Matt Mooney | Monday, February 21, 2005
A champion’s death came and went last week with paltry coverage and little fanfare. A native son of Indiana, Dick Weber (pronounced “webber”) passed away at the age of 75.Dick Weber was a bowler. Please don’t stop reading, I promise this is going somewhere. I agree that “bowler” and “athlete” are not synonymous. Any competition which derives its competitive advantage from alcohol consumption (see billiards, beiruit or golf), while making for one helluva game, should not qualify as a sport. But the distinction of “athlete” in no way removes the honor associated with successful gamesmanship in any of these contests. Thus, it is with the same deep respect that Weber should receive his due accord.To say he was “a bowler” and not “the bowler” would be to do him an injustice. Weber’s charisma and reign as one of the top bowlers in the 1960’s turned him into one of the game’s greatest ambassadors. One could argue that his legacy has kept the game’s pulse from flat-lining in an age that craves and demands instant entertainment.Granted, a few short weeks ago, my only reasons for knowing or caring about Weber’s life and legacy would be to start conversation in a nursing home or to have a word that rhymes with “ebber” (as in “happily ebber after”). Perhaps it was his spirit that subconsciously infused itself in seven friends and me to join the Fun League at Beacon Bowl. I will admit that our methods of pre-gaming before the traditional Tuesday trek to Corby’s are rather unconventional, but bowling has something else to offer. One of the main reasons my friends and I took up this increasingly addictive hobby was to spend the last semester of our senior year celebrating something unique to the Notre Dame experience: townies.The best part is that the townies are about as diverse as you can get, and that is the legacy of Dick Weber. Outside of the bowling alley, Weber was just another Richard, an ordinary guy. He was not an extraordinary physical specimen by any means. The complete lack of “gifts” or “talent” required to participate draws a wide demographic to the lanes creating the perfect game for Everyman.And Everyman comes out to bowl. As I have witnessed in a few short weeks in the league, bowling is the great equalizer. Nowhere else can the seventy-something old lady with the 12-inch forearm take out the 6-foot-5 alpha male without breaking a sweat. Even the most focused, upper-class student will drop a gutter ball when his peripheral vision catches the fat guy with the mullet whose low-slung jean shorts leave very little to the imagination.I do not profess to be a “good bowler” by any stretch, and thanks to the legacy of Dick Weber, I don’t have to be. Who knows, with any luck, by the end of the season I just might win back the $40 that some twerp fifth grader hustled off me last week.