ESPN surely didn't know it, but they gave me a pretty nice surprise birthday gift this week.
I turned 51 on Sunday, and guess what day was the season debut of pro bowling on the cable network? Sunday, of course.
I hadn't even thought about the pros for many months. Then on Friday, I was on the phone with Pat Gingras of Republic Memorials, who I bowl with in two leagues. I had one of the ESPN channels on with the sound muted, and when I walked into my living room during our conversation, what do I see but someone throwing a bowling ball and a closeup of a rack of pins falling for a strike.
I just blurted out, interrupting Pat, "What the heck is this?" Or let's just say that's me paraphrasing myself.
So fast forward to Sunday, when I sat at rapt attention for two hours. Hope you did, too, if you like to watch the pros.
The only sad part was hearing about the death of pro Tony Reyes, who died in a traffic accident in September. He was only 38. But the tribute during the show was nice, and from what little I knew of him (I've seen him at a couple pro tournaments I've attended in person), he was a quality guy just like they said.
He made TV a number of times, winning a national title in 2006 in Detroit when he bowled a perfect 300, the 18th in Professional Bowlers Tour history on TV.
I also checked out the PBA website, www.pba.com, and found the TV schedule for the tour.
It'll be on TV every Sunday from now through the first week of March, take two weekends off (for college basketball tournaments, I think), then resume for three more Sundays through April 7.
Each show is at 1 p.m. through Jan. 13, and after that start times bounce all over from noon to 4 p.m.
From what I can tell, only two shows will be live - the USBC Masters on Feb. 24 and Tournament of Champions on March 31 - but you should be safe browsing the main pages of the PBA website, since they don't give away results of shows not televised yet.
Be warned, however, if you dig around too deeply on the site, you'll eventually stumble upon "spoilers" giving away results. I already found out that every TV show from now through mid-January was bowled on Nov. 11 in Las Vegas as part of the World Series of Bowling.
Now on to the Mining Journal Bowlers of the Week. Or in this case, Bowlers of the Three Weeks, since I'm playing catchup today.
We'll open with Thanksgiving week, since the top performances came then.
For the men, Wayne Charbonneau shot 176 pins over his 165 average with 671 in the Monday Northern Electric Automotive Industrial League at Country Lanes. He had games of 182, 221 and 268, the final game a 100-over "century" patch winner, too.
Next was Jeff Wood Jr. at plus-162 in the Tuesday Miller Genuine Draft Major League at Country. He pummeled his 130 average with a 552 set that included a 203 game.
That relegated perfect-game bowler Tom Auston to third place that week. Bowling in the Wednesday Superior Iron Range Federal Credit Union League, again at Country, Auston was 160 over his 179 mean with 697, including the 300 closer.
Another four guys were right around plus-140 that week, too.
For the women, Hannah Aho of the Monday Northern Michigan University class at Superior Lanes was 117 pins over her 97 average with 408, including a 153.
Then came Linda Leivo of the Wednesday Country Trio, who shot 103 over her 117 average with 454, including 162.
For the final week of November, Joe Duckworth Sr. was 152 over his 175 average with 677 in the MGD Major, which included a century game of 275.
Mark Ketchum of the NEA Industrial at Country was next at plus-146 from his 162 average with 632.
For the women, Ruth Isola in the Thursday Coors Light Ladies League at Country was 109 over her 135 mean with 514 including a 187 game.
And last week, Andy Goldsworthy in the MGD Major was 162 over his 195 average with 747 on games of 247, 263 and 237.
For the women, the top two performances came from the Tuesday Night Mixed at Superior. Maria Virch was plus-113 from her 174 mean with 635, including a 226, while Kathy Parent hit 108 over her 160 average with 588 including 210.
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.