterday, I was in the squad room talking to some old friends and making new ones, and one of them asked if I was ready for this to be over. While I immediately pictured myself kicking back on the beach with a cocktail and waiting for the charcoal in the grill to heat up, my answer ultimately was no.

While a few days of rest and relaxation would be greatly appreciated, the idea of being back in a cubicle is less inviting. Don't get me wrong, I love what I do, and I'm glad I can contribute to the bowling industry year round, but there's just nothing like the variety of the Open Championships.

For example, if I feel like I need a break while writing this, I can turn around and watch some bowling. If I see someone I know, I can go down and talk to them. If I want to wander out to the car to get the two balls I have in the trunk, I can grab them and take them down to the Hammer booth to get drilled. Then, there's the anticipation of what could happen on the lanes. I've seen many records get broken, obviously unexpectedly, so there's always the invigorating element of surprise.

So what great wisdom did I take from the above? Don't take this opportunity for granted. There are so many rewarding moments, and while a break might sound good, I'd quickly miss it and start counting the days until next year's tournament begins. It's a vicious cycle!

I've also learned there needs to be a balance. We are a team here, and it's OK to lean on others. We're all here for the good of the event, but some things are bigger than work or the tournament.

For a long time, I felt like I couldn't miss a minute of the action because it wasn't fair to the bowlers if I wasn't here when they shot an honor score or took the lead. Accomplishing something on the championship lanes is amazing, and I've always felt they deserve their moments in the spotlight. I've done everything in my power to make sure we were here at least by the end of every squad since 2005, even if it means I have to be here on my own for the entire day.

While I have missed out on trivial things over the years like holidays off, state and city tournaments, nights out with friends, weekends, etc., there have been many great rewards in exchange. However, some things aren't as trivial, and that's when you learn to lean on your teammates.

I've never been good at delegating or asking people to do extra, but it seems that if you lead by example, you don't have to ask. Aaron Smith (at the USBC Women's Championships) and Emil Williams Jr. (at the Open Championships) have been part of the team for a few years now, and both have developed incredible work ethics and the desire to do as much as possible, from wearing a shirt, tie and jacket every day to putting in countless extra hours without being asked. Anytime there's a live stream broadcast outside of his normal work hours, for example, there's no doubt Emil will be there. I never have to ask.

So, when I found out there was a small flood at my house in Texas, I never second-guessed going home to straighten it out. A few years ago, I probably would've tried to figure out a way to facilitate things from here, but my confidence in the team we've assembled made it an easy decision.

As important as the bowlers and the event are to me, my life savings, and ultimately half of my salary for the next 20 years, are pretty important, too. Hence, the balance.

Emil understood the situation and stepped up to handle some additional responsibilities at the office, and I had complete confidence that he'd handle things as well, if not better, than I would.

In the end, I hope this just supports the idea of teamwork, how high we've set the bar and what I've learned as a manager, rather than highlight the fact that while I may think I'm pretty important here, I'm actually replaceable and have taught Aaron and Emil enough to take over. Shhh, don't tell Jason Overstreet.

Don't forget to visit me on Facebook and become a fan! (Matt Cannizzaro-USBC)

That's the news for now. See you on the lanes.



June 8, 2012

Hello everyone.

We are 32 days from the end of the 2012 USBC Open Championships, and the news has come to a standstill. And I'm not saying that as a bad thing, it's just much different than this time last year.

A few of the things I think make the Open Championships special are the different locations, the challenging lane conditions that change from year to year and the fact that no matter how you bowl, you get the chance to try again next year.

Some years, scores are higher overall. Sometimes, they're lower. No matter what, though, the lanes always can be attacked in multiple ways, and bowlers of all styles and skill levels are able to find a way to succeed through excellent shotmaking and spare shooting.

Even as a lifelong bowler, it still amazes me just how little oil actually is used in the machines that oil the lanes. Just a few ounces can go a long way, and an extra drop here, or one less drop there, and it's like a completely different world. A few extra drops in the right spot can make it seem like there's gallons of it out there.

This year at the Open Championships, the 39-foot Sport-certified lane condition has given us 17 perfect games and two 800 series, while last year's offering produced 52 300s and a record 16 800s. Obviously, that means a few less score-related stories being produced by the media relations team, but more time for stuff like interacting with bowlers or helping with the new registration system. It's just amazing that such a drastic thing technically could be accomplished with just an eye dropper.

I guess a good point here is that while the structure and schedule at the Open Championships are the same from year to year, and even day to day, no two years, or days, are the same.

In 2005, my media relations debut, I wrote a lot of feature stories. Luckily, having 60,000 bowlers means there are 60,000 stories waiting to be told. In 2009, we had a lot of BIG scores to write about, and the modern video era began at the tournament. In 2010, we added live streaming to the menu. In 2011, we had a ton of honor scores and milestone bowlers.

So am I disappointed that we haven't had a 300 game in exactly one month? No. Or that the leaderboards have been virtually unchanged for weeks? No. This year's event will be special in its own way and have moments that stand out.

This is the year we introduced the VIP program and the Showcase Lanes. This is the year we launched our real-time registration system. This is the end of an era (109 years of tradition, actually), as we transition to a new schedule in 2013 that includes just three doubles and singles squads with six on a pair and no flipping, while every single squad is contested on fresh oil.

Even though success AT the Open Championships is measured by pinfall, the success OF the Open Championships each year can be measured by so much more.

As we head into the final month of our 151-day run here in Baton Rouge, I'll probably think about the things that made this year unique, both personally and professionally, but I also know we're still expecting thousands of teams, and the shining moments of 2012 may still lie ahead.

Don't forget to visit me on Facebook and become a fan! (Matt Cannizzaro-USBC) If we can reach 400 fans this month, I'll give away some tournament souvenirs.

That's the news for now. See you on the lanes.


May 28, 2012

Hello everyone.

It seems like just yesterday we were rolling into Baton Rouge and seeing the unfinished tournament venue for the first time.

Time has flown by, and now, we're part of the way through Day 108 of a near-record 151 days at the 2012 USBC Open Championships.

We've welcomed more than 40,000 bowlers, written more than 80 stories and done almost 20 live stream broadcasts from behind the lanes at the Baton Rouge River Center. We've seen 17 perfect games, two memorable 800 series and a handful of other close calls. We've helped 13 bowlers celebrate 50 years of tournament participation and recognized a number of others who already are members of the elite 50-Year Club.

The inaugural year of the Open Championships VIP program was a huge success and a sellout as more than 250 bowlers took advantage of the opportunity. At the same time, the four Showcase Lanes upstairs at the River Center also were well-received and packed with excited bowlers each day.

This week, our final group of defending champions (K&K Bowling Services 5) will hit the lanes looking to recapture the magic they found last year at the National Bowling Stadium in Reno, Nev. Their doubles and singles efforts will be broadcast live on BowlTV on May 29 at 6:30 p.m. Eastern.

And with the 2012 event going on behind me, many eager team captains have spent time just outside my office on the community computers putting in their teams for the 2013 tournament. The new online registration process seemed intimidating to many at first, but once they got on there and locked in their squads and times for next year, they were pretty happy knowing everything is set.

For me and Emil, we know there are a lot of great bowlers still scheduled to come through, so we'll be on our toes until the final shot is thrown, but that doesn't mean we're not thinking ahead, too.

At the same time, the leadership team already is having discussions about teardown, prize funds, posting brackets and departure dates. Beyond that, there's a lot of talk about the many changes ahead for 2013 and how we plan to handle those. With all of us headed in different directions in about six weeks, we need to iron out as much as we can while we're all in the same room. It truly is an exciting whirlwind and a lot of multi-tasking. All of those of you trapped in cubicles five days a week should be jealous.

Despite all of that, though, you can't help but think about a little time off when it's all over. I'm looking forward to enjoying a little more of what Louisiana has to offer before taking the party on the road. Then, of course, back to my cubicle at the International Bowling Campus in Arlington, Texas.

Those of you from Louisiana, what do I need to experience before I leave? And those of you on the East Coast and in Florida, look out. I might be coming your way, too.

