--Rick Reilly, ESPN The Magazine
When Kelly Kulick won the Tournament of Champions a month ago, many in the bowling world were very excited. I was one of them. I wrote in my blog the next day that Kulick's performance was the greatest bowling moment I'd ever witnessed in the almost fifty years that I'd been following the sport.
Some predicted that Kulick's victory would give men's and women's professional bowling a tremendous boost, and they wrote glowing accounts of the media's enthusiastic coverage of Kulick's feat immediately after the fact. However, I was more skeptical. Yes, for a few days after Kulick's accomplishment, she was a minor media darling, appearing on TV news and radio talk shows. But I still didn't see what I was hoping to see, and I said as much in a blog entry:
"I began searching online for media reactions to Kulick's achievement and saw a demoralizingly small number of mostly brief and tepid articles about it apparently penned by writers obligatorily going through the motions of reporting a story they cared nothing about. The real kicker was what someone scornfully wrote in the comments section of one of these lackadaisical articles. A close paraphrase of his comment is: "Kelly, how do you feel winning an insignificant championship in a sport nobody cares anything about?" My heart sank when I read this. Then I got angry. Then I realized that this person probably spoke for the majority of this football (both kinds) obsessed country and beyond and probably always would and that there was absolutely nothing I or Kelly Kulick could do about it."
A little later, I read this article on pba.com criticizing an article by David Whitley that asserted that bowling is not a sport because in real sports the best women can't beat the best men. It also seemed to me that the interest in Kelly Kulick's TOC title was fading fast and that, in no time, almost nobody was talking about ir anywhere, even among us bowlers. I predicted that Kulick's victory wouldn't be the "bowling tsunami" sweeping the sport into new realms of fame and fortune that some thought it would be but that it would likely have some kind of positive impact on the sport. But now I'm not so sure. And after reading Rick Reilly's gloomy article in ESPN The Magazine titled "The greatest moment in women's sports," I'm even less sure than I was before. In fact, I'm feeling downright demoralized.
Reilly says that Kulick's victory and Kulick herself have, in fact, received astonishingly little recognition from the media and public at large given the true magnitude of her accomplishment. He writes:
"Danica Patrick beats men in an auto race and she's on TV more often than the Geico gecko. Why isn't Kelly sifting through huge endorsement deals?...In golf, people turn 1260 McTwists when Michelle Wie nearly makes a men's cut. In tennis, Billie Jean King's thumping of a 55-year-old man is hailed as the greatest thing for women since the sports bra.Kelly Kulick? Who dat?...Listen! She beat 62 of the best male pros -- straight up -- in arguably the Tour's creamiest event, the Tournament of Champions. And she beat them like egg yolks. She beat Chris Barnes, the No. 1 bowler on the Tour, by 70 pins in the final! That's like beating Emeril by three hams!...So why is she getting no love? Why isn't she known across America as Queenpin? Why isn't she doing Letterman's Top Ten?"
Kelly Kulick's answer to this question is, "Beats me. They hate bowling?"
Maybe "hate" is too strong a word. "Indifference" seems more like it. Maybe Rob Stone is right. Maybe we need to inject more excitement into the sport But whatever we need to do, we who love bowling better do it fast before the sport we love dies from apathy and neglect.