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I'm not perfect," Marshall Holman says, "but I'm as close as anybody can get." Right you are, Marshall Holman. You're a perfect boor. A perfect twerp. A perfect pest. A perfect pain in the you-know-what. Yes, Marshall, you are the perfect hot dog, and there's not enough Gulden's in all those dirty yellow squirt tubes at the concessions counters on the Pro Bowlers tour to cover your act.
Holman is the bowler that people everywhere love to hate. When he makes a big shot in a match, he stomps his feet, punches the air, leaps, spins around and lets out the sort of snarl that drill sergeants emit during bayonet training. Boo. When an opponent makes a big shot, Holman sticks his fingers in his ears to drown out the crowd's cheers. Boo. Holman also enjoys stirring up fans by bending over and presenting his posterior. Boo.
On the whole, the 25-year-old Holman qualifies as a summa cum laude graduate of the Nastase-Connors-McEnroe school of childish behavior, though, it must be conceded, there seems to be method to his madness. Indeed, not only is he a certified hot dog, heavy on the mustard, but he is also the hottest young hotshot ever to perform regularly on the pro bowling tour. Holman has won 11 PBA titles and more than $350,000 in his seven seasons, and in 1979 he averaged 217 pins per game—third behind Mark Roth's record 221 and Earl Anthony's 219—as he became the third and youngest bowler in PBA history to earn more than $100,000 in one year.
Holman joined the $100,000 club by throwing seven strikes in his first eight frames en route to a victory that was worth $21,000 in the last stop on the schedule, the Brunswick Memorial World Open at Deerfield, Ill. He also won the World Open in 1977, when he somehow rolled a 277 the last day after having spent most of the previous night playing cards. In 1976 Holman won bowling's premier event, the Firestone Tournament of Champions, and this week in Akron he will try to take the T of C again.
" Marshall's only trouble is that he simply can't cope with defeat and can't lose gracefully," says PBA Tournament Director Harry Golden. "He needs humility. But Marshall's trouble is not all his fault. Many fans come just to watch Marshall and to get on him. I've had to quiet down crowds because they sent up such crescendos when Holman was on the lanes that it disturbed other bowlers."
What may have triggered Holman's hate affair with the fans was a 1976 T of C match against Dick Weber, who is the antithesis of Holman: a perfect gentleman, a humble winner, a gracious loser. The score was close until Holman was left with a nasty split in the 10th frame. While Holman pouted, the crowd cheered his misfortune. Some spectators carried on at such length and with such venom that Weber felt compelled to tell them to knock it off. They did—temporarily. Ever since, it has been fashionable to dump on Holman, who, of course, has never hesitated to return the favor.
Holman has been involved in other flare-ups, including a 1979 incident at a tournament in Seattle that got him on probation for a year. Hall of Fame Bowler Dave Davis, the TV color commentator at that event, recalls, "Jeff Mattingly needed three strikes in the 10th to beat Holman 258-257 and take the lead into the next day's finals. After Jeff got a strike on his first ball, Marshall kicked a chair and sent it banging around. After the second strike, Marshall kicked the ball rack right next to Jeff. After the third strike, Holman went crazy, throwing pencils and being obnoxious. It was disgusting. On the lanes Marshall can be a jerk. Off the lanes he's marvelous."
Holman is hardly at a loss to explain his misbehavior. "To me, the bowling center is my office," he says. "When things aren't going well for me at the lanes, I let loose. I don't think it's healthy to take your troubles back to your room or your family. I just wish everyone could sit down and have a meal with me. They'd find I'm a decent guy. When I leave the lanes, I leave my game there."
Maybe so, but if Holman persists in letting loose on the lanes during his probation, he could be suspended indefinitely from the tour. "I'm being forced to make changes," Holman says. "I'll always be me, but now I have to think about what I can or cannot do. If I calm down like the average pro, I'd probably calm my earnings way down. Sure, a lot of people root against me. A group in Chicago wrote that they were disgusted with me, slapped me in the face for being Jewish and wished that I'd get cancer. But there are also plenty of people who enjoy what I do. I've done more to help pro bowling than any other bowler. Already I see other young bowlers on the tour imitating me—and getting away with it."
To Holman, it is imperative that the PBA change its bland and boring image. What bowling needs, he believes, is someone with flair. Someone like, well, Marshall Holman.