Volume 1, Issue 20
By Angel Zobel-Rodriguez
Is bowling under attack by the media? Is it now in vogue to make bowling the butt of all jokes? After the last week, I'm beginning to wonder. While I like to poke a bit of fun here and there, I'm feeling a bit sensitive to say the least. Maybe hunting season started early. I mean, usually bowling is a quiet sport with not a lot of headlines, but this week feels like open season on bowling.
Earlier this week, I turned on The Tonight Show, and there was Jay Leno in his opening monologue making fun of bowling. I was in shell shock halfway through, and honestly don't remember the exact wording. He talked about bowlers and their rather ample rear ends (OUCH!). Has he never seen Parker Bohn or Kim Adler? Am I expecting too much that perhaps someone from the PBA/PWBA put a call in quickly and offer to have one of the pros be a guest? Heck, I'll gladly offer my son to talk to Jay about bowling. Jay might remember him for giving Jay rabbit ears on national TV. The bowlers I knew thought that was funny.
Then there was the commercial for radio talk show host, Jim Rome. Rome's syndicated program "The Jungle" talks about sports, and apparently, he has a new CD for sale that he's hawking. In the commercial, he's in a locker room. He slams a locker door shut, and says bowling isn't a sport because anything where the more alcohol you consume, the better you do, can't be a sport. (OUCHIES!). Again, this is a nationally syndicated program, and Romey makes fun of other "sports," but I can guarantee, that despite his Neckcar (redneck/NASCAR) references, NASCAR is laughing all the way to the bank. Heck, the PBA is sponsoring a NASCAR Craftsman truck. But when Romey makes fun of bowling, where are the public relations departments for our sport? PBA/PWBA/ABC/WIBC, hello?
And it wasn't just adult shows, my son was watching a "funniest videos" type program on Fox Family Channel when the hostess started joking about bowling. About how people become the best bowlers by just continuing to do it until everyone else has given up and gotten real jobs. About how the professional bowling tournament winners "almost" won minimum wage. Wait, if I'm being honest about it, considering travel expenses versus prize fun, she's almost right. Does bowling even have a P.R. department?
The straw the broke the camel's back occurred on Saturday Night Live. During the "Weekend Update" segment, the anchor Colin Quinn, mentioned the AMF promotion with Michael Jordan. The joke when on to say that Jordan hopes to bring to bowling what he did to baseball. The audience didn't laugh too hard, but actually, I did. If SNL can see the joke here, why didn't AMF see how funny it seems? By the way, that Jordan promotional ball that AMF is giving away in league is not even ABC/WIBC legal. Now who's laughing?
If bowling was a robust sport turning people away with waiting lines and great growth, I doubt these jokes would have made me sick. But the reality is that when I tell people I bowl, I still get that oh-how-quaint look. If the numbers of sanctioned bowlers wasn't dropping every year, I could laugh right along with the jokes, because there's nothing worse than a small group of people getting all bent out of shape because of how they are portrayed in one movie, or one TV program. But the reality is that all of these images are precisely what the general population thinks of bowlers.
I think the problem is that bowling is under attack, and the next step has to be that the powers that be (on the pro level and the national level) defend bowling. And quickly, because we need more than a defense, bowling is going to need an offense. Or bowlers can just be the "butt" of jokes until they become the Amish of the sports world. And come to think of it, even that's already been done.