Robert Smith is the latest star to announce his retirement from what's left of the PBA Tour.
If you want details on the new-look 2010-11 PBA Tour, I've done several blogs and you can access them by going to the main page of The 11th Frame and scrolling through and clicking on the stories.
There is good and bad in the new Tour, and there has been passionate debate on all the changes on the pba.com message boards.
What isn't debatable is that it's very different.
What also isn't debatable is that bowlers should be thankful that any PBA still exists -- too many just don't get the economic climate for sports seeking sponsors and other commercial ties. Virtually every other sport is suffering -- the main differences are in where the sports started from.
PBA already was in a somewhat precarious state and obviously more vulnerable to the downturn so it shouldn't be surprising that it's had to adopt drastic measures to survive.
Still, PBA is about the only place where bowlers can compete for more than their entry fees by any significant amount.
Could others have done better than the three tech execs and the management they've hired? Perhaps.
But if it were that easy, you have to believe someone else would have stepped up and started their own Tour.
Certainly, there was no else who was going to step in and buy the PBA when it was on the verge of bankruptcy a decade ago, then pump tens of millions of dollars into it trying to turn into a quality, big-time sports league.
But the PBA's struggles aren't the only reason Smith is retiring, according to the following statement he posted on the PBA message board:
Ok, first off i want to say thank you to all of those who have supported me along the way with my bowling career.
I am moving to Hong Kong with the reality being that I, as a player, just can't do what i want to do with a ball anymore. At least at the level I know I have been before. A lot of it is injuries, some of it is the state of tour, but mostly because it is time to move on. I told myself I didnt want to bowl after 40, and 36 is a little short of that, but i am ok with it. I will still be bowling tournaments, ToC, US open, and some tournys around Asia, but full time, no more.
I know some want me to stay with a chance for HoF, but honestly, with where my game is, and how I feel, A title may not be out of the question, but WHEN is. the last 4 years have been my worst out of 13, and that is not the pattern i want to have trying to butt heads with the best out there. I can play still, but not the grueling pace of games that is required now.
Please know that I am still involved with bowling fully, just not throwing the rock anymore. Again thank you to all for the support over the years. It has meant a lot to know that me having fun, allowed others to have fun watching me also. I am blessed.
Robert ‘maximum' Smith
I only competed against Smith a few times, but I will never forget the first time I saw him doing his famed left-gutter loft shot -- playing inside sixth arrow lofting the ball a good 20 feet or more onto the lane.
That was in Las Vegas at what is now the PBA Regional Players Championship and I was mesmerized by Smith's consistency in performing such a taxing physical feat shot after shot.
Smith was his last PBA Tour title using that technique ... and it still was fun to watch.
Thanks for the memories and good luck Robert!
The highlight of Smith's career was his win in the 2000 U.S. Open, when he beat Norm Duke in a thrilling title match.
Here and here are YouTube links to that match.