MICHELE NORRIS, host:
In a small New York town, way up north near the Canadian border, a young man has made quite a stir in the bowling world. His name is Robert Mushtare and the reason he's been thrust into the spotlight is that he claims to have done something few others have achieved. Mushtare says he bowled three consecutive 300-games in a row, a perfect score three times. It's called a 900 series. What's even more amazing is that Mushtare said he did it five times in just a few months. That's five 900 series in a single season, three in competition and two in practice - and all this before his 18th birthday.
Instead of accolades, Mushtare was hit with accusations that he cheated or rigged the alley to boost his score. The United States Bowling Congress stepped in. Hearings were held, a ruling was issued and after all this time, tongues are still wagging.
For more on this story, we turn to Bob Johnson. He's the editor of the magazine Bowlers Journal International. He joins us from Chicago. First, how rare is this?
Mr. BOB JOHNSON (Bowlers Journal International): Very rare. In the first 100 years of certified bowling, there were no recognized 900 series. In the past ten years, there have been 11.
NORRIS: Now you could look at him and say, well, he's almost like the Lebron James or the Lance Armstrong of the bowling world. But instead he's treated like a pariah. What's the story there?
Mr.�JOHNSON: Well, part of the problem is he claims to have rolled five 900 series, three in a pre-bowling situation for a league and two in practice. Now I don't have enough zeroes to describe the odds of shooting one 900, let alone two, three, four or five. People are understandably skeptical.
NORRIS: What has he said in his defense?
Mr.�JOHNSON: He says he did it, that there was nothing untoward about it, that people just need to believe him.
NORRIS: So how has the U.S. Bowling Congress tried to verify this?
Mr.�JOHNSON: Well, they sent in two of their high ranking officials to really investigate what happened. They talked to a lot of witnesses. It turns out there weren't a whole lot of witnesses to talk to. They checked the lanes to make sure that they were in compliance. They checked the automatic scoring devices to make sure that they weren't gained in any way.
They came away with the feeling that all of the rules of bowling had been followed and that there was no reason to not certify these latest two 900 series.
NORRIS: Well, what's happened to Robert Mushtare? How's he doing in competitive bowling?
Mr.�JOHNSON: Well, competitive bowling, you just brought up a key phrase. One of the criticisms of the 900 series is that they were rolled in what are called pre-bowling circumstances. In other words, if you're not able to make a league session, and if your league rules allow it, you can come in early, bowl your scores and then they are factored into the actual team scores once the actual competition takes place. Robert did bowl in the USBC Junior Gold Championships. It took place earlier this month in Florida.
In a field of 991, he finished in a four-way tie for 280th place. Why did he finish so low? Lane conditions were much more challenging than he would have faced at his home center. It was a high level competition. And two, there was actual competition involved.
NORRIS: So he's got to figure out, if indeed he's achieved this feat, he's got to figure out how to do it in a competitive setting.
Mr.�JOHNSON: Exactly. And I think once he starts to excel in that level of competition, people will come around to his side a little bit more, I think.
NORRIS: Bob Johnson, thanks so much for talking to us.
Mr.�JOHNSON: My pleasure.
NORRIS: That's Bob Johnson, editor of the magazine Bowlers Journal International. And in light of today's news about cyclist Floyd Landis, we called the Professional Bowlers Association. The general counsel there tells us that she's not aware of any doping problems in the league.
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