Not much surprises Patrick Allen anymore. By now, the battle-tested PBA veteran has seen just about every twist and turn the tour has to offer.
There he was at the 2009 PBA National Bowling Stadium Championship in Reno, Nev., running off the set in shock, his face buried in his hands after the 8-10 split that Walter Ray Williams Jr. left in the tenth frame to hand him the title.
And there he was just two weeks later at the 2009 Tournament of Champions in Las Vegas, wincing at those six pins Rhino Page left standing to lose the title to his friend and Team USA teammate.
But even those moments do not compare to the frenzied atmosphere that this three-time Team USA member expects to find at the 2010 World Men’s Championships this week.
“It is not like the PBA Tour at all,” Allen says of the World Men’s Championships. “The noise factor is the biggest difference. It is hostile and loud with everyone going crazy.”
“It is a circus like no other,” says Tommy Jones, who joined Patrick Allen on the team that took home the gold in 2008.
Allen’s newer teammates, Wes Malott and Bill O’Neill, head to Munich this week for their first World Championships experience, leaving behind the land of two-lane courtesy and hushed settees to enter the mayhem that is the World Men’s Championships.
“It is up to us and the coaches to let them know what they’re in for,” Allen says. “It will be a lot different than anything they’re used to. Lane courtesy is different; everybody’s screaming and yelling in the back, it’s just a whole different ball game.”
But if Allen’s way of handling the noise back in 2008 is any indication of the way it’s done, then Malott and O’Neill know exactly what to do: Make some noise of your own.
As soon as Page let his last shot go in the roll-off that brought home the gold two years ago, Allen erupted with shouts of “One time!” as if he could reach a decibel so high he might steer fate himself. And anyone who has watched five minutes of a Patrick Allen telecast appearance would bet that he tossed in a “hoss” or two before it was over.
But Allen readily admits that it will take a lot more than noise to complete an encore of that performance.
“The other countries are definitely starting to catch up,” Allen says. “They have a lot more access to technology today. They can oil the lanes the same way we do and they are putting down better lane surfaces around the world, so they’re practicing on the same stuff as we are. We have to be prepared and we have to realize that it will not be a cakewalk.”
Allen knows as well as anyone that champions don’t spend much time counting on cakewalks. They count on challenge, on that moment when you’ve pushed a match so deep into the clutch that you have to keep reminding yourself to breathe.
Challenges like the ailing knee that sent him missing in action for months last season after he failed to average better than 199 in three consecutive tournaments, for instance. Challenges like the task of proving that it takes a lot more than a bum knee to keep Patrick Allen down. Challenges which, by the time he turned in his final score sheet of the 2009-2010 PBA season, he had aced as if he’d been in mid-season form all along.
In his first tournament back on tour in nearly four months – the Pepsi Red, White and Blue Open in Wichita, Kan. – Allen averaged 247 and left town with a third-place check. He then made match play in nearly every event that followed and capped off the comeback with another telecast appearance at the Go RVing Match Play Championship in Norwich, Conn.
And just in case anyone thought he might be kidding, earlier this month he dominated a PBA Regional in Texas that featured a field studded with top players such as Chris Barnes, Dino Castillo, George Lambert, Lonnie Waliczek, Mike Edwards and others.
There is one factor in Allen's return to form that most of those other players don't have, a factor you might call his secret weapon: Team USA Exercise and Conditioning Specialist Nick Bohanan.
"Nick has been a great asset, not just for me but for the whole team," Allen said from Team USA training camp last week. "The big thing for me is that I am not quite as flexible as other guys, and Nick really stretches me out really well before I start bowling. That helps me feel so much looser and more able to do what my body wants to do."
The challenges may be getting greater over time, and they may prove to be the greatest yet in Munich this month, but for the man known on tour only as “PA” the mantra will always remain the same:
“One time, hoss.”