Scott Norton was the face of the gay community on the PBA tour

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Besides worrying about how to get the right set up on the bowling lanes and performing clutch shots against the best bowlers in the world, imagine you also felt that extra layer of pressure with every move you made. have added or could change the perception of what the gay community is.

For Scott Norton, it was the weight he carried with him from being a young pitcher going up in California until being the youngest member of the American team at the time, then realizing his dream on the PBA Tour.

He was spending all his energy projecting an outgoing and friendly personality on the outside while inside he felt the face of the gay community. He was finally able to release some of the anxiety accumulated during the 2012 World Series of Bowling Chameleon Championship.

“I had been married for a year and we had just bought a house together,” Norton said of her relationship with her husband, Craig Woodward. “A lot of things in life have happened, and I came in with a better frame of mind.”

His arm swing was free. He was focused on every shot and he bowled at South Point in Las Vegas, which is the same center where he won the 2010 World Series of Bowling Chameleon Championship. It had been two years since the southpaw had won a tournament, and he did everything he could in his last two frames to defeat defending champion Jason Belmonte for the title.

“I threw four of the best shots I have ever thrown in the most stressful situation I have ever been in at that time,” said the 2011 PBA Rookie of the Year. “I did my job. Everything else was out of my hands and the rest is history.

Belmonte needed a strike and six pins to win the tournament for the second year in a row. He threw the ball slightly to the right of his target, the pins mingled, and a messenger flew over the bridge and hit the 10 pins. He didn’t fall and Norton won 227-223. A flood of emotions and the weight of feeling like an outsider in the sport he dreamed of competing in was released. He finally felt validated.

“Come to think of it, I almost pity this person because I know where those tears are coming from,” he said. “These tears came from a place where we finally felt good enough. It was almost more valuable tears than happiness.

And then came a historic moment when Norton’s husband stepped out to congratulate him on his victory. The bride and groom hugged and kissed like the other winners did after winning a tournament. A few months after the show aired, an Outsports article went viral announcing that Norton’s winning moment was the first nationally televised gay kiss seen on ESPN.

“Honestly, it sounded like such an important thing that should have helped bring a lot of attention to the sport and how unique and diverse the sport is,” he said. “I would be lying if I didn’t say I was a little disappointed. I was totally ready to carry the ball and show people our little world. But that never happened.

“Representation is what breaks down barriers,” he said. “To actually get faces of people who play sports, it allows people to see people instead of nameless communities. When you see the faces and hear the stories of the people, it is much harder to say bad things and demonize them.

One of those iconic faces representing the gay community as they go bowling is Billie Jean King, owner of the New York City Kingpins who compete in the PBA League. Norton was part of the team belonging to one of his models. During the league’s inaugural season in 2013, they won and claimed the Elias Cup. King was there for the winning moment.

Norton got the chance to speak to the tennis legend after the victory as they waited at the airport to return home. He recalls that she was really horny for the whole team and the two also talked about being gay in sports.

“She was one of the first people I knew to be gay,” he said of King. “And then being so successful and going out was an inspiration.”

He may not realize it, but he himself is an inspiration.

While living in Utah and going to school, he faced a difficult situation as a junior manager at a Brunswick bowling center. There were parents who took their kids out of his program because they didn’t want their kids around him. He devoted hours to helping the children and they were improving. Eventually, some of these parents changed their minds.

“It forces people to face these frightening stereotypes that they have been exposed to that have no basis in reality,” he commented on his experience. “Diversity is important and there is a place in this world for everyone. So it was nice to help kids and parents open their eyes to the world.

Prior to making the United States team, Norton met another young bowler who was also a friend.

“I was 15 or 16 and he was gay too,” he said of the 20-plus-year friendship. “We were the first to be able to trust each other. I don’t know if I can overestimate the connection that is made when you are at such a vulnerable point in your life and find people who love and accept you no matter what.

He credits having a strong husband and family, including his mother, USBC Hall of Fame member Virginia, for helping him over the years. Another person who always accepted him was his best friend, PWBA champion Missy Parkin, who even stayed with him on the PBA Tour until the PWBA came back in 2015. He calls her Grace to his Will, a reference to the hit. comedy show, Will & Grace. When she left the tour he stayed on his own which he said wasn’t easy but he understood where the guys were coming from.

Even though Norton quit professionally bowling in 2015 – after experiencing “severe burnout” – and considers himself “essentially retired”, he still has bowlers thanking him for being a role model and their. prove they can pursue a dream career in bowling just like he did. He was recently thanked by a young bowler and he is optimistic that the younger generation will have a major impact on the diversity of the game in the future.

“It’s not just the LGBT player base,” he said. “They are African Americans, they are Latinos, they are Asians. There just needs to be awareness in the communities to give young people role models in these different categories to really show them that bowling is for everyone and to create excitement among all walks of life.

The gay kiss happened nine years ago, but Norton feels the media has become more comfortable showing these types of moments and talking openly more about diversity and representation. He would like to see the media take more risks by telling the stories of diverse athletes to give everyone the chance to see people like them and believe they can do it too.

“I remember what it was like to me, and I was taught from an early age to leave the world better than when you entered it,” he said of the impact it was on. ‘he wishes to leave. “That was the main factor that made me want to stay on tour and really show people that I was like everyone else.”

For now, Norton and Woodward live in Mission Viejo, California. Norton opened Nerdy By Nature escape rooms in October 2019 and is seeing its business picking up after the pandemic lockdown. And if he had the chance, he would love to comment on a PBA event held at the Bayside Bowl in Portland, Maine. If he ever gets the chance, he will likely be successful like he has handled other great moments in his life.

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