Volume 1, Issue 49
By Angel Zobel-Rodriguez
I'll admit, when I heard about the The New York City PBA Experience, I was skeptical. To put it bluntly, the name sounded less than exciting (come on folks, something with pizzazz, and maybe short enough to remember?), and the concept would just open bowling up to more jokes from Leno and the Tonight Show.
The PBA would unload four 53 ft. semis in a park, and set up a pair of lanes for the telecast right down the street from Madison Avenue. Nothing like it has ever been tried on live TV, and there was surely a hefty price tag involved. And of course, between the pigeon jokes and the potential for the first wind-aided bowling disqualifications were nothing compared to the worry of the event being rained out completely. I was sure that no matter what kind of exposure the PBA was looking for, it wouldn't include a blurb on the news about how the entire event was rained out when the lanes were literally flooded--and not just from 10 to 10. It seemed like a huge gamble, with plenty to lose besides just face.
Sitting here the day after the telecast, all I can think is WOW. As a bowling fanatic, I would probably be content to watch some of the pros lob bricks down a sidewalk just so long as it's televised, but with regard to Saturday's telecast, I was impressed. My only regret now is that I didn't videotape it, so I could savor it over and over again. While it will be some time to figure out exactly how well the gamble paid off from a marketing standpoint, the response from fans has been an enthusiastic "YAY!"
The show started with the finalists doing a rendition of "New York, New York," and I realized why these guys bowl for a living. But when the camera opened up to the first shot of Bryant Park, I was speechless. The weather was beautiful, something that for bowlers, is usually immaterial. There were over 1,000 people seated in the bleachers, and if you didn't see the lanes you could easily confuse the gathering for any other outdoor event.
The players were a mix of the old guard and the new. John Mazza and Eric Forkel representing the left side have both been on tour for some time, and both of them have been experiencing a title drought. Rudy Kasimakis and Mark Mosayebi, both righties, are relatively new to the tour and looking for their first win. It would be tough to pick a favorite. Seeing Eric Forkel in sunglasses just made me laugh. The announcer made a crack about an 80's tune, "The Future's So Bright (I Gotta Wear Shades)," and I was beaming. I quickly wondered if someone had contacted Ray Bans for future sponsorship deals.
The bowling started, and I began roaring my approval at the TV. Mind you, this isn't unusual for me, but the levity of the crowd and the announcers took it to a whole new level. When they mentioned the lanes were 95 degrees as opposed to the air temperature of 66, I realized how much fun they were going to have with the entire "experience."
It was nice to see a real celebrity in the crowd. While a friend remarked he would have preferred to see Spike Lee (that way you KNOW it's a New York crowd) in attendance, Drew Carey's presence and interaction with the pros was incredible. Just like a REAL sport I thought. The Lakers can have Jack Nicholson. We had Drew Carey and Terrell Davis.
By the time Forkel advanced to Mosayebi, I was no longer sitting, I was pacing around the TV. The crowd was dead silent when Forkel got up in the tenth, and for 1200 people in New York to be that quiet must be some kind of record. When Mosayebi threw the untimely split in the tenth, Forkel won from the bench. It was just another surprise in an afternoon full of them.
The rest of the evening, I continued to be surprised. ESPN's Sports Center actually mentioned bowling without an insect on the lane, a falling trophy smashing to the ground, a gutter ball, or a 300 game. The amazing thing was they barely touched on the fact it was held outdoors. There was no laughter, no mocking. Bowling actually made the local sports recaps during the 10 o' clock news in the usually unresponsive Los Angeles market.
So maybe the future is looking bright. It's the first time I didn't really think about missing the five-man stepladder or the 90-minute telecasts. Now I'm sure they can't "take it outside" every week, but a little variety would be nice. I'm thinking the Hollywood sign would make a lovely backdrop. I'll bring my sunblock.