View Full Version : Shafer continues to make mark on PBA Tour

10-15-2008, 02:44 AM
Ryan Shafer, 42, who lives in Horseheads with his wife, Michelle, is getting set for his 22nd full season on the Professional Bowlers Association Tour. He has four career tournament titles, 42 career PBA 300 games, and has earned more than $1.2 million on tour. Last season he made the TV finals three times and earned $78,810. Pat Moffe, the Star-Gazette's bowling columnist, interviewed Shafer recently.

Q: What is new on the horizon for the 2008-2009 season?

A: The PBA has a bunch of new formats outlined for the new season. The idea is to celebrate our 50th season by helping educate our fans to the difficulty of our sport. I personally think there are some logistical problems with some of the schemes. In fact, if you ask me, a few of the ideas are tantamount to NASCAR letting deer loose on the track. I believe there are better ways to educate the fans. But I do appreciate the PBA's newfound enthusiasm.

Q: I know you have been involved in player relations with the PBA office. Have you made any headway?

A: Not really. We still don't have a union, and therefore no negotiating power. If we want to bowl we have to do what the owners say. We are trying to make progress, but it takes money and cooperation. It is a very slow process.

Q: Two years ago, the PBA lowered the prize funds. Why? And what is the current state of the PBA?

A: The PBA lowered the prize funds so they could break even. The new owners didn't want to continue to write a blank check to support the tour. The goal was for it to be self-sufficient. There were other cost-cutting measures as well. The PBA, like any sport, can always use more sponsors, but what needs to change is our relationship with ESPN. Right now we pay for our airtime. The situation needs to be reversed -- we need to receive rights fees. We have good sponsors and sell lots of advertising and we should get revenue from TV like any other sport.

Q: Speaking of relationships, your relationship with the Star-Gazette has been contentious over the years. Why?

A: You mean contentious because I have refused interviews? I believe the Star-Gazette's coverage of me and the PBA has been spotty at best. Either cover it or don't cover it. As for interviews, I don't feel an interview is necessary when a tournament gets no press until after it's over. Headlines like "Shafer loses" instead of "Shafer finishes second" tend to rub a person the wrong way, especially if there was no story the day before to even let anyone know I was even bowling on television. Apparently, the Star-Gazette considers bowling to be third rate. They cover the PGA and Joey Sindelar on a regular basis. And I agree Joey deserves to be covered, but so does bowling, especially when a top-10 player (for the last 10 years) happens to live in your community. A local paper should make more of an effort to cover the career of a local athlete that is at or near the top of his profession.

Q: You've been a part of the Japan Cup for 10 years. Did you qualify this year?

A: Yes. Actually I should have just returned from Tokyo, but the tournament has been delayed until April due to arena issues. It will be my 11th Japan Cup. It is very prestigious. You have to be one of the top 16 players on tour to qualify. It means a great deal to me. The Japanese always treat us great and I have had very good results most years. I hate the plane trip, 13 hours from Chicago, but the event is worth it.

Q: Where are your favorite places to bowl?

A: Woodland Bowl in Indianapolis and Taylor Lanes in Detroit. I bowled my first PBA event in Indy in 1986 and have made three shows in a row there. My televised 300 game was there as well. As for Detroit, I ended a huge slump in 1993 by making the show there. The fans are great in both cities, and I have made many good friends in both places

Q: Where don't you fare so well?

A: That would be my burn list. Grand Rapids, Milwaukee, Dallas, Reno and Buffalo, in that order. Nothing against those cities, but if the centers I bowled in ceased to exist I wouldn't miss them.

Q: What is the difference between bowling leagues, local tournaments and on tour?

There is no comparison between bowling leagues and bowling on tour. Remember, when you bowl in a league the proprietor wants you to have high scores and continue to give him business. On tour, we are trying to identify the best player while still being entertaining. In both cases, what controls this is how the lanes are oiled. And the biggest problem with oil is that it is invisible. You can't see the difference between an easy lane and a hard lane. When you watch golf on TV it's easy to see the high grass in the rough, the tight fairways and the huge water hazard. I wish the fans could experience our lane conditions to appreciate their difficulty.

Q: There is a regional at Waverly's Valley Bowling Center this weekend. What's your involvement?

