Dave and Dale Traber amble around the nation's bowling alleys with their hands jammed in their pants pockets, as if for ballast. The Traber Boys have been floating on air since the Professional Bowlers Association Championship on March 5 in Toledo, where they became the first brothers in league history to bowl against each other in a tournament final. It was a match of biblical dimensions, with Dave playing Cain to Dale's Abel. "I love my brother, but I'll be damned if I'm going to lose to him," says Dave, who smote his older sibling 196-187. "If he had beaten me, I'd have had to kill him."
He's kidding, of course. Dave, who is 31, is the excitable Traber. A tour regular since 1987, he has a flat, wide face, a trim frame and a full head of hair that's cut and blown in the indigenous PBA style.
"Dave was Hell Beast of the family," says his wife, Melissa. If he wasn't sawing bowling balls in half or trying to melt them in the oven, he was punching out classmates and windows. Once, in a fit of pique at a tournament in Sawgrass, Fla., Dave heaved his ball into a lake. "It's probably still there," he says gleefully.
"Well, now, Dave," Melissa says with a look of incredulity. "I hardly think they've dredged the lake looking for bowling balls."
Brother Dale is an unassuming 36-year-old with aviator glasses and a belly that could easily accommodate a pair of 16-pound Mineralites. He's not much of a conversationalist—in fact, he's almost painfully shy. "Not only did Dale refuse to be the best man at my wedding," says Dave, "he wouldn't even give the toast at the reception."
Dale, who bowls mostly at regional events, lives in the Milwaukee suburbs with his parents. During the finals they sat in the audience, wondering which son they should cheer for. "I honestly hoped that both boys would win," says Jeanette, their mother. "But I suppose, in the back of my mind, I wanted Dave to beat Dale. Dave hadn't won on the tour in nine years, and here he was bowling for a major against someone who wasn't even a full-timer. That would have been a tough one to bounce back from, brother or no brother."
Jeanette's first choice that day was her thirdborn. Dale came first, followed by Darryl, Dave and Dean. "Every three years Mom had another D," says Dave. "We're all in alphabetical order."
And if Dean had been a girl?
"Mom always said she liked the name Denise."
Every Traber boy learned to bowl in junior leagues and practiced in the family rec room, a basement grotto now lined with shelf upon shelf of empty vintage beer cans. The cans are alphabetized too. "I've got 3,000 on the walls," says Bob, the boys' father. "And I've got another 8,000 traders boxed in storage." He leads a visitor on a tour of his cans—pull tabs, punch tops and cone tops. He passes rows of Paul Bunyan beer, G.I. Joe beer, Bean & Bacon Days beer, lingering briefly to read the fine print on several of his favorites. A retired bricklayer, Bob handles the cans with much care and intimate knowledge. "No, I didn't drink all the contents of this collection," he says, dusting off a rare Blatz army pilsner. "In fact, I wasn't even the one who started it. I took the project over from Dave."