The greatest athlete I ever watched on television in my living room with my father, while begging to change the channel back to some monster movie, was bowler Don Carter.

The greatest athlete I ever watched on television in my living room with my father, while begging to change the channel back to some monster movie, was bowler Don Carter.

The bowling star — often called “Mr. Bowling” by those attempting to show his impact on his sport — died earlier this month. Only I would know why, but this passing took me back to my Godzilla days. The gigantic battle in my house on Saturday afternoons was pretty much “Godzilla Meets Don Carter,” and the prehistoric creature never stood a chance.

“Whatya watching that silly movie for?” my father would ask when he entered the only room in our house in which there was a television during my early years.

“Bowling is coming on,” he simply said.

These were the days before remote controls. I even had to change the channel.

With that, my father would settle into his “easy chair,” light up a cigar, and watch Don Carter bowl against his contemporaries.

Dick Weber. Ray Bluth. Pat Patterson. Carmen Salvino. Billy Welu. The fact that I recognized those names when I read them listed in Don Carter’s obituary testifies to the fact that I stayed sprawled out on the floor and continued to watch bowling on TV with my father, albeit with some small amount of required whining.

“Dad, it’s the commercial. Don’t you want to see if Godzilla won?”

A victory by Godzilla mattered little to my old man. A victory by Don Carter? Now that was something to root for.

In all honesty, I rooted, too, eventually. Guys watch sports. It’s our job. Granted, this was one of those sports that you can compete in wearing rented shoes and using a borrowed ball, while ordering foods and beverages between frames.

But it still was a sport. The “Sports on TV” pages in the newspaper say so. And during the days without cable TV, it sometimes was the only game in town. I had to watch bowling, and bond with my father, if I wanted to be a man.

Oh, first I had to learn the rules of bowling, which really weren’t that difficult. Knock down all the pins with one ball, you get a strike. Knock down all the pins with two balls, you get a spare. Don’t knock down all the pins and you have to scrunch up your face as though you never did that before.

Learning how to keep score was a little more difficult. It went a little beyond the traditional methods of math — adding up numbers on your fingers and “carrying the one.”

But, eventually it dawned on me that I didn’t have to keep score. They kept score right on TV. And just about every frame they told you how many pins the leader was ahead of the loser, so there really wasn’t any need to learn to subtract.

This is why so many nonbowlers cheated during math quizzes by reading the answers off the papers of bowlers sitting next to them in class.

I wasn’t a bowler, other than bowling with friends in high school and bowling with classmates in college to fulfill a gym requirement.

My dad didn’t bowl much either. He had four of us kids. He didn’t get to do much of anything for 20 or 30 years, outside of working and telling us to “go ask your mother.”

So, I suppose, watching bowling was his way of having fun for an hour or so. And, it wasn’t long before it became my fun, as well.

I must have enjoyed it. When Don Carter’s death notice appeared in the paper I read it all the way through. And I smiled.

Sure, I was sad of the passing of Don Carter. But, I was somehow happy at the same time because — at least for the length of a memory — I was in the living room again, spending a Saturday afternoon with my dad.

Contact Gary Brown at gary.brown@cantonrep.com.