By Matt Cannizzaro via Bowl.com
MOORESVILLE, N.C. - If you see a camera crew following Australia's Jason Belmonte around Victory Lanes this week, it might mean he's making some noise at the 2019 U.S. Open.
But, regardless of how the 36-year-old two-hander performs on the lanes, he'll still have the attention of award-winning filmmaker Michael Cable, who will be with Belmonte to begin capturing the sights and sounds of his life as the world's top-ranked bowler.
The two will work together over the next 12 months to gather content about the globetrotting Belmonte, who balances his time as a competitor, husband, father, entrepreneur and ambassador.
Cable, along with members of Belmonte's merchandise and social/digital media teams, are based in the Charlotte (North Carolina) Metro area, so this week will be a bit of a homecoming for the 22-time Professional Bowlers Association Tour champion.
Belmonte also recently teamed with NASCAR's Aric Almirola at Charlotte Motor Speedway to record the world's fastest strike.
Almirola drove around the track at 140 miles per hour, and Belmonte threw a bowling ball out of the car window into a full rack of pins.
The unique on-camera appearances, branded merchandise and social media reach all are helping Belmonte build his own brand, but he also is incredibly passionate about elevating the perception of bowling outside the industry itself.
By sharing his own story and experiences, he hopes to educate and inspire others, especially those who may not be among the tens of millions of people who bowl each year, both competitively and recreationally.
"I want to brand myself and bowling beyond what they currently are," Belmonte said. "I told my business partner that I don't think people outside of the industry really know my story, where I came from and what it has been like for me. What better way to tell my story than with a documentary?"
The plan is that eventually, people will be sitting at home on their couches and scrolling through their Netflix libraries and potentially be intrigued when they see a documentary about bowling in the listings. That's an important first step. And, hopefully, they'll be curious enough to check it out.
A similar crew was with Belmonte at the 2019 Junior Gold Championships presented by the Brands of Ebonite International to get a feel for the bowling world, and seeing him during the trade show portion of the week helped illustrate what an influence Belmonte is in the sport.
Bowlers and parents stood in line for hours for a chance to meet him and spend just a moment with him. Some even continued to wait in line while he was on break. Belmonte's commitment to the experience also was noteworthy, as he went above and beyond to make sure he interacted with as many bowlers and their families as possible.
Now that the documentary is becoming a reality, there are some things Belmonte definitely wants to express and accomplish.
"I think there are multiple messages I want to get across, with the first being that everyone has a passion, goal or dream, and no matter who you are, where you're from or if you do something differently like me, you need to push beyond what people think the limitations are," Belmonte said. "The world initially told me not to bowl the way I do, and if I'd listened, I probably wouldn't be where I am today."
Belmonte's success on the PBA Tour includes a record 11 major titles, and his quest for his 12th this week will begin as part of a field of 144 competitors at Victory Lanes. Everyone will bowl 24 games of qualifying over three days, before the field is cut to the top 36 for an eight-game cashers' round.
The week will include a practice day and pro-am events - all great supportive content for showcasing life on the PBA Tour and how the players are received by the local community.
Other bowling-related documentaries like the 2004 "A League of Ordinary Gentlemen" or the more recent Bad Boy of Bowling (featuring PBA and United States Bowling Congress Hall of Famer Pete Weber) have sought to capture the personalities of the sport, but having the digital reach of a platform like Netflix may be a gamechanger for Belmonte and bowling.
Netflix boasts a worldwide user base of more than 150 million.
"Hey, bowling is big around the world," Belmonte said. "It might not seem like it on the outside, so we're going to give viewers a look in. We know the people who are bowlers or in the industry understand who we are and what we do, but this is about talking to the average person and changing the perceptions of bowling."
Bowling fans and the bowling-curious can get a look at the 2019 U.S. Open this week live at BowlTV.com (qualifying and match play), and the event will conclude live on CBS Sports Network on Oct. 30 at 8 p.m. Eastern. The BowlTV coverage will be simulcast on FloBowling.
The week's action began with a pre-tournament qualifier Wednesday, which will be followed by official practice for the entire field Thursday and the first of three days of qualifying Friday.
The winner will take home the coveted green jacket and $30,000 top prize - something that has eluded Belmonte in his career.
He did win two of the season's first four majors, the PBA Tournament of Champions and PBA World Championship, while finishing second in the PBA Players Championship in between. The victory at the World Championship moved him ahead of Pete Weber and Earl Anthony, who each own 10 major titles.
In the year's other major, the United States Bowling Congress Masters, a severe finger injury kept Belmonte from making a run in the storied event, one he has won a record four times. He finished 169th.