Volume 1, Issue 48
By Angel Zobel-Rodriguez
OK, I've had enough. I'll admit that I'm not the world's most patient person, but when the phrases Dennis Rodman and the Pro Bowlers Tour are mentioned in the same sentence, I tend to lose my cool. When they're published in the New York Post in regard to PBA Commissioner Mark Gerberich, I see red.
I've pretty much figured there was some sort of a bad boy PR machine coming out of the PBA in recent months. A couple months ago, there was the Pete Weber Esquire Magazine article which really backfired, since many folks put it down without finishing it. Pete's vocabulary seemed limited to 4-letter words, and considering bowlers couldn't finish reading it without losing their lunch, I'm sure that the nonbowling readers weren't left with anything to entice them to watch. Then in early spring, Rudy Kasimakis surfaced in both Esquire and the USA Today newspaper.
The USA Today article attempted to show Revs' bad boy image, yet it bordered on coy. This "I can't tell you what I made (wink-wink-nudge-nudge) because the IRS might be reading" mentality didn't quite take them over into the "dark side." Apparently the worst bad boy the PBA can muster is a guy who can swear and someone who doesn't pay taxes?
Folks absolutely hate when anyone compares bowling to other sports, but what were the biggest stories in sports in the last year? Retirements of the Gretzky and Jordan, and the baseball race between Sosa and McGwire. I'll throw in Cal Ripken, Jr.'s Ironman streak coming to an end, too. They are the HEROES.
Rather than lament that the bowlers actually congratulate each other after each spare and hug at the end of a match, the PBA should remember the Sosa/McGwire homerun race, and how they embraced on the field when McGwire actually broke the record. Why when bowling is trying hard to leave the words "alley" and "gutter" behind are we jumping into the muck with both feet? Why lower bowling to the pro wrestling model when golf and so many other sports have been lauded in recent years when the rise above the self-absorbed hype?
But it's not in my nature to leave the glass half empty; some of the changes the PBA is trying are for the better. The PBA arena settings are definitely growing on me. While the forced cheering during the telecasts with the smaller turn outs gets old, that raw excitement of the arena settings seems to be pumping up many of the pros.
Suddenly they have personalities! Actually, I'm sure their families can attest they've had personalities all along, but now the fans are experiencing that too. Maybe a little media coaching by the TV folks can help the quieter guys shine with this format. I'm still waiting to see children running around the bowling center during a PBA tournament wearing shirts plastered with pictures of their favorite pros. If the PBA hasn't picked this up, where are the ball companies? It's the personalities that sell, and for every bad boy available to promote, there are probably ten or twenty pros that aren't trying to get fined, and can say the right thing during a pro am, or slap a kid's hand during a telecast and become a media darling through fan admiration.
The New York Experience is coming this Saturday to the PBA, and while it seems a bit corny to bowl outside, I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt. There's a long list of celebrities and athletes coming out to take part, and given that Bryant Park is down the street from Madison Avenue, the advertising mecca, the PBA is trying to get the media and advertisers to take notice.
There's even better news for the PWBA. This week Carolyn Dorin-Ballard appears on the Rosie O'Donnell show. Rosie has openly shared her love for bowling, by sponsoring a league. On Tuesday, the PWBA gets to share the spotlight with someone who can relate to bowling's plight. Rosie is another person who critics said couldn't make it on TV because she would be clobbered by Oprah, not unlike the how bowling supposedly can't compete with more established sports. Now a couple years later, Rosie is the media darling. Rather than talk about dysfunction, Rosie has fun--her own way. Let's hope she can do the same for bowling--and show viewers and advertising that bowling can find it's niche without changing its game.