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Bowlers hope league strikes gold

Bowling's future may be previewed at 7 tonight at Spring Hill Lanes when the Spring Hill Rebels and Lane Glo Tigers meet in an exhibition match of the new Professional Major League Bowling Association.

Hernando County residents John Leverock III, Doug Bolander, Jeremy Storm, Sal Pantaleone and Bob Brusati, and Crystal River's Mike Buchanan make up the Rebels team. The Rebels and Tigers first met at Lane Glo Bowl in Port Richey on Oct. 9 and one game was filmed, association commissioner Lou Faiella said. Tonight's entire match will be filmed and sent to CBS for screening.

Faiella, a bowler for 52 years, has spent 3{ years working out what he calls a "16-format" system in which there would be 16 zones across the country with 16 major league teams in each zone. Each major league franchise would have countless farm teams.

"No one has ever hit on a successful formula," Faiella said. "The National Bowling League didn't work because it excluded too many bowling centers, so it had no support.

"I've created an umbrella over the entire United States so every one of about 35,000 bowling centers is included. I've borrowed baseball, football and basketball rules and regulations and come up with my 16-format."

Under his plan, each team is made up of five bowlers and two substitutes, who may be inserted by calling a timeout. Teams bowl four games, with an entire game rolled on one lane to keep momentum going and make it easier for spectators to follow.

Each player rolls against his counterpart (No. 1 vs. No. 1, No. 2 vs No. 2, etc.) for points.

The monitor (a kind of referee) is empowered to call fouls for getting up to bowl before the player on the lane completes his turn, or for other infractions. Among numerous other wrinkles in the format, bowlers can't keep a second "spare" ball on the rack and may only use such a ball with the permission of the opposing team captain.

"All the proprietors I've talked with, and that's 53 so far, think it's a tremendous format," Faiella said. "I sat down with Earl Anthony, Dick Weber Jr., Gary Dickinson and several other pros at Seminole Lanes and went over it with them, and Earl thought it was the greatest thing he's heard of in 30 years."

Faiella said a major insurance company is interested in becoming the primary sponsor of the new association, slated for official launch next September.

Bowlers ranging from youths to adults could advance through the minor league system to the majors, with players at the highest level under contract as in other major leagues.

The season will have two 16-week segments, with all matches on Sundays on a home-and-home basis. The first segment runs from September through the third week in December, with two weeks off for the holidays. The second half lasts through April. Each zone would have a champion that would advance to a "Sweet 16" as in college basketball.

Four weeks of post-season play would cut the field to two, with those squads meeting in a Super Bowl Bowl at the new bowling stadium in Reno, Nev.

"I think it would be very good for the sport of bowling," Spring Hill Lanes house pro Leverock said. "It's very hard for us to make any money as professional athletes. If you're not in the top five every week, you're losing money since you have to lay out $750-$850 per week. Bowling isn't like golf where those who make the cut every week can still earn $200,000 a year."

Faiella said short questionnaires were passed out during the earlier exhibition at Lane Glo. There was only one negative response to one question from one person, he said.

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