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The Right Approach...Views on the world of bowling.

Volume 1, Issue 34


By Angel Zobel-Rodriguez

      The PBA has just begun the winter tour, and in a couple of weeks the PWBA will resume their schedule. But for members of AMF's ball staff, their new year is getting off to a rocky start.

      AMF has given their touring staff notice that they are no longer under contract, meaning they no longer represent the company, nor do they get the luxury of a salary and free equipment on tour. Gone are the tour reps, the AMF employees who watch the pro bowlers, and recommend particular balls and drillings. And AMF didn't stop there. For the independent bowler, not restricted to a single ball company, and who might be interested in a little incentive money, using an AMF ball on a telecast will not earn the usual extra income.

      So for bowlers like Marianne Dirupo, Wendy Macpherson, and Dana Miller-Mackie, AMF showed them the door. The only bowlers remaining on AMF's staff are Brian Voss and Bob Learn, Jr., and Dick Weber on the Senior tour, and their contracts are only good through this year. After hearing that, I can't help but wonder if the AMF sponsorship of the PWBA is in jeopardy after 1999 as well. The Tours are already struggling, and to have a major industry sponsor pull out would certainly leave the tours and the bowlers who make their living out there in a world of hurt.

      And the manufacturers need the PBA and PWBA tours as well. Without a presence on the pro tours, it's hard to believe that AMF would be able to compete with other ball companies, like Brunswick or Ebonite. People tune into the telecasts, see what balls bowlers are throwing, and go ask their pro shops about it. I can always tell what new ball made its debut if I miss a telecast based on the e-mail I receive from viewers. The ball manufacturers are notoriously slow about getting information on their web sites updated, and honestly, too many folks aren't computer-savvy enough to get all their info there.

      It almost appears that AMF is leaving the pro tours, and equipment manufacturing, and concentrating on bowling center management. Even if AMF leaving pro bowling is a good decision for AMF, will it be good for bowling? AMF has been promoting the "recreational" aspects of bowling for some time. That in itself isn't so bad, as long as the industry remained loyal to the sport as well.

      But is AMF loyal to the sport of bowling? AMF's intent can be seen in the Michael Jordan commercials, where he is seen with several adorable children, but not once is there any hint of intensity or sport. AMF has perhaps the most well-recognized athlete in the world under contract (since they bought out his golf company), and he is playing straight man to cherubs. If that wasn't enough, AMF's first Michael Jordan promotion, the Michael Jordan have-a-ball league, offered a ball that could not be used in sanctioned competition. Many bowlers were incredulous to find out that while the leagues they were bowling in were sanctioned, the balls they earned were not legal.

      AMF's next Michael Jordan ball will be a "high-performance" ball, and apparently this one is sanctioned. But without anyone throwing it on TV, can it possibly sell? Is AMF trying to set professional bowling, the sport, up to say, "if Michael Jordan can't sell this sport, no one can"? I won't presume answer that for them, but their actions speak louder than any forthcoming press releases.

Gotta Split,

Angel


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