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Up Front

see anyone,” said Pepe, who studied criminal justice at Nassau Communi- ty College prior to bowling the tour and counts fellow south- paw, Parker Bohn III, as his idol. If Pepe carried himself as though he were a kid in his room back in Queens again while bowling

the Cheetah Championship show, it was by design. “I was trying not to look at the crowd because that would make me nervous. I just kept my head down,” he said. The man Pepe credits for showing

him how to create a space where he felt safe, even in front of a crowd or on TV, is the sports psychologist with whom he consulted prior to bowling his first World Series — a man named Dr. Eric Lasser.

“He has helped me believe in myself.

He’s just, he means everything to me,” Pepe said. “He just always gave me very optimistic advice, just about anything that was bothering me. He always lifted me up. He’s a great guy.” Pepe said Dr. Lasser draws connec-

tions between bowling and life — a con- nection Pepe himself had been working through when he was that kid in Queens trying to figure out how to get on with his life when it felt so hard just to get on with the day.

WORTH THE COST: Pepe’s parents, concerned about their son’s battle with depression, had sent him to therapists long before he himself decided to con- sult with a sports psychologist. Pepe says winning his first PBA Tour title made the many long hours he spent taking out his anger on the pins at the bowling center as a kid worthwhile.

Pepe said Dr. Lasser taught him breath-

ing techniques to relax his nerves while bowling under those hot, bright TV lights for the first time. “Honestly, I wasn’t really all that ner-

vous. Taking breathing techniques with me to this venue just worked really well,” he said. “I had a strategy. Just count down the frames, take deep breaths, and see where it gets me. I wasn’t really thinking about anything but making good shots.” No therapist or sports psychologist

could throw the ball for Pepe when he needed clutch shots in the 10th frame of the Cheetah Championship title match



against Dick Allen, who crumbled with three consecutive splits for open frames after posting a six-bagger to lose, 224-206. And no one could throw the ball for him as he racked up the front 11 strikes in the opening game, when he made a bid to become the third player in PBA histo- ry to bowl a perfect game in his first TV appearance, after Bob Benoit and Jason Queen did it in the 1988 Quaker State Open and the 1997 USBC Masters, respec- tively. Pepe tugged his final shot for a five-

count, but 295 was far more than he needed to send fellow opening-game competitors, Liz Johnson and Brad Angelo,

home after the semifinal game. Johnson shot 224, while Angelo bowled 226. One thing Pepe learned that day was

that no one could do as much for him as he could do for himself. That is why no one remembers the names of those bullies from middle school, but many now know the name Anthony Pepe. And that is a feel- ing no bully can take away from him. “Oh, my God, it feels great,” Pepe said.

“It feels so great.”


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