Don't forget to visit me on Facebook and become a fan! (Matt Cannizzaro-USBC)

Thanks for reading, and whether you're working, bowling or spending time with family on this Memorial Day, be sure to take a moment and think about those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. And from those of us at USBC and the Open Championships, a huge thank you to all of our veterans and active-duty military.

That's the news for now. See you on the lanes.


May 19, 2012

Hello everyone.

Anything can happen on any given day at the USBC Open Championships. We do our best to know who's coming in, so some element of surprise can be eliminated, but we always have to be on our toes. We even publish a list of notable bowlers, so bowling fans can keep an eye out for familiar faces.

Sometimes, it feels like we're psychic, and sometimes, we're introduced to a bowler or team looking to make it onto next year's notable list.

Recently, we welcomed six gentlemen into the tournament's 50-Year Club and talked to a half dozen more about the milestones they'll be reaching in 2013. Toss in a few more currently between milestones, and it's the perfect time for a Discovery Channel special - Longevity Week at the Open Championships.

A couple of gentlemen, Jimmy Schroeder and Glenn Allison (both USBC Hall of Famers), also were in town recently and helped us transition from Longevity Week to Champions Week (I made both of these up).

Schroeder and Allison both fit into the longevity category because they've made 64 and 61 tournament appearances, respectively, but they also have five Open Championships titles between them. They are the perfect bridge. When they come bowl, there are orange eagles on the scoreboard next to their names as a reminder of their success.

In the past 10 days or so, it seems like we've had more orange eagles on the scoreboard than any other similar stretch of time. Since it would be impossible to name all of them, I will mention the ones that jumped out at me specifically.

First, just three days after my own performance did not earn me a chance at an eagle, we welcomed recently-inducted USBC Hall of Famer Gary Daroszewski and three of the Linds Limited teammates who joined him for two titles in 2009 (two of his six).

Beginning May 17, we took Champions Week to the airwaves, starting with Brandon Tarabek and Chad Reiffer, the 2011 Regular Doubles champions. During our broadcast of their doubles and singles squad (watch Tarabek and Reiffer now), we were joined in the booth by USBC Hall of Famer and five-time Open Championships winner Jeff Richgels, who was in town with his Turbo 2-N-1 Grips 1 teammates preparing to put their Regular Team title on the line May 18.

As we went on the air for Turbo 2-N-1's return to the lanes (they won Regular Doubles and Team All-Events in Baton Rouge in 2005), we were surround by additional champions and hopefuls. (Watch Turbo 2-N-1 Grips now)

Local star, Derwin Pitre, a 2010 Team All-Events champion, was nearby checking out the action, along with three-time champion and USBC Hall of Famer Don Scudder. On the other side of the River Center (actually bowling at the time) was hall of famer Steve Fehr, a six-time winner at the tournament, and two of his title-holding teammates.

Amazingly, while all eyes were on the defending champions May 18, unknown William Meador of Hampton, Va., tried to steal the spotlight. He was just a few pairs away from the "TV" pair, and started his team event with 11 consecutive strikes. Although he finished with 298, he did steal the show for a few minutes.

I could probably go on and on, but I think my point is clear. Being in the middle of a stint like this is a great reminder of the amazing history of this tournament and what it means to succeed here. And even though an eagle on the scoreboard is a sure way to measure success, so is the diamond and gold lapel pin you earn for reaching 50 years - no matter how many pins you've knocked down.

Now, we're transitioning again.

We've got a short list of bowlers on the schedule this week who have succeeded at various levels of the sport, but have yet to leave a lasting mark in Open Championships history.

On May 20, Team USA member Liz Johnson will hit the lanes at the River Center. She has won just about everything there is to win outside of the Open Championships, where she owns the third-highest all-events total by a woman (2,117 in 2006). Her team event will be shown live on at 3:30 p.m. Eastern.

On May 23, Professional Bowlers Association South Region champions Doug Becker and Ronnie Horton will be on the lanes with Dave Armstrong, one of the most recognizable names in the Midwest. Becker does own a 300 at the Open Championships (2006), and the group has had some close calls in team. Their team event will be shown live on at 9:30 p.m. EDT.

On May 24, Brett Wolfe (2002 USBC Masters champion) will look to continue the tear he's been on in recent years and turn some close calls into a breakout year. The southpaw is the two and three-year average leader at the tournament and rolled a 300 game at the National Bowling Stadium in 2011. His doubles and singles efforts will be broadcast on at 6:30 p.m. EDT.

Finally, on May 28-29, K&K Bowling Services 5 will be in town looking for a second-straight Team All-Events title. Last year at the Stadium, they bowled on a star-studded squad that included the defending doubles champions, who were being live streamed a few lanes away. Needless to say, everyone's attention quickly turned to USBC President Andrew Cain and his teammates, who quietly made an amazing championship run.

And then, the schedule gets quiet. That either means time to take a deep breath and relax or time to welcome the next previously-unknown star to the spotlight.

Some might call the Open Championships and my role here a roller coaster, but I'd rather think if it as a thrill ride full of twists and turns.

Check out the 2012 Open Championships live stream schedule and notable bowlers lists now: Rules and Information

Don't forget to visit me on Facebook and become a fan! (Matt Cannizzaro-USBC)

That's the news for now. See you on the lanes.


May 11, 2012

Hello everyone.

A lot of people say you should never go to bed angry. This week, I decided you should never blog angry, either. Although, maybe disappointed is a better word than angry.

I now have had a few days to stew over my personal performance at the 2012 USBC Open Championships, and since no one will believe I simply missed a game and my all-events score is for only eight games, I will do my best to focus on the positives this year.

The first positive is that this was the first year we tried to field a 10-person team and employ a little bit of strategy on the lanes, and we were successful. Despite a few cancels and a little juggling, we had a really good, cooperative group. We practiced together, communicated well and all got along like old friends.

In the team event, we shot 975, 1,053, 1,068. Three of us were between 550 and 600, one of us had a huge finish for 635 and Jeff Jensen, currently 25th on the lifetime average list, shot 725 to lift us to the highest team score I've ever been a part of, 3,096. That experience made all of the work worthwhile.

People always try to calm down the low guy by explaining that SOMEONE has to be low on the team, but it's never that guy saying it. Do I feel that we left a lot out there as a team? Absolutely. Do I feel that my personal performance (as the low person on the team) was well below what I am capable of? Without a doubt. But, I will not make excuses. I simply bowled poorly, and it extended into doubles and singles. Thankfully, my teammates were there to keep the mood light.

One of my goals always has been to shoot 3,000 as a team, and we achieved that and then some. I will focus on how gratifying that felt, but I now know we're capable of so much more, which means raising the bar for next year.

While we all had varied levels of success this year, with Jeff (2,006) and Kim Terrell-Kearney (1,912) leading the way, I imagine it all will even out over the years to come, as our past histories might suggest. Congrats to those who bowled well. It was fun to watch. This time, though, it was my year to hang on for dear life. It happens.

Simply put, most bowlers I talk to seem to have that one less-than-stellar year on their records, except maybe for Mike Shady, who has never bowled below 1,900, and possibly a handful of others who find a way to succeed no matter what. I just thought my year like that already was in the books, and I was in the middle of a career upswing.

Regardless of the final numbers, our teams had a great time off the lanes this year, too, and every member of the group has expressed interest in possibly bowling together again next year. No matter how anyone was performing, everyone was upbeat and supportive, and that was such a bonus.

I do admit, it will be a little bit harder to be here for another 60 days knowing I bowled so badly, despite my preparation, and won't have a chance at redemption until next year. It definitely exposed some of my weaknesses but will greatly motivate me for 2013.

Overall, however, it was one of the best years I've had at this event. Just not on the scoreboard.

Sometimes, you bowl well and that's the highlight. Sometimes, you visit a great city, and that's the highlight. Sometimes, you accomplish something you've never done, and that's what you remember. Sometimes, it's what happens off the lanes that you put in your mental scrapbook. Of course, we're all in search of that elusive year when all of those things happen at once. That keeps me coming back for sure.

