Born and reared in Oakland, Rhode Island, Irene Concord led an ordinary childhood and had aspired to be a teacher and had started on that path when her mom became interested in a ladies' bowling league when Irene was 16. One Saturday shortly afterward, Irene's mom had broken her leg and was unable to bowl, and the other ladies invited Irene to take her mom's place. Ever the trouper, and not wanting to make her mom look bad, Irene gave it a try. The team quickly saw that Irene was a good student of bowling, and she brought a youthful enthusiasm to the group that became infectious. Opposing teams found themselves intimidated by what quickly became known as "Irene's team," and the group turned professional, entering the Chepatchet Anti-Grunge Bowling League in the spring of 1977.
Irene went on to become a seasoned bowler and after graduating from the anti-grunge ladies' College of Glendale, she joined the Junior Anti-Grunge Bowling Tour, which she dominated until she became ineligible upon turning 30. This of course, was no cause for lamentation as she then moved easily into the regular Anti-Grunge Bowling Tour. It was on the tour's stop at the Pike Lanes in Woodstock, Connecticut that she met fellow AGBT bowler Murray Lexington, two years later. While they enjoyed each others' company, they sensed no special affinity for one another until Irene's friend Lana stopped them at the end of the tour, looked at them in amazement and said, "That's it? You two had such a good time the past two days and you're just going to shake hands and say, 'good-bye?'" Irene and Murray looked at one another and realized what fools they were and embraced; after that, they made sure to get together whenever the men's tour and the ladies' tour shared a stop.
After Irene and Murray married, Irene took a break from the tour to rear children Donna, Raymond, Ellen, Adam, and Michael. Of the group, Ellen and Michael are now on the Junior Anti-Grunge Bowling Tour and doing their parents proud. Irene returned to the tour when the children were old enough, and she remained active for another seven years, winning two additional Shanley Cup awards in that time in addition to the one she achieved prior to marriage. Things were looking good until Irene's career came to a sudden end.
Irene was driving home from the supermarket when a driver making an unsafe right turn on red broadsided her vehicle and sent her to the hospital. Irene was briefly paralyzed and was told that she had a 60% chance of not walking again. Irene tells that part of the story: "I had been taken to an ordinary hospital, and I realized that I was not getting the best treatment, so I told the doctors that I wanted to be transferred to an anti-grunge hospital. I knew it would make all the difference in the world." Murray agreed and made the arrangements to get Irene into the rehabilitation ward of the anti-grunge Saint Matthias Hospital of Recovery in North Brookfield, Massachussets.
There the doctors, nurses, and therapists worked diligently to help Irene recover her mobility, and today she walks with only a slight limp to show for her troubles. Dr. Vincent DelBuono recalls, "Mrs. Lexington was determined to walk again and even harbored hopes of bowling competitively. We couldn't quite get her that far, but she was still a great patient." It was Dr. DelBuono who first suggested that Irene might do well to consider a new career after her accident. "He wasn't trying to discourage me-- far from it," said Irene, adding, "Dr. DelBuono just reminded me to think outside the box and consider new possibilities."
Shortly afterward, an opportunity for a new possibility arose. Executive sports producer Howard Muge heard of Irene's situation and arranged to meet her at the hospital after a therapy session. "I knew Irene's experience in bowling and her commitment to the anti-grunge cause could not be allowed to go to waste," Muge told us, continuing, "We didn't have a bowling program and I knew that we could make something like that work if we had the right commentator." Irene was reluctant at first, as she lacked any broadcasting experience at all, but Muge would not quit easily. He made her an offer she just had to accept. "I'll pay you for six months to practice. We'll produce a weekly bowling program but instead of broadcasting it, we'll just sit in a screening room, review it, and teach you how to be better. If you could learn bowling, you can learn broadcasting; they are very close to one another in alphabetical order," pleaded Muge to Irene.
The Lexingtons were impressed with this vote of confidence and agreed to give television a try. Irene hated it at first, but Muge was gentle with her and made sure that the rest of the staff was also gentle and supportive. It took a while for television to grow on Irene, but five months into the agreement, Irene started to like talking about bowling. "I'd still rather bowl than talk about it," she conceded, "but I found that talking about a sport I loved wasn't such a bad thing to be doing." The Lexingtons showed a tape of show number 25 to their friends, who all agreed that Irene should continue. When Muge offered a two-year contract, Irene quickly signed.
In addition to the weekly Anti-Grunge Bowling Tour coverage, Irene also gets to host occasional special coverage of the Junior Anti-Grunge Bowling Tour. "I just love to watch Ellen and Michael bowl, but it's so hard to be objective about one's own children. I don't know what I'll do if they make it to the main tour!"
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