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Are bowlers the greatest sportsmen in the world?

Tom Martino is a competitor.
Tom Martino is a competitor.
Jerome Aron

This is one of my favorite stories and was originally published Nov. 7, 2011 on It’s been updated.

Consider these scenarios:

• Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers fires a 40-yard touchdown pass on the game’s final play to allow the Packers to squeak past arch-rival Chicago Bears. The Bears' defenders rush over to Rodgers and swarm him with congratulations and chest bumps.

• Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers throws up a desperation 30-foot, three-point shot with two Boston Celtics draped around him and the ball swishes through the net to give Los Angeles a stunning comeback victory. Boston's players hug Bryant and give him high-fives.

• Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels blasts a grand slam homer in the ninth inning of the seventh game of the World Series to give the Angels a walk-off victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals' players join the Angels' celebration by giving the Los Angeles designated hitter a standing ovation.

Those scenarios may seem farfetched but consider what actually took place during a game in a Los Angeles bowling league:

Tom Martino, bowling anchor for his team, scored his second straight strike in the ninth frame of the final game to seal his team's victory in the hotly contested match.

After the game-winning strike, a teammate wrapped his arms around Martino and gave him a huge victory hug. At the same time, all four members of the opposing team stood and clapped their hands and a couple of them came over to give Martino a congratulatory fist bump.

Martino then took his seat, awash in praise and beaming over his clutch shot.

Similar joyous celebrations are a common event in bowling circles.

In fact, each time a bowler converts a shot – whether it's a strike or a spare – he or she is typically showered with praise and receives some kind of congratulatory hand tap.

Even when a player rolls an inspiring shot that proves unsuccessful – such as narrowly failing to convert a split – opponents treat the shot as if it were on the mark and rain down a chorus of “good tries” on the bowler.

So are bowlers the world’s greatest sportsmen?

Martino, a Chatsworth resident who has bowled in leagues for more than 10 years, frankly said “I don't think so. I think it's [congratulations] more of a front. It's so competitive. People want to win."

Martino pointed out that there typically is a cash incentive for teams to fare well in league play – and defeat their opponents during the regular season.

At the end of the season, teams are rewarded with a payoff that hinges on their ranking in the final standings.

Still, Martino concedes that the bulk of the congratulations is legitimate.

“A good 60 to 70 percent is genuine,” Martino said. “About 20 to 30 percent is disingenuous. They do it out of respect for the other players.”

Martino, who averages in the 160s, typically goes out of his way to applaud his opponents' good shots. He says it's all part of the camaraderie that is frequently prevalent among bowlers.

“That's the part I like,” said Martino about the camaraderie. “I like to see people do well. I am a good sport because when I'm in the car [after the match], I forget about it. But when I'm bowling, I want to win.”

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