For now, it's time to look ahead and focus on one goal at a time.

Thanks to everyone who bowled with us or simply supported us this year. Now, back to business.

The rest of May is going to be very busy.

This weekend, we have four bowlers who will be reaching 50 years of participation. Then, starting May 17, we'll have six live stream broadcasts in a 13-day period. Stay tuned.

Don't forget to visit me on Facebook and become a fan! (Matt Cannizzaro-USBC)

That's the news for now. See you on the lanes.


May 2, 2012

Hello everyone.

It's time to compete at the 2012 USBC Open Championships
If I were just a "bowler," I'd be packing my suitcase right now. It would be full of Ebonite bowling shirts, VISE patches and dress pants. I'd also have a backpack as a carry on, which would include my bowling shoes, accessory case and a whole lot of confidence. Oh, and a laptop, so I could get a little work done while I'm traveling to and from Baton Rouge for the 2012 USBC Open Championships.

Because I would've spent the last few months practicing on the tournament lane condition at a local bowling center, I would feel good about the equipment I selected for the trip. I'd have to, since it already would be on its way to the Baton Rouge River Center via Bowling Ball Express. What a relief not having to lug six balls through the airport, to the rental car place and into the venue. And, no frustration from all the baggage fees. Win.

Since our team event is scheduled for Sunday afternoon, I'd probably only work a half day Friday and then fly out, giving myself enough time to get comfortable and acclimated to the city and weather and such. It also would give me time to catch up with the friends I haven't seen in a year, enjoy some local sites and cuisine and plan for a full day of bowling Saturday.

I'd probably be a little bit nervous, since you only get one chance to succeed at the Open Championships each year. I'm sure I'd be checking out the message boards and live stream archives one more time for any final feedback and tips. I'm sure I'd peek at the online leaderboards, too, to see what it will take to add my name to the list. I'm just not sure if I'd be focused on the top of the list, or the low to cash numbers.

With my trip just two days away, I'd double-check my flight and hotel details and do a little research on what to see, do and eat in Baton Rouge. Since we've bowled there before, I'd definitely want to re-visit the places I enjoyed last time, but see if there's anything new worth checking out.

As a competitive bowler, it is likely I would be educated on the brackets and other side options available at the Open Championships as well as know the details and locations of the side tournaments I want to hit while I'm in town.

Of course, this annual trip can be a financial strain, but I'm relatively good with money and would have been planning and saving since last year. And since I know they only take cash or traveler's checks at the brackets window, a trip or two to the bank would be in order. Just like with any investment, you have to risk money to make money, so I have to rely on my ability and not compete with scared money.

Once in Baton Rouge
Once safely in Baton Rouge, it's time to focus. I'm an adult now, and I understand what this event is about. There's no doubt this trip is mostly about bowling and potentially taking home an eagle. If anything, the goals are to have a good time, turn in a respectable performance and win some decent prize money.

Friday- Travel days always make for long days. After arriving in Baton Rouge and picking up the rental car, I'd head straight to the hotel to get checked-in and situated before meeting up with my teammates and heading over to the River Center to check things out.

ShowcaseLanes2012LARGEWith my team captain handling things at the Check-in counter, I'd familiarize myself with the venue. The first stop of the visit this year is at the Showcase Lanes, where I'd verify that our team practice time is on the schedule. I'd then make my way downstairs and wander through the booths to see if there are any good deals.

After watching a little bit of bowling to see how people are attacking the lanes, I'd go over to Bowling Ball Express to make sure my equipment arrived. As convenient as it would be to leave it there until our practice session Saturday, I'd have to take it with me so I can visit the other tournaments Saturday. If only there was a side event, or even the Bowlers Journal, in the same building somehow, like in Albuquerque in 2008, I'd never have to leave!

MattArsenal2012LARGEEquipment in hand, we'd meet up with our captain to secure this year's lot of coupons and information and make plans for dinner as well as a strategy for Saturday. There are a lot of good coupons this year, and a variety of other tournaments to compete in. This year's arsenal- Ebonite Gamebreaker (one shiny, one dull), Ebonite Pursuit, Ebonite Vital Sign, Ebonite The One Pearl and Ebonite Mission X.

Since I've been reading the reviews and blogs, and I bowled in Baton Rouge in 2005, I'd suggest TJ Ribs for dinner. Following the delicious meal, I'd head back to the hotel for a good night's sleep before the busy weekend.

Saturday- As a twice-a-week league bowler, plus tournaments on the weekends, I'd want to be careful not to do too much bowling while in Baton Rouge. My main focus always is on the Open Championships, so I'd want to be at my best. Side tournaments are great for getting loose and tuning-up, but it's easy to overdo it.

There are a lot of choices this year, but I'd talk my group into going to the Storm Bowlers Journal Championships at Metro Bowl first thing Saturday after a good breakfast. The intention would be to get there right when they open, so we can experience the lane condition when it's fresh.

We know the BJ also features a Sport-certified oil pattern, so we know it will be challenging. With the option to bowl singles and doubles at the same time, as well as doubles with multiple partners at once, we can accomplish a lot in a shorter period of time. Usually, I like to bowl a second time in the same day if time allows. The main goal, of course, is to reach the Instant Cash number the first time and re-invest it with the hope of doing better, or competing in a different division.

Although it feels like forever between trips to the Open Championships, especially if you're coming off a bad year, time seems to fly once you're in town. With our practice session only a few hours away, we'd head back downtown to watch some more bowling on the main lanes and check out the revitalized downtown area for a team lunch. The area really has changed for the better since 2005, and there are a number of establishments offering food and cocktails. Win.

Finally, after months of practice and research, it's time to hit the Showcase Lanes and get a taste of the 2012 Open Championships. I know the exact conditions are hard to mimic at home, so the Showcase Lanes is the closest we'll get to the real deal. It's the same lane surface, the same approaches, the same oil, lane machine, high ceilings and humidity level.

Our strategy for the practice session would be to treat it like it was our ACTUAL team event. We'd spend 10 minutes working to break the lanes down and then try to get lined up. We'd spend the hour watching the lanes transition and noting what ball does what, so we have an idea ahead of time what moves will be necessary. Since we have only two left-handers, this strategy is a little simpler than for the right-handers. Regardless, I know we'd leave the session comfortable with the environment and each other and ready to bowl.

After practicing, we'd head downtown to Schlitz and Giggles for a quick slice and then back to the hotel to relax.

EmptyLanes2012LARGESunday- It's game day, and we're well-rested and confident. We'd head downtown early, so we're not rushed. We bowl team at 2:30, and we know the scale room opens at 12:30. A lot happens back there, so we don't want to cut it close.

Before actually going into the venue, we'd walk over to the Belle of Baton Rouge, the host hotel and location for picking up brackets winning, and have a little breakfast, either at the buffet, or at Shucks on the Levee. There's also time to wander around the riverfront and enjoy the Louisiana sunshine before spending the day indoors.

After breakfast/brunch, we'd grab our gear and matching shirts and head into the River Center. Being there early means not waiting in line at the scale room, photo area or brackets window. The weigh-in usually is pretty quick and painless, and then there's the challenge of getting the whole team together for the mandatory team picture. Then, the extensive brackets menu can be intimidating, but it allows for a little extra excitement and the potential for some extra prize money. Since I did my homework prior to the trip, the transaction is easy.

Three games of team usually go by in a flash. All of the anticipation and butterflies and the excitement of walking down Center Aisle, no matter how many times you've done it, are over. Just like that, it's time to head up to the Information area to pick up the scoresheets and wait on brackets results (with fingers crossed). No matter what happens, though, we'd still get to celebrate our Pride Award because we all were dressed alike, and no one was wearing jeans. If nothing else, we felt like a team.

Just like the other 40+ teams on the squad, we're likely mulling over a missed spare or two (hopefully not) and counting the pins we left out there before heading off to a team dinner in our matching shirts. This time, Mike Anderson's Seafood is on the menu - another local favorite from 2005.

