Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Jason Thomas' Disappointing Article on Bottlegate

"We also saw a nice bit of controversy and confrontation between Brad Angelo and Jason Belmonte."
--Jason Thomas

Jason Thomas posted a column (you can read it here) yesterday on pba.com that I'd like to say a few words about today, now that I've had a chance to give it some thought.

Frankly, I'm very disappointed with Mr. Thomas for using "Bottlegate" to try to "generate fan interest and conversation" heading into last Sunday's show" and then gloating over the fact that "it worked" despite the unpleasant fallout that's ensued.

I'm disappointed that he would characterize what took place between Belmo and Angelo as "a nice bit of controversy and confrontation." Given the accusations and insults that have been heaped on both players ever since on Facebook and probably elsewhere, along with the hurt feelings and resentment Belmo has expressed over the whole incident, I don't see anything "nice" about it.

I'm disappointed that he would sully Belmo's well-deserved reputation as one of the most personable and, more importantly, sportsmanlike players on tour by referring to him as "Australian golden-boy Jason Belmonte" within a context that sounds like a cynical if not sneering appraisal of Belmo's integrity. For while "golden boy" can mean different things, the fact that Thomas uses the expression in an article in which he praises Angelo for rightfully confronting the "Australian golden-boy" sounds like he means the following definition from the Urban Dictionary: "The person who appears to have an untarnished record of any kind. Most people considered a "golden boy" actually do have many flaws and are not what they seem."

I'm disappointed with Mr. Thomas for writing, "The timing of the bottle noise definitely called into legitimate question the intent of the action, and Angelo was simply confronting the culprit in order to stand up for his rights as a competitor." Again, it sounds like Mr. Thomas is casting aspersions on Belmo's intentions, and he's praising Angelo for, in my opinion, handling the incident in a less than optimal manner.

I'm disappointed with Mr. Thomas for writing that after the incident went public, Angelo was criticized far more than Belmo was but that "Brad never felt the need to blame or belittle his fellow competitor after the fact...or bemoan or hassle others (myself and the PBA included) for drawing attention to the thing that led to so much negative criticism." Thomas seems to be alluding to Belmo's comments on Facebook where he expresses his displeasure with Thomas and the PBA for trying to capitalize on the incident, such as when Belmo wrote: "I'm a little sad to see the PBA try and blow this out of proportion considering the match itself is a great match and was very close all the way to the end. Clutching at straws I guess," and referred to the PBA elsewhere as throwing him "under the bus" for publicity's sake. I think Jason Thomas and the PBA have done precisely that