Volume 2, Issue 16, The 68th Edition
By Angel Zobel-Rodriguez
So many times when I compare bowling to other sports, bowling comes up short. Bowling is still small potatoes compared to the big guys, and after this weekend, I'm thinking that's not the worst thing. Fans are always clamoring for pro bowling to be more like golf and the "big" sports, but I think we should be careful what we wish for. We may be glossing right over the best thing bowling has going for it--our professional athletes and their appreciation of their fans.
Anyone who knows me, already knows I'm a spaz for Cal Ripken, Jr., and the Baltimore Orioles--not only since he broke Lou Gehrig's streak for consecutive games played and all the talk about being baseball's Iron Man, but since spending my summers growing up on the Chesapeake Bay during the 80s. So as a belated birthday present, my husband splurged and got excellent field-level seats to take in an Orioles game against the Anaheim Angels. They're not exactly local, but within driving distance.
At some point, I got the brilliant idea to remove my front license plate from my truck, and attempt to have Cal sign it and get it framed, since it reads CAL 2632 (the number stands for his world-record of consecutive games played). I say attempt, because after arriving when the gates opened 90 minutes before the game, and waiting patiently throughout batting practice, Ripken signed perhaps five autographs out of several hundred people in line, and then he was gone.
Not to be deterred, we tried the visiting players' exit after the game, only to find out he'd ducked out another gate after talking to reporters. Apparently in "real" sports, autographs and memorabilia have become big business since I was a kid going to baseball games and clamoring for an autograph. People make serious money by getting players to autograph trading cards, team uniforms, or whatever, and selling to the highest bidder. Players don't want their names turned into a business, or at least not without their cut, and realistically, I can't say I blame them. I couldn't help but wondering, though, if players restricting their signings didn't play into the hands of the greedy collectors with the laws of supply and demand. Thank goodness that bowling isn't like that, though.
I came home late last night, and looked at all the signatures I've collected over the years from professional bowlers. Throughout my years of bowling, and all the pro ams and tour stops I've attended, I've only had a couple of encounters that I would even could consider as less than positive. And sometimes folks just have bad days. Have a program or a bowling pin? Pro bowlers sign it quickly and with a smile. A child wants his shirt signed, and the players take time to small talk with the fans while signing. They must sign their names a couple of hundred times a week during a tour stop.
The only value that a bowling signature has is to bowling fans. All the memorabilia is important to me, but more so to my son, so they adorn his room, with no fear on my part that he might ruin something with a value comparable to his college fund. Signed pictures and posters, a T-shirt covered in signatures, an autographed bowling ball he received from a player on a telecast, and a duckpin ball signed by the entire Brunswick staff.
So in this case, I'm glad no one on tour is worried about the laws of supply and demand. Bowling isn't the big business that baseball is just yet. I like being spoiled in bowling. The pro bowler's signatures might not be "worth" as much to a business collector/seller, because anyone at a tour stop can get the same autographs merely by asking, but at the same time, they're priceless. So the next time I go to a pro am, or visit a PBA or PWBA Tour stop, I'm going to smile and make a point to thank the players because I know I can. Our pros are accessible, and never turn down a chance to interact with their fans.