Since we have the early team event this year, there would be plenty of time to check out some of the local nightlife after dinner (no offense to my teammates, but I'd probably want to change my clothes first). With Baton Rouge being a college town, there a lot of fun establishments like The Chimes, Walk-Ons and Pluckers, where we can kick back.

There's no doubt much of the night would be spent thinking about doubles and singles and what to do differently.

Monday- Ahh, the day that Matt Weggen built. No matter what happens in the team event, doubles and singles day is a clean slate. In 2011, Weggen shot 636 in team and felt a little defeated. He returned the next day and became the first bowler to shoot back-to-back 800s en route to the Regular Singles and Regular All-Events titles.

Arriving at the venue early to see where people are playing on the pairs you'll be on is crucial. You only get four practice shots to get loose and lined-up, so any information you can gather is important. Another benefit of arriving early is beating the line at brackets and taking advantage of the stub lane in the squad room. Not only do you get to loosen up, you also get a souvenir picture. Win again.

Since there are only four bowlers on a pair for doubles and singles, those six games go by quickly. I try to take my time and concentrate completely on every shot. More importantly, I try to take it all in. The atmosphere is one-of-a-kind, and it will be a whole year before I get to experience it again.

At the completion of doubles and singles, we'd head upstairs to collect our scoresheets and awards (and hopefully an interview with Emil). My sights always are set on a certificate, medals and the ever-elusive 30-Clean Award. Then, it's time to check the brackets results and head over to the Belle to (hopefully) pick-up some winnings.

Because we bowl on the 11:40 a.m. doubles and singles squad, there's plenty of time to enjoy more of Baton Rouge before we leave Tuesday morning.

The 2-for-1 buffet coupon for the Hollywood Casino would easily determine our lunchtime destination. Then, we'd discuss the possibility of a return trip to the Bowlers Journal or something a little more laid back, like The Forty Frame Game at Circle Bowl.

Sadly, the reunion/bowling weekend goes too quickly, and before we know it, we're having our farewell dinner. Where, you ask? Back at the bowler-friendly TJ Ribs for one last #10 before heading back to the real world.

Tuesday- After one last trip to the River Center to ship the equipment home via BBE, I'd grab a few souvenirs at USBC's SportStore and possibly a few special items at the Ebonite booth.

And just like that, I'd be back at home checking the online leaderboards and low to cash numbers to see what kind of prize check to expect about 30-40 days after the conclusion of the tournament. In a perfect world, I'd be waiting to see if a congratulatory phone would be coming my way on July 10.

And that's how it would go if I were just a bowler.....

The goals for this year are simple and not unlike other years (besides trying to get within 400 pins of Matt McNiel):

Team- 3,000
Doubles (with Kim Terrell-Kearney)- 1,300
Singles- 725
All-Events- 1,900

Visit me on Facebook and let me know what your goals are! (Matt Cannizzaro-USBC)

That's the news for now. See you on the lanes.

April 21, 2012

Guest blog: Emil Williams Jr.

WilliamsEmil2010LARGEWhat's good, peeps?

For those of you who may not know me, allow me to re-introduce myself. My name is Emil Williams Jr., and I am the media relations specialist here at the 2012 USBC Open Championships. I work alongside Matt Cannizzaro, and I am happy to be back to assist him in getting the news to you from the Baton Rouge River Center. This is my third consecutive tournament working in the media office, and it will be my third consecutive tournament on the lanes.

Of course, with three consecutive appearances, I am well on my way to reaching the participation plateaus that many of you already own. I'd like to get a few plaques, and maybe one day, I'll join the 50-Year Club. I'll trust the 80-year-old Cannizzaro to present my award, take pictures, live stream it and write a story. That would be something. I enjoy hearing and writing about the plateau reachers, honor score shooters and lead takers.

Let me say, it has been a pleasure to be here with you as Baton Rouge certainly has rolled out the red carpet and welcome mats for our bowlers. Every day is an adventure at the Open Championships, and you never know what you're going to get. The good citizens of The Red Stick have been very gracious, and you should expect to be treated with the utmost respect and hospitality.

The 2012 event has brought about a sense of change for me. First, I am experiencing a different city as an employee and as a bowler. Baton Rouge has some considerable differences from Reno. The weather is different to start. It was much warmer here in January and February than I'm used to seeing, whether in Reno, or in my hometown of Chicago. I will get a taste of home in a couple of months as the temperatures start to rise and the humidity level skies.

The food is very distinct, and good, I might add. Louisiana is known for its Cajun flavor, and it shines through in every bite. I'm not a seafood connoisseur, so perhaps I am missing out on some of the best parts, but there are other dishes and restaurants that have certainly fulfilled my needs. T.J. Ribs is insanely good, and The Chimes is dynamite.

Next, the venue is one-of-a-kind, and I'm not just saying that because I work here. The National Bowling Stadium also is one-of-a-kind, with 78-lanes and five floors of greatness. It's something to see, plus the allure is still there, too. But, in my opinion, the River Center is hard to top. For my first convention-center setting, I don't think I could have picked a better one. From top to bottom, this place is legit. Please applaud the production crew.

WilliamsEmil2005LARGEWe've expanded our live stream schedule to 18 broadcasts. That means I get to do more of what I love, and I can get to share that joy with you. Believe it or not, I think we have even developed a fan base. Probably not, but allow me to enjoy my false sense of security.

I know bowlers tune into see who's bowling, how they are playing the lanes and to see if they can learn something before they come out. Matt and I are just there to entertain, and once or twice, inform you of something. Please let us know if we are doing that. Many of you have come up to me and said we're doing a great job... I guess I have to believe you.

Now, bear with me as I get personal on you. Just as I was set to assist with the unveiling of the venue to hundreds of eager bowlers and help usher in this year's event, I received a phone call early that morning that you just don't want to get. I was alerted that my father had passed away, and since that day, it has made my experience here more different than I ever could have imagined.

Nobody wants to receive that call, and who is really prepared for that. I'm actually surprised at the way I've handled it. It's been difficult and will continue to be difficult, but I know he's in a better place. I want to thank my friends and family for their support, along with the USBC staff. My father is no different than yours except for the fact that he is MY dad.

WilliamsJrandSrLARGEHe gave me the ball as a 5-year-old, providing me an early foundation, not only for the sport, but for life. As all parents are, he was very supportive. But, he could also tell that I really loved bowling. He knew I was serious about it, so he did all he could to help me. He bought equipment. He paid league fees. He came to tournaments. When I visited Lindenwood, he was there.

Just about anything I bowled that was at least in the state of Illinois, he was there. He was the first person I called when I shot my first 300. He was the first person I called when we won a national title. He was the first person I called when my I wasn't throwing it well. He was there for me when I wanted to quit. But, his proudest moment I'm sure was watching me graduate from college (twice). No doubt.

As you can see, we shared something quite special. He provided extra encouragement when I accepted this position in 2010 as well as the unknown that came with it. He made sure I got my you-know-what to Reno. He always wanted to listen to my sports broadcasts, just to hear me do what I love. Yep, Emil Williams Sr. was that guy. A tall, deep-voiced gentle giant, who loved anything his son did. I'll do my best to continue to make him proud, especially on the lanes. I would call him and tell him that my blog is online, but like always, he's already there. Love you dad.

Thank you all for reading, and remember to follow me on Twitter at or catch all of the behind-the-scenes Open Championships news on Facebook at Matt Cannizzaro - USBC.


April 8, 2012
CannizzaroLARGE2012Hello everyone.

Since 1999, I've had the opportunity to experience the USBC Open Championships in a variety of ways, and I now understand there are many reasons why people come to compete every year.

For some, it is about taking a vacation. Often, it is a reunion of sorts and a chance to see people you only see once a year. Many competitors come focused strictly on bowling and visit every side event in addition to bowling nine games at the Open Championships. Some come for the excitement and risk of entering brackets. Others are out to collect the participation plaques. A lot of bowlers aim for the low to cash numbers with the hope they'll be able to say they cashed here. Finally, there are some bowlers who would trade everything for an eagle.

