The Bad Boy of Bowling
Pete Weber calls himself the best in the world because he believes he is. He was inducted to the Bowling Hall of Fame in 1998 and holds 37 career titles.
Pete started bowling when he was about three or four years old. One of his fondest childhood memories is of getting his first bowling ball that was made especially for him.
Pete’s father was known as the Ambassador of Bowling. Soon people started noticing that he had a son that was as passionate as he was. At the age of 17, Pete dropped out of school because he loved bowling and thought that school was a waste of time.
Dick Weber was the all-American nice guy who never did anything wrong. His son struggled to follow in his footsteps because those were some big shoes to fill. Everybody expected him to be as agreeable as his father had been, but Pete wasn’t interested in any of that. When he started showing his emotions on television, viewers got upset. They didn’t really care for it. Pete’s behavior got him into trouble repeatedly. In 1999 the PBA suspended him for a fifth time due to a drinking-related incident.
For about 35 years, pro bowlers had been superstars. They were bigger than baseball and football players. But ratings started to go down, and in 1997 ABC decided to cancel professional bowling.
Then in 2000, the Professional Bowler’s Association was purchased for $5M. They hired Steve Miller to head up marketing and create a new image for the PBA. Steve Miller basically told Pete to go ahead and do his thing because he wasn’t going to be penalized for it. And so after winning an important tournament, Pete Weber did his first crotch chop and people liked it. It seemed that all of the things that had gotten him in trouble before were actually bringing up the ratings. From that moment forward, Pete became the face of the PBA tour— their rock star.
But then Dick Weber passed away, and Pete had to make a difficult decision. He chose to withdraw from the game and forfeit the chance to tie his father’s record of four US Open Championships. He knew his dad would want him to keep bowling, but he didn’t feel like it. He was grieving his loss.
Find out how Pete Weber made bowling ‘watchable’ again in this ESPN 30 for 30 Short.