Volume 1, Issue 38
By Angel Zobel-Rodriguez
Breakfast was finished. I'd jumped through a shower, had coffee in hand, and knew I had plenty of time to write my column later Sunday afternoon. I was looking forward to writing about the thirteenth televised 300, savoring every delivery. I'm the type that peeks at the PBA site and I knew the results (and yes, I'm like that around Christmas too), so I was dreaming of what was to come--Steve Jaros throwing a perfecto on national TV. Would the normally quiet and composed Jaros fall to his knees after the trey bomb? Would he pump his fist in the air? Would he, not unlike Joe Berardi years ago, talk about all the diapers the soon-to-be father of twins could now afford?
We settled in to watch the telecast, turning off a movie we'd been watching, when the announcer came on. OK, tell me what's going to be on SportsCenter and get on with the PBA Tour already, I thought. Then the announcer said the unthinkable, "Due to technical difficulties, the Chattanooga Open will not air..." This was not part of the dream. This was becoming a nightmare. I did the only thing I could think of: I screamed. Long, and loud.
Then I walked into my office, and turned on my computer. Within seconds, other PBA fans--friends--were asking me what was going on. None of us knew, but we all shared the frustration. Why wasn't bowling airing? What could be so difficult about pressing play on a video tape machine? After all, the event was taped the day before. We had so little information, but we moved into a bowling chat room to continue to share what little we knew. We posted links for people to find our group, so that no bowler would be left alone--there's that saying about misery loving company, and we made great companions.
Minutes later, the group kept growing. Even the players who made the telecast and people affiliated with the show had no clue as to what happened. One of the ball reps (someone who's job it is to recommend equipment to the players during the tournament) who'd been at the taping started answering questions about the balls that had been used and about the lane conditions. If we couldn't see it ourselves, we could at least know what happened.
With the help of the online yellow pages, I found ESPN's switchboard, and encouraged people to focus their concerns in a positive way--at least we could be heard. ESPN's operator repeated the same statement that was read over the air. For quite some time, the PBA web site was silent, and with so many people trying to get information there, folks were getting the web version of "busy signals." Finally, the updated PBA web site read that the show would not air due to the dreaded "technical difficulties."
With all that communing, we managed to get past the personal horror of not seeing the telecast, not seeing the thirteenth televised 300 game of the PBA Tour, to the bigger tragedy that affected the players. Questions arose like would Jaros' 300 become the first "untelevised" televised 300 game, and a mere asterisk in the record books?
Steve Jaros obviously lost out. His perfect game didn't air. He was part of history, and only those in attendance will know his reaction. The PBA awarded him his $10,000 prize for a televised 300 during the show. It's not clear at this point if they will continue to consider it televised or not. Lonnie Waliczek missed out on his first television appearance. All five players lost out on the incentive money from their respective sponsors--manufacturers of grips, wrist devices, shoes, and bowling balls. In many cases, their incentive money exceeds the place money for the PBA tournament itself.
Brunswick lost out as well. Jaros was debuting the brand new Mike Aulby MVP signature ball. Having someone throw the new equipment translates into sales, even if few of us are in the realm of pro bowlers. Having someone shoot a perfecto with a new ball would undoubtedly translate into interest at the pro shop.
ESPN lost out, because this smacks all too much of the chopped up telecasts of the PWBA events of a year ago. People who watch bowling want to see that--bowling. Even if the reason is different, excuse the fans who are leery of a network that could chop out an entire match because other sports ran late. They find time for chain saw competitions, but bowling takes a back seat.
Advertisers lost out. In local markets, people that bought airtime during a bowling event, hoping to showcase a tournament or a bowling center, instead had their ads running during car crashes. Judging by how many bowlers I talked to, not too many of them stayed around after the announcer's message.
And of course, the PBA lost out. With the added lead-in from SportsCenter the night before regarding the perfect game and no other major sports competing with it, they could have had the biggest audience in years.
In the end, bowling loses out, because as fans, we're missing the opportunity to see our heroes. PBA, no more, please. Two controversies in two weeks is more than enough.