Because I've gotten to interview bowlers of all ages and skill levels, I hear their stories and reasons, and it sometimes gets me thinking. Some bowlers will never be great, but they're dedicated. Some bowlers have the day of a lifetime and go down in history, and you never hear from them again. Some are always great. Of the superstars, many got off to a slow start here, and it took an "ah ha" moment or influential person to help things to click.

Why do I keep bowling in the Open Championships? What was my "ah ha" moment?

At some point in my career, I have experienced all of the feelings mentioned above, if not more than one at a time. Personally, I appreciate the people who do return to the tournament each year and thank them when I can, and I'd never judge their reasons for being here. We have a really great mix of people, and the goal is to have a good time and memorable experience, no matter what you achieve or how you measure success.

When I was 20 years old, there was the thrill of being a new USBC adult member and being at an event without parents or coaches. It was about the idea of getting rowdy with my teammates and not having to answer to anyone.

At another point, it was a free for all on the blackjack tables and brackets because I finally was 21 with a paying job and minimal responsibilities at home. Other years, it was the thrill of the road trip and everything that happened along the way, and bowling simply was the backdrop.

One year, I bought two new balls on-site and shot 703 in singles, and it felt awesome to perform on bowling's biggest stage. The next year, I checked my participation record and knew I was better than some of the scores on that paper. Clearly, I'd lost my focus.

Another time, I saw a giant printout of the previous year's Super Bracket on the squad room wall and realized someone won $10,000 for bowling scores I knew I was capable of. It was even someone I knew and had competed against, so it was even more real.

What followed was a couple of years of over-trying, which led to more disappointing scores. And then, it all finally clicked. Success can be measured by more than just money or trophies, and to make the most out of the Open Championships experience, you have to balance all of your reasons for being here and take the good with the bad.

In my current position here, most of the people I talk to are the new leaders, honor score shooters or past champions. It's the nature of the job, but it has lit a fire under me.

The following things and moments stand out in my mind and make me want to be better (I could go on for pages). I just want the chance to be that good for one day. I'd even take one set.

- talking to bowlers competing for the 50th, 60th time, etc.

- seeing the pride on the faces of the bowlers we announce in the squad room each day

- watching Dick Weber's team bowl with four bowlers in 2005, while leaving his name and eagle up in the fifth spot

- a heavy-hearted Wendy Macpherson shooting 812 to win Regular Singles on the second-to-last day of the tournament in 2006

- defending Regular All-Event champion Mike Rose Jr. shooting a huge final game to take the all-events lead again in 2008

- virtually unknown Ron Vokes shooting 857 and 2,321 in 2009, after not shooting over 1,923 before that (2009)

- the "experienced" Linds Limited fighting off a group of youngsters to claim the 2009 team title and then returning the following night to take Team All-Events, too

- Brenda Padilla overcome with emotion and crying on camera after setting the Regular Doubles record and following it up with a 300 game in singles because the Open Championships was such a huge part of her life and meant so much to her father (2009)

- the moment Matt McNiel finally realized he'd just broken the all-events record (2010)

- the roller coaster of emotions with Anthony Malone, who celebrated 60 years in 2009, but left the tournament with a career pinfall of 99,990 - seeing him reach 100,000 pins the next year was pretty memorable, too

- the doubles partners who have bowled together here for almost 40 years

- USBC Hall of Famer Jeff Richgels and his team taking the Regular Team lead with the highest score in tournament history after two mediocre games (by their standards, of course) (2011)

- reliving Bill Lillard's 65-year career for three hours while live streaming his D/S (2012)

- talking to John Gaines last week and seeing him try to describe what this tournament and winning an eagle means to him and when it all "clicked" for him - he clearly was choked up and at a loss for words

Not all of the moments I mentioned are about high scores or big pay days. They're about passion, commitment and emotions.

Each year, more than 60,000 bowlers take to the tournament lanes. At most, only 23 will be able to call themselves champions when it's all over. My advice to the rest: even if you don't claim a title, do your best, and do it with passion, and you can consider yourself a winner, too.

Why do you come to the Open Championships every year?

What was your "ah ha" moment that made you want to come back or do even better next year?

Visit me on Facebook and let me know! (Matt Cannizzaro-USBC)

That's the news for now. See you on the lanes.


March 31, 2012

Hello everyone.

It's time for the riveting conclusion of the two-part series about how I got here. Luckily, it's not a 33-year recap of the life and times of Matt Cannizzaro, but a simple explanation of how I went from small-town Florida to bowling's biggest stage.

Picture this - Gainesville, Fla., 1997. I arrived at the University of Florida knowing I was basically only good at two things - bowling and writing - though many may debate even that. Regardless (or irregardless, as some might say), my career path was simple and set from the day I arrived on campus.

Since winning my first essay contest in third grade, my goal was to either be a bowler or a sportswriter. And ultimately, if I couldn't bowl, I wanted to write about it. How 'bout that?

I spent four years enjoying the college life of school, fast food, the occasional beverage (in case my parents are reading this), minimal actual work, and, of course, collegiate bowling. Though they were some of the best times of my life, I didn't realize just how unprepared I was for the real world.

Shortly before graduation, I was taking a class about the history of media, and I wrote a paper about the history of bowling in the local media. During my research, I was in contact with the recreation editor at the Gainesville Sun, which set in motion a whirlwind of events that would lead me to my current position.

My few conversations with Dave Reardon, the recreation guy mentioned above, led to an opportunity to write a feature story for the paper. Surprisingly, despite being a reporting major at a top university, it ended up being my first ACTUAL news story that wasn't just for class or about bowling for the local bowling newspaper.

Heading into my last semester, I was notified that I would need to complete a one-semester internship before graduating. Thanks for the heads up. Anyway, I somehow parlayed my one boxing feature story into the internship I needed, thus beginning my REAL journalism education, courtesy of the fine staff at the Gainesville Sun. Many thanks to Arnold Feliciano (sports editor), John Patton (high school sports editor), Ken Bradley (deputy sports editor), Florida football writer Robbie Andreu and many more.

It wasn't until my first high school basketball assignment that I realized how little I actually knew about how to write a newspaper game story (and if you ask Lucas, I still haven't figured it out), but I think I got the hang of it.

Somehow, I managed to turn the internship into four more years of on-the-job training, and I owe everything to those guys for teaching me the ropes. I learned about agate, round-ups, box scores, gamers, features, press boxes, scoreboard pages, high school statistics and all-area teams as well as cross country, tennis, wrestling, swimming, diving, track, weightlifting, soccer, softball, basketball, gymnastics, football, baseball, boxing, karate, drag racing....everything but bowling.

During that four-year stint, which paid more in knowledge than cold cash, I also worked at YMCA Camp McConnell in nearby Micanopy, Fla., as a counselor, cook, lifeguard, tractor driver, head counselor, lifeguard instructor and more. But bowling wasn't far from my mind. I spent nights helping coach the University of Florida bowling team and weekends chasing my dream by bowling in Professional Bowlers Association regional events.

Everything seemed to be going well, and I even pursued a staff contract with Ebonite. Even though it wasn't possible at the time, I got to know Ebonite DSM John Gaines, and more doors started to open.

And now, the reason you're all reading this....

In late 2004, I got a random email from Lucas Wiseman. I had never met him. I'd never even heard of him. But, he heard about me from one of his old bowling coaches, whom I knew from youth events around Florida. It's actually a smaller world than that, though.

Not long before, I had interviewed for a job at the Leesburg Daily Commercial. I talked to Lucas' coach, Dave Driscoll, about the Leesburg area. As I found out later, that is the newspaper where Lucas got his start in the business. My editors at the Sun also knew of Lucas because he also ran a popular sports website at the time.

Anyway, he was writing to ask if I'd be interested in working for USBC and spending six months at the USBC Open Championships. By that time, I'd competed in the tournament six times and needed all of 10 seconds to get my resume and writing samples into the mail.

