ESPN 30 for 30 Shorts: The Bad Boy of Bowling (2016)

Directed by Bryan Storkel

It seems ironic that this should be the short film ESPN releases as a part of their 30 for 30 series this week, since I have just recently failed to defend my title as office bowling champion. After winning last year with a score of 177, I finished T-3rd this year with 179. Bowling has not been a sport I have focused a lot of time on, either recreationally or in terms of following the PBA. There was a time, however, when the sport of bowling seemed to dominate, or at least have a much higher profile in the fabric of American sports than it hold today. Airing weekly on ABCs Wide World of Sports, the PBA was led by the legend of bowling, Dick Weber. So it should serve that the resurgence of the sport at the turn of the millennium was led by his son, Pete Weber.

Pete Weber was not as clean cut as Dick, having been suspended multiple times by the PBA for his conduct. But in an effort to increase ratings, the new PBA chief encouraged Weber’s antics, earning him the title of “Bad Boy of Bowling”. In his documentary, Bryan Storkel does not focus simply on Weber’s unique style of play, but he also delves into his relationship with his father, uncovering a delicate and special relationship between two men, playing the same sport, sharing the same blood, but appearing as coming from two entirely different worlds. The interviews with Pete seem to bridge that gap between worlds, painting Weber as the type of person who may do outlandish things on the lanes, but who deep down wants the same things as his father did.

The Weber’s combine to make an argument for most successful father/son duo in professional sports history, though I am sure there are plenty of other nominees. Their drive to success was the same, even if their path to get there was quite different. It was fascinating to hear Pete talk about the pressures of breaking onto the PBA Tour, the son of a legend. Of the latest bunch of shorts released by ESPN, this is likely the best thus far. However, I cannot help but feel the series growing stale, failing to make any kind of splash, or release a film which delivers a wow factor like we haven’t seen for a while in the series. Solid stories make for interesting views, but I am hoping the series can deliver a stunner at some point in the near future.

**1/2 – Average

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