The "rally monkey" has inexplicably become the latest sports fad, putting it into the same category as "the wave," or the playing of Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll Part 2" every time the home team does anything remotely positive.

Local professional bowler David Leverage knows all about monkeys n at least the one that has been firmly attached to his proverbial back during his career.

"I like to think positive," said Leverage, a member of the Professional Bowlers Association for the better part of 10 years. "I never want to tell myself I'm not going to win."

But until three weeks ago, winning was something Leverage never did.

It all changed in late September when Leverage was part of a winning team at a threesome tournament in Washington state. Now, it seems the Peoria resident and Glendale satellite TV business owner can't lose.

Leverage, 32, followed the team victory a week later with an individual championship in the Whitney Oaks Open in Rocklin, Calif., and is coming off a first-place showing in the Haines Distributing Open in Bend, Ore., last week.

"I literally felt the tension roll off my body," Leverage said about the first win in Washington. "I knew I just had to get the monkey off my back and win that first one."

The former Arizona State University bowler who grew up in upstate New York has become living proof that when it rains, it pours.

"It's just amazing," Leverage said. "I had four second-place finishes last year. I was getting so close."

Leverage's surge has put him third in the standings for the PBA West Region's Bowler of the Year race, a competition that resembles NASCAR's Winston Cup, where bowlers receive points based on their finishes at region tournaments.

The win at the Whitney Oaks Open put Leverage only 37 points behind the leader. Prior to the tournament, Leverage was around 1,700 points behind.

Leverage credits hard work to his surge. He runs five miles a day and bowls around 40 games a week, the kind of commitment he wasn't willing to give when he first joined the PBA in 1994.

After bowling for the Sun Devils and St. John's University in New York in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Leverage joined the PBA with little success. Feeling "burned out," Leverage dropped his PBA card to raise his family and open Arizona Discount Satellite at 67th Avenue and Camelback Road.

Leverage continued to bowl in leagues, but didn't have the urge to return to the professional ranks until seeing an old friend on TV.

Michael Haugen Jr., who was part of Leverage's threesome in Washington, was televised one day and that inspired Leverage to get back into the game.

"I'm more consistent now," Leverage said. "I might not out bowl you, but I'll out work you. I think it gives me a mental edge and that makes me feel like I have an advantage."

He has certainly had an advantage over the field the last three weeks.

"When Earl Anthony won his first Bowler of the Year award, he didn't put it on the middle of his wall," Leverage said about the bowling great. "Do you know where he put it? He put it in the top left corner because he knew it wasn't going to be the only one. That's the way I want to think."