A month later, after a successful visit to USBC HQ in Greendale, Wis., I was packing my bags for the 2005 tournament in Baton Rouge, La. One of the first people I called about my new job was Gaines because I knew how much the tournament meant to him (he has three titles), and I wanted to thank him for his help and support while I was chasing my PBA dream.

Just like my start here as a bowler, I didn't know much about working at the tournament and was recruited. As I said before, word of mouth is our best marketing tool.

I worked on-site with Lucas for one year before it was determined he would stay at HQ full-time. Just like that, I went from organizing high school stats at the newspaper to being the media relations manager at the world's largest participatory sporting event.

Oh, and as soon as I moved north, Gaines called his fellow Ebonite DSM in the Midwest, David Bartlett, and recommended me for the staff position I always wanted. Not only did I work for the governing body of bowling, I also got to represent what I feel is the most complete and thorough bowling ball company around.

All of the decisions I'd made since leaving for college in 1997, good or bad, led me to where I am right now. I am in my eighth year at a job that is full of excitement, surprises and opportunities to meet so many great bowlers I've always looked up to. I get to bowl AND write about bowling. I've been an Ebonite staffer since 2005 and a member of VISE staff since 2009.

I get to walk down Center Aisle every day, and I still get the same goose bumps I did when I made my first march as a bowler in 1999. I am proud to be a member of the team that helps this event continue to evolve. I am excited to tell the stories from the lanes.

Our responsibilities also have evolved considerably since 2005, and every day is an adventure. In my own little 100,000-square-foot world (or just in my own mind), I feel like a celebrity, and I wouldn't give it up for anything.

Thanks for reading, and thank you to everyone who sends emails or stops by to say hello.

That's the news for now. See you on the lanes.

CannizzaroTractorLARGE  Cannizzaro2005LARGE

March 24, 2012

Hello everyone.

This week at the USBC Open Championships in Baton Rouge, La., has been one for reflection.

My office at the Baton Rouge River Center is located between the tournament lanes and the new arena next door. If I stand up at my desk, I can look out over the 48 lanes of tournament competition. If I walk out the door of my office, I am able to see the lines of people waiting to get into the various events at the arena.

So how is this all relevant?

Well, earlier in the week, we celebrated USBC Hall of Famer Bill Lillard Sr.'s 65th tournament appearance. Emil and I reminisced with Bill and his wife Dorothy and realized just how many stories gentlemen like Lillard have to share about their careers and all of their travels to the Open Championships. Sometimes, just getting to the tournament made for an interesting story.

He said that when he made his debut in 1948, he and his teammates piled into a single car, along with their luggage and six bowling balls. That's six bowling balls total - one per person.

Car1942LARGEI recently talked to a bowler who drove to Baton Rouge with his wife. They were nice enough to bring all of the equipment for his team, since they were driving. It was 48 bowling balls!

My point here is that this all gave me so much more respect for Lillard and what he's accomplished. It must have been a struggle to get to some of the far away tournaments because of transportation limitations and life commitments, but he's shown up every single year since 1948.

On top of that, he owns eight titles at the Open Championships, including four in 1956, and has maintained a 199 average for 65 years. That's unbelievable. I have struggled to average 197 for my 13 years, and I'm allowed to bring eight balls just for me.

Another gentleman who helped me appreciate my health and opportunities a little bit more was Sylvester Thiel, who was in town to compete for the 67th time.

Thiel is 89 years old and needs just four more tournaments to tie the event's participation record of 71 years, which is shared by USBC Hall of Famer Joe Norris and Bill Doehrman.

Leaderboard1948LARGEThiel and Lillard were oozing with dedication and pride, and both spoke fondly of tournaments and bowlers past. They also mentioned being a little ashamed of their performances, especially since I'm sure they'd prefer to be remembered for what they accomplished when they were at their best. But, thanks to the support of their friends and families, they keep returning to the tournament. And, we're glad to have them.

On that note, talking to Thiel and Lillard made me start thinking about my own bowling career. I started wondering what I would be like at 85 years old. How would I feel on the lanes? How would I feel about the changes to USBC and the Open Championships between now and 2064? Will I be as dedicated to keeping my consecutive participation in tact? Will I go regardless of changes in my personal, professional and family life? Will I ever come close to winning ONE eagle, let alone eight? Will I have the support system they have? Will I even be able to bowl at 85? Will I want to?

I know this may seem excessive, but who doesn't wonder what life will be like? Who doesn't set goals to strive for?

And while Lillard and Thiel were doing work on the championship lanes, the hallway outside my office was filled with children and their parents and teachers. They were here for Sesame Street Live. That, of course, had me thinking about the opposite end of the spectrum, when things were so simple, and the possibilities for the future were endless.

It seems like forever ago that I was one of those youngsters standing in line waiting to enjoy a live performance of The Magic Garden, or outside of Toys 'R' Us waiting for the next delivery of Cabbage Patch Kids. I rode my Big Wheel up and down the sidewalk and waited for the ice cream man. I saw E.T. in the theater. I watched the Mets win the World Series and had warm hands while making snowballs thanks to my Freaky Freezies. I was sipping on Berry Blue Kool-Aid and trading Garbage Pail Kids. Not long after, the Reebok Pump was the next big thing, and we went to school wearing Z. Cavaricci pants and Bart Simpson T-shirts.

When it was time to bowl league, I wasn't wearing a USBC Youth jersey. I was either wearing a baseball uniform or a Boy Scout uniform. We were busy with all kinds of activities on Saturday mornings, but refused to miss bowling. We went home after league and watched bowling on TV.

We each had one ball, which we carried in a one-ball bag. Bags didn't have wheels back then. Sometimes, we even bowled after school, not because we had league or high school bowling, but because we loved it. We had bowling birthday parties, too.

We were still years away from Junior Gold or the USBC Youth Open even existing. There weren't any scholarship tournaments in the area. We bowled for pride and the occasional trophy. One of the best parts of the year was the all-night, end-of-season bowling party, which started at midnight and lasted until the sun came up.

There was something about this week that made me think about those innocent days and where I hope to be in 50 years all at the same time.

When I threw my Columbia Little Dot down the lane for the first time in 1987, did I think about earning great riches as a bowler? No. Did I realize then that I'd progress and earn enough money to pay for my college education? Hardly. Did I think I'd someday be a member of the Professional Bowlers Association and bowl against some of the guys I watched on TV? Nope. Did I have any idea how prestigious it was to win an eagle at the Open Championships? No.

I bowled because it was fun, and it was something I could do with my friends and family. I kept doing it for the same reasons, not for the fame or riches, and certainly not with the idea of celebrating my own 65 years of participation at the Open Championships. We lived in the moment.

I like to think that it was the same passion that drew Lillard and Thiel to the lanes, and it's the same passion that keeps them coming back well past their primes. I doubt they pictured their ceremonial marches down Center Aisle when they made their tournament debuts in 1948 and 1940, respectively. Actually, we didn't even have a Center Aisle until 1954!

I guess my point after all that is that everything starts innocently with a blank slate, and we let our passion guide us. Yes, there may be millions of changes of direction and surprises along the way, and you will experience many triumphs that can be measured in money and accolades, but that's all part of the adventure and unknown.

At the end of the day, though, if you still have that same innocence and passion, and you're surrounded by people who have been inspired by that passion, you're a success, no matter how many eagles are in your trophy case.

Lillard and Thiel don't come because they're going to win a lot of money or an eagle. They come because they love it. Please, let me be THAT guy in 2064.

Check out Lillard's 65th appearance: Watch now

That's the news for now. See you on the lanes.

Team1950LARGE FoulJudgeLARGE 

March 18, 2012

Hello everyone.

People often ask me how I got here. Not like a curious 6-year-old questioning how life works, of course, but in a way that really makes me appreciate the opportunity I have to be a part of the USBC Open Championships.

The answer to this question is two-fold, but I will try to be as brief as possible. Perhaps, I'll make this a two-parter. Part I will explain how I got here as a competitor, and Part II will explain my role as the media relations manager.

