Bowling for dollars

One of the most intriguing events I saw on the 2011 Wrangler NFR schedule when it was released was Bob Tallman’s Charity Bowling Tournament and Silent Auction. It appealed to me not only because I am an avid bowler – I average around 150 per game – but also because Tallman was the host and it benefited charities.

The event, held Dec. 3 at the Gold Coast’s bowling center, raised money for Speedway Children’s Charities and the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund (JCCF). The Las Vegas chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities raises money for area children through a variety of special events and has given out more than $1.7 million in aid since 1999. The JCCF is a nonprofit organization that helps injured cowboys pay bills while they are on the road to recovery – kind of like ProRodeo’s AFLAC.

Host Bob Tallman walks the lanes at his charity bowling tournament.

My back condition unfortunately kept me from blazing the lanes with my bowling skills, but it was a blessing in disguise. I was able to roam around, talk to a number of people and get some good interviews.

Jack Daniels had a couple of picturesque ladies walking around giving out stickers and shots of its Tennessee Honey liqueur to keep bowlers limber, and it seemed to do the trick. A couple of my former co-workers at the PRCA – who will remain nameless – were able to hit numerous strikes after downing the tasty drink.

I checked out the silent auction items, which included NASCAR memorabilia, Paul Nash CDs and autographed pictures, a Wrangler NFR jacket, a Tate Stratton autographed shirt, a Cactus Ropes package that included ropes and baseball caps and a Darrell Waltrip autographed Mountain Dew mini car hood. People seemed to flock to the items and would routinely go back and check the auction sheets to make sure they were the last bidder on their favorite piece.

Current competitors such as Matt Shiozawa (who brought his own ball) and Todd Suhn, as well as legends Don Gay, Charles Sampson, Gary Leffew and Monty “Hawkeye” Henson were among the more than 150 people who participated in the tournament. Former Waltrip crew chief and current NASCAR on Fox TV broadcaster Jeff Hammond also bowled, with three-time PRCA Announcer of the Year Boyd Polhamus and two-time award winner Wayne Brooks also showing up to support the cause.

Brooks served as emcee of the event, working hard to get a word in edgewise with tournament host Tallman, a walking sound bite with a big heart. Tallman gave instructions to the competitors, saying, “If you’re not cheating, you’re not doing it right.”

I eavesdropped as Tallman was interviewed by a television camera about the special event.

“There’s a four-letter word called time that’s a non-renewable natural resource, and not as many of us give as much time as we should, but it feels so good to give,” Tallman said. “We never know the number of kids we can help with thousands of dollars, and we never know the outcome for kids and families that are given a second chance, but this gives us a chance to give back to kids, a lot of whom we’ll never meet.

“My thanks go to Boyd Gaming, Pendleton Whisky, Coca-Cola and all of the major sponsors, and 36 lanes of people from the Calgary Stampede and Houston to the PRCA for coming. Everybody’s doing their thing, and we’re just here for one reason: charity.”

Host Bob Tallman, actor Mickey Jones and announcer Wayne Brooks posed for a picture.

I ran across actor Mickey Jones, whom I’d remembered from his days on the hit show “Home Improvement” with Tim Allen. I also remember his bit part in “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” when he played the mechanic/sheriff who extorts money from Clark Griswold after he jumped his car off the end of the road into the Arizona desert. Classic!

Known for playing bikers and rough types, the long-bearded Jones might also be remembered from appearances in movies such as “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” “Tin Cup” and “Sling Blade.” He’s also appeared on TV shows like “Married With Children,” “CHiPs,” “Charlie’s Angels” and “The Rockford Files.”

I found Jones to be an overly nice guy, and he took time to sign autographs and take pictures for fans. He couldn’t bowl because of a sprained knee he said he suffered at a “motorcycle event,” but he was there to show his support for the cause since he has a large spot in his heart for helping kids.

“What the kids don’t understand is we get more out of this than they do,” said Jones, whom I learned through was Bob Dylan’s drummer in 1966. “I’m like a large child. I tried growing up, and it never really worked out for me. So, I’m still the largest 9-year-old in the room, and that’s really the bottom line. I’m like a big kid here today. The thing I like about this is that everything we do is for the kids here locally.

“I do things like this, and my heart swells.”

Jones has long been a fan of rodeo and enjoys the Wrangler NFR.

“I’ve been coming to the rodeo for about 10 years, and it’s a pretty nice deal that I get to come hang out with Bob, the people at Boyd Gaming and all of these cowboys like Donnie Gay,” said Jones, who got his start in acting in 1971.

Jones said he will be at cowboy Christmas on Tuesday to sign autographs, will attend the rodeo as a guest of Boyd Gaming on Dec. 7 and was slated to appear on Gay’s “National Finals Tonight” show on Sunday night.

He was excited about his current TV role, playing drug kingpin Rodney “Hot Rod” Dunham on the popular series “Justified” starring Timothy Olyphant.

“I’ll put a bullet in your eye just as soon as look at ya,” Jones said of his character. “It’s fun playing those kind of guys.”

NASCAR TV analyst Jeff Hammond, actor Mickey Jones and World Champion Bull Riders Don Gay and Charles Sampson.

Jones was particularly jazzed about getting a part in Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained,” which stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Jamie Foxx, Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, among others. (one of my favorite websites) describes the movie like this, “With the help of his mentor, a slave-turned-bounty hunter sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner.” The site didn’t have Jones listed in the credits, but he said he’s supposed to shoot his scenes in January.

He joked that he couldn’t believe Russell was picked to play a character he’d been considered for, but said his wife completely understood.

“It’s going to be a huge movie,” Jones said. “I’ve got a little part, but just to be part of a Quentin Tarantino movie is big. I could go duck hunting with a rake, because I’m high as a kite. I just think he’s a great director, and this is the best script I’ve ever read.”

Hollywood definitely needs more guys like Mickey Jones.

I couldn’t tell you who won the tournament, but the real winners were the kids reached by Speedway Children’s Charities and the JCCF. What a great event.

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