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PBA Xtra

Smallwood got up on the right lane and once again smoked the deck with a flush strike for a five-bagger. Then Blanchard sent his ball to the pocket again, only to watch a woozy 10-pin stand. A year earlier, his rookie season,

Blanchard bowled the first TV show of his life for the chance to make his first title a particularly memorable one. Had he emerged the winner of the “Mike Aulby” division against Mike Fagan, Jason Bel- monte, and Brian Kretzer, Blanchard would have been the fourth and final seed on the PBA World Championship show. The experience soon became memora-

ble for something Blanchard might prefer to forget — a stumble and fall that landed him in the gutter, quite literally, and then on national shows such as SportsCenter, Pardon the Interruption, LIVE with Kelly Ripa, Around the Horn, and even Howard Stern’s radio program. Blanchard’s mastery of self began in those moments. He discovered the self he wanted to

master — the man, as well as the bowler — in the seconds he spent squatting in the gutter on national TV. “For some of those people who

thought I was a joke, or made fun of me on that day, or didn’t know any- thing about bowling, it’s nice to win, to get them to shut up a little bit,” said Blanchard, who entered 2015 without a title, then won two in nine days at the Brunswick Euro Challenge and PBA Xtra Frame Maine Shootout in March. He discovered it in a loss to Smallwood

SHOOTOUT: Blanchard’s win in Portland, Maine, was his second title in nine days. (With Bayside Bowl proprietors Justin Alfond and Charlie Mitchell, and PBA Deputy Commissioner, Kirk Von Krueger, l-r.)

that looked like devastation to outsiders, but looked a lot more like motivation to Blanchard. “I bowled my best on TV, probably ever,

physically, mentally,” Blanchard says of that experience. “To not have a higher score than my opponent, I don’t know if you can consider that a loss. I don’t. Tom just got the better end of the straw that time.”

Blanchard’s mastery of self began in happier moments, too — moments like the day his wife, Amy, gave birth to their daughter, Madalyn, in January. “I know that I can look back there and see them both, and they’re not going to think any differently if I win or lose,” Blanchard says of his wife and baby, who were in attendance for his win in Maine.

Those looking to master themselves on the PBA Tour might be wise to snatch a page from Blanchard’s notes — or, for that matter, from Napoleon’s letters. Know that you will suffer the adversities known even to the greatest players, accept the weaknesses they expose, and then be who you are.

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