First, my arrival here as a bowler was pretty cliche. My coach at the University of Florida was a long-time Open Championships participant, and like many team captains, he often ended up with an opening on his team when someone decided not to come. With a roster that was at least 15 players deep, Coach Paiva always had a crop of eager newbies to choose from.

I started the 1997-98 bowling season as a youth bowler and was at home when my roommate returned from his first trip to the Open Championships with Paiva and his group of Gainesville locals and former UF team members. I felt pretty left out, so I told them that no matter what, I wanted to go with them the following year.

A year later, we packed Paiva's Honda Accord and headed north from Gainesville to Syracuse. We stopped briefly in Dublin, Ga., for dinner and a nap and picked up another former player, whom we affectionately referred to as The Nut.

Even though I still was new to college bowling, I knew enough to realize these trips were about more than just bowling, and the adventure began the minute you pulled out of the driveway.

The fact that I was only 20 years old made my Open Championships debut even more memorable, but unfortunately, based on the nature of some of the things that happened during that trip, I'll have to leave the details out. Just know that it was one of the most memorable of my 13 tournament appearances. And that does not include packing the car immediately after singles and driving 19 straight hours back to Florida. If you'd like to stop by my office, I'd be happy to reminisce with you.

It only took one march down Center Aisle and a 624 series in my first team event for me to be hooked. I'd always appreciated the sport of bowling because it came naturally to me and was something I could do with my family where age and skill level were irrelevant. As I got older, I enjoyed the competition and realized I was too fat, too short and too slow to find success in Major League Baseball, which made bowling an obvious fallback.

Minutes after walking into Syracuse's Oncenter Convention Center, it was clear that I'd found bowling's biggest stage, and I was proud to be a part of it.

My performance in 1999 was a roller coaster, but the overall experience was unforgettable. Those guys took me under their wings and showed me why people want to do this for 50+ years. And while a lot of the faces have changed over the years, a couple of them still are part of our group, which has expanded to three teams.

Each year since has brought a vault of memorable moments, and many times along the way, I've had the chance to watch other bowlers walk down Center Aisle for the first time in awe of the high ceilings, bright lights and one-of-a-kind scoreboards.

I've competed in eight cities in seven states (Syracuse, N.Y.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Reno, Nev.; Billings, Mont., Knoxville, Tenn.; Baton Rouge, La.; Corpus Christi, Texas; Las Vegas), and this will be my 14th consecutive tournament. Each year is unique, even if it's in a repeat city, and so much of the experience is about the people you're with, many of whom you only see for those few days each year, and the times you share on and off the lanes.

Sure, I've bowled well at times and earned some prize money, but I've also had abysmal performances that forever will be blemishes on my record. The money comes and goes, but so many of the stories are as vivid as if they just happened. And as the years pass, I may not have an orange eagle next to my name on the scoreboard, but I guarantee I'll be proud to celebrate 25 years of participation....and so on.

Now that I work at the Open Championships, I get to see the results of the surveys we send out. One of the top answers first-timers give as to why they didn't compete before simply is that no one asked. Another answer is that they didn't even know there was a national tournament.

Thanks to technology and the Internet, we're now able to get the word out about the Open Championships, but our No. 1 marketing tool still is word of mouth. Even if they know about the tournament, individuals are more likely to join an established group as a substitute before they'd ever put together a team on their own.

Not surprisingly, when I interview many of our 50-year bowlers, it turns out their tournament careers began as substitutes when the event traveled to their home cities or states. Then, they walked down Center Aisle once and were hooked. Sound familiar?

It's simply the circle of life at the Open Championships.

As a tournament veteran, I have taken on the responsibility of being a team captain. In a perfect world, I'd be able to field two stacked teams of talented and dedicated bowlers who will pay me a year in advance to lock in our dates and times and show up every single year without fail.

Unfortunately, things come up. We've turned to the sub board on a few occasions, but with enough advance notice, a missing bowler means an opportunity to introduce the tournament to someone new and start the process all over. Actually, just last week, two of my guys bailed on this year's tournament, so we have less than two months to fill those spots. Anyone out there want to volunteer?

Now that I've rambled on for two pages, I really will have to wait until next time to tell the story of how I landed the job of a lifetime. It's been an amazing ride and really changed my outlook on the tournament and what it means to succeed here. Stay tuned.

That's the news for now. See you on the lanes.


March 11, 2012

Hello everyone.

Well, it's happening. Maybe it's the pollen in the air and allergy season in Louisiana, but I'm itchin'...itching to bowl that is, ha!

I've been in the tournament venue all but one day since Feb. 7. I watched 240 wide-eyed youth bowlers walk down Center Aisle and take in the USBC Open Championships experience for the first time as they competed in a special scholarship event.

I stood in my office that overlooks the lanes and saw hundreds of Special Olympics bowlers go for the gold.

I watched 43 teams of varsity high school bowlers take on the Sport-certified Open Championships lane condition.

I've seen 29 of 30 days of competition at the 2012 Open Championships, which includes numerous lead changes and two perfect games.

I was one of many onlookers when a group of 10 former and current collegiate bowlers shared a moment that most teams dream about as they took over the top two spots in Regular Team at the Baton Rouge River Center.

I've seen some great bowlers make this year's lane condition look ridiculously hard. I've also seen some bowlers make it look like they were bowling on the house condition at AMF Showplace Lanes in Euless, Texas, where I shot 2,248 for nine games at a tournament in the fall and felt pretty awesome.

Every day, when I walk to my office or back to the parking garage, I see the four Showcase Lanes full of bowlers practicing on the same conditions we'll face on the main tournament lanes.

Every day, I get a call or email or Facebook message from a friend who wants to know where to play or what kind of equipment to get. That, of course, gets me thinking about my own arsenal and what I plan to have in my bag when I bowl in my 14th consecutive Open Championships on May 6.

I interview many of the bowlers who bowl well here, and it makes me want to be that good for just one day. Then, I get emails from the bowlers who don't bowl well here, and I think about how I can be more prepared than they appear to have been when it was their turn.

When I am on headset and behind the cameras for a live stream broadcast with Emil Williams Jr., I am constantly thinking about my personal strategy for this year and how my team will be attacking the lanes. Often, we talk through some of those ideas. This will be, by far, the strongest group of 10 bowlers I've ever bowled with here, and it's getting increasingly harder to just be in the back watching. I'm ready to bowl.

So far this week, I've drilled two new balls (Ebonite Pursuit and Pursuit S) to go along with the six balls I brought with me from Texas (two Ebonite Gamebreakers, Ebonite Warning Sign, Ebonite Mission X, Ebonite Vital Sign and Ebonite Boom). I've also got one on the way from Texas (thanks, Erik Vermilyea) that I feel might give me the look I need here (Ebonite The One Pearl), but I'm excited to put them all to the test and get some games in.

With Wednesday (my "day off") quickly approaching, I am considering spending some time at the Storm Bowlers Journal Championships with my teammate Jeff Jensen. I hear the condition there is challenging and would be a good gauge of how much work I need to put in between now and May. We also have the start of our employee bowling league that night at the same center, Metro Bowl.

I'm sure the days will continue to fly by as they have been, and it will be time for our team practice session on the Showcase Lanes before I know it.

Until then, I'll continue to enjoy what each day here brings. Today, that meant a visit from former PBA standout Curtis Odom, who just wanted to say hello after he bowled. It continues to amaze me how the people I looked up to, and still do in many cases, seek me out when they're here. It's humbling. Thanks for the visit, Mr. Odom, and congrats on another 1,900+. Now, I have a number to shoot for (if I can't shoot 2,171, of course).

That's the news for now. See you on the lanes.

March 3, 2012

Hello everyone.

It really is unbelievable how quickly the time flies during the USBC Open Championships. I feel like we just crossed the border into Louisiana and moved into our apartment. Yet, here it is March 3 already, and we have a full schedule from here on out.

We've had a pretty exciting 10 days in Baton Rouge. First, I celebrated my 33rd birthday without incident or pictures, I teamed with a co-worker to easily devour a burger weighing in at more than five pounds and I got Emil back in the office after a short trip home to Chicago. And that's all in addition to what we've seen on the lanes (some great scores and our first 300, shot by a friend from Texas, Ryan Whitney).

Now that our days are full, I get to welcome back all of the Open Championships friends I've made since starting this journey in 2005. No matter how busy or bad a day may seem, it's always nice to walk out of my office and see a familiar face, whether it be someone from my past as a bowler, someone I wrote about or someone who just appreciates our efforts here. Those experiences make any day better.

On March 1, Emil and I did our first official live stream broadcast of the year. I would say we were at about 90 percent as far as our commentary and banter and about 80 percent as far as getting set-up quickly and having everything run smoothly for the entire broadcast. I'm sure we'll have no problem shaking off the rust and working out the kinks with our new equipment and venue. Overall, we had a good time, and I've heard many good reviews about the show and the bowlers we selected. If you missed the broadcast, you can watch it here.

Without aging anyone too much, it was cool for me to be able to watch Adam Colton and his teammates because many of them have influenced my personal bowling career. When I was a youth bowler in South Florida, I got my equipment drilled at Colton's pro shop. I shot my first 300 and 800 with a ball from that shop (Jade Piranha), which coincidentally, came against Paul Koehler in an adult/youth doubles event.

I also worked my way through high school in the snack bar at my local center, where Rick Sajek bowled league, and Adam Colton won his seventh PBA regional title in 1995. When I decided to embark on my own PBA regional career in 2003, Steve Wilson still bowled regularly, and we crossed together once or twice.

Finally, Mark Booke, who shot 298 during team in 2010, has been a big influence in my brother's life, helping to keep him out of trouble and employed. Mark continues to see the potential in him and genuinely cares about his well-being. For that, I am grateful.

And while I am not as personally attached to all 60,000 bowlers, I enjoy the fact that every day here is a reunion in some way or a chance to meet new people. In just the last three days, I talked to a young lady whose husband I wrote about in 2005, I got a visit from my good buddy Dan Stricker (who took advantage of our new VIP program) and two people I'd never met stopped by just to say hello and let me know they enjoy reading my stories.

Other highlights from this year, in no particular order, include:

- A random visit from Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden just to say hello

- An email from the owner of TJ Ribs after he read my first blog of the year

- LSU head football coach Les Miles and his family hanging out at Center Desk

- USBC helping to raise more than $30,000 for the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank

- Getting the opportunity to speak to a local sales and marketing group

- A visit from movie producer Jeff Dowd, the person who influenced the character, The Dude, from The Big Lebowski

And it's only March.

Here's to an exciting and eventful four months.

That's the news for now. See you on the lanes.

February 24, 2012

Hello everyone.

Greetings from the Pelican State.

We've been here about a month now, and we're finally starting to settle in. The first few weeks were spent finishing the venue, setting up the office and procedures and reminding the local media what we're all about.

The responses from the media and community have been amazing. Everyone is curious about the tournament and the bowlers and what the USBC Open Championships means to Baton Rouge. Many remember us from 2005, and the red carpet definitely has been rolled out for the bowlers and staff.

I enjoy the chance to spread the word about the tournament and even got to make a formal speaking appearance to a group of local sales and marketing folks. It's all part of the job, and I'd choose this over a cubicle 100 percent of the time.

CannizzaroWilliamsLARGE2012The tournament officially kicked off Feb. 11, but our days have been a little shorter early on, which has been a nice opportunity to ease into things and make sure we're ready for the rest of 151-day ride. We've had the chance to work with the new, get our live stream schedule set and plan for some of our notable bowlers. Things won't be this peaceful for long, though, as we'll be at full schedule beginning the first week of March.

So far, I've heard from a lot of people who are headed this way between now and July, and I'm looking forward to every day being a reunion. With that said, I don't have much more time to get familiar with the new hotspots around town or get re-acquainted with the old ones from 2005 before people start rolling in. Aside from being a top-notch media relations manager, I also want to be a good host.

As is a common theme in my life and previous blogs, I like to share information about what I do in my limited free time. Since we choose to work long days writing stories, answering questions and live streaming, we don't make time to do much besides eat dinner and go to sleep. There will be plenty of time for relaxing in July.

But for those of you headed our way, be sure to check out the following things:

- The folks at LSU have been very gracious and will be giving bowlers unbelievable admission prices to LSU sporting events from as little as $1 to $5 if they show their USBC cards. If you're a sports fan, set aside some time for high-caliber collegiate athletics...even if the best the Tigers could ever be is the second-best team in the SEC (Go Gators!).
- If you'd prefer to make your trip to Baton Rouge entirely about bowling, please take advantage of the new Showcase Lanes located on the second floor of the Baton Rouge River Center. You can bowl on the exact same lane surface and condition you'll face at the Open Championships. You can get tips from USBC Silver coach Bill Hall  or just practice with your teammates. Many bowlers already have found success on the championship lanes after a session upstairs, but times are filling up. Make your reservation now.

In addition to practice, there are also a number of side events around town that will give you a chance to loosen up, get sharp and perhaps win some additional prize money.
And now for my favorite question to answer, "Where should I eat when I'm in Baton Rouge?"
- For traditional Louisiana fare: Parrain's Seafood Restaurant (I recommend the black and bleu tuna); Drusilla Seafood Restaurant (I recommend the raw oysters and all-you-can-eat catfish); Juban's; Mike Anderson's Seafood (the Baton Rouge location is temporarily closed, but there's another one in Gonzales, La.).

- For barbeque: There is nothing like T.J. Ribs. If I could eat there every day, I would be OK with that.

- For sushi: Nagoya Japanese Seafood Buffet or Sushi Masa

- For pizza: Schlitz and Giggles (walking distance to the venue and good enough for this New York-born eater); I've also been told that Pastimes Restaurant has good pizza and isn't too far from the River Center.

- For burgers: Frostop (across the street from the River Center- I recommend the burger and fries lunch special, and don't forget to try the root beer); Cheeburger Cheeburger (yes, I know it's a chain, but it's awfully good); The Londoner (offers more than 100 beers and boasts big, delicious burgers. There's also a coupon in the bowler coupon book).

- For wings: Hard to argue about the all-time greats. There are a number of Hooters, Buffalo Wild Wings and Pluckers locations that will satisfy your wing needs. From my personal research, Hooters has all-you-can eat wings on Tuesdays, Pluckers has AYCE boneless wings on Thursdays and BWW has 45-cent wings or 55-cent boneless wings at least three days each week.

- For something nearby: As mentioned, Schlitz and Giggles is a short walk for great food. There's also Shucks on the Levee, Jobe's Cafe, Lucy's Retired Surfers Bar and Restaurant, Subway and many more options just a few blocks from the River Center. Downtown Baton Rouge really looks great!

- For drinks, appetizers and more: I am a big fan of The Chimes. Although I don't drink much beer, the selection is vast. I do, however, recommend the blackened alligator and seafood lasagna. Outstanding, and only a few miles from downtown.

- For bowling: Metro Bowl (home of the Bowlers Journal Championships); Circle Bowl (home of The Forty Frame Game); All-Star Lanes Baton Rouge.

- For shopping: Mall of Louisiana or the Tanger Outlets in Gonzales

- For gambling: Check out the Belle of Baton Rouge, right next door. This also is where all same-day brackets winnings will be paid out. Then, there's the Hollywood Casino nearby, too.

- For adventure: Take advantage of the great weather and play golf, go on a swamp tour, tour a plantation, visit a museum or gallery or check out the USS Kidd and Veterans Memorial.

BatonRougeLARGEDespite spending about seven months of my time here in 2005, there's still a lot I'd like to see and do. If you have any suggestions or stories of your own personal adventures, feel free to share on my Facebook page, Matt Cannizzaro - USBC

For now, I guess I'll head back to work. We've got 48 lanes going and a squad room full of bowlers waiting to bowl their team event.

We've got a lot on the schedule for the coming months, so be sure to check often for scores, news, pictures, videos, live streaming, webcams and much more!

That's the news for now. See you on the lanes.