The regional in Waverly is a great event. I work with Greg Joseph coordinating it. The best bowlers in the East and some exempt players come to our area to compete. It's a great chance for avid local bowlers to watch a great competition and even bowl with a pro in the pro-am if they choose. I run a charity shootout to benefit diabetes on Friday night after the pro-am. There is a raffle for great bowling equipment donated by several companies. Greg does a great job getting volunteers and organizing the event.

Q: There is a junior tournament named in your honor run by the Elmira Bowling Association. Tell me about this.

A: Junior bowling is very important because it is the next generation of bowlers. They need to be encouraged to bowl and be taught how to bowl correctly so they can enjoy it for the rest of their lives. Jim Comfort started this event and has worked diligently to continue it. It is an honor to be able to lend my name to this great event.

10-15-2008, 02:44 AM
Q: In March of 2007 you became the 18th PBA player in history to bowl a 300 game on television. Describe that accomplishment.

A: Bowling that game on TV was a defining moment for me. A pro is lucky to even get a chance like that once in his career. I've never been a guy who throws high scores on TV. It just seems to happen that the scores are usually moderate when I make the show. In fact, on that show I was throwing my "C" game, which for me means I was throwing it straight. I think that proves I'm pretty versatile. I have to believe that with most of the previous 17 televised 300 games the guys were throwing their "A" games, which means their best line. Even so, I had always wondered how they had all gotten up and thrown that 12th shot. The pressure was unbelievable, and I am proud of myself for standing up to it.

Q: What is the best part of bowling for a living?

A: I get to do what I have wanted to do since I was 5 years old. It has allowed me to travel to Tokyo, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and even Paris. I have gotten to accomplish great things and bowl with great bowlers like Pete Weber and Walter Ray Williams. I never dreamed I could do that for 21 years.

Q: You've been on tour for 21 years. Has it taken a physical toll?

A: I have a bad hip and a bad knee. Some days are better than others. You learn to deal with it. For the past two years I have been going to the gym about four days a week to help strengthen the muscles around my knee and hip. This has definitely helped me continue to compete at a high level. Who says bowlers aren't in good shape?

Q: How has your game changed over the years?

A: Obviously I gained knowledge with each tournament. I had to learn to be versatile in order to be successful. I've become very good at throwing it straight if I have to, and I would say I'm one of the best spare shooters on tour. These statements would have been false 21 years ago. Without those improvements I would have to live in a box under a bridge down by the river. I've also become very diligent about practice. I work much harder than I did when I was young.

Q: What is the hardest thing about bowling for a living?

A: Being away from home. I miss my wife, my family and my daily routine. Also, I have only 20 weeks to make money for the year, and that money is not comparable to other sports. I am very fortunate to have a ball contract with Storm Products to supplement my tour income.

Q: Since the season is only 20 weeks, what do you do in the off-season?

Whatever my wife tells me to do. No, as I said, I go to the gym, do trade shows, clinics and bowl regional tournaments. But mostly I practice and hang out at Rossi Lanes. I'm there four to five days a week, and I owe much of my success to Sperry Navone and his generosity. Not every pro is as lucky as I am and gets to practice for free. Also, Jimmy Pitts puts the PBA patterns on the lanes for me so that I can stay sharp. I appreciate all his help and Lou Masone's help.

Q: I know you are superstitious. What are a few of your quirks?

A: I have several superstitions. Part of it is having a routine and part is I truly believe in karma. If something works I continue to do it, like always having a 5 or an 8 in the serial number on my ball and only picking up the ball with my left hand. Also, over the course of a tournament I wear my bowling shirts in a particular order. I probably shouldn't name any more or I might be diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder.

Q: You were on the cover of September's Bowlers Journal. The tagline was "major frustration." What does that mean and how do you feel about the article?

A: The article points out how close I have come to winning several major titles, kind of an "always the bridesmaid but never a bride" idea. I found the article to be positive; the author seems to feel that I should have won a major by now and that I will win one soon. Personally I have mixed feelings. I've had bad luck and I've blown a few. But I'll take my record in majors and compare it to anyone's. The 2006 U.S. Open was the one that really hurt. I ended up losing to Tommy Jones after leading for 51 games. I thought I bowled a better game than he did. Tommy and I are good friends, and it meant a lot when even he told me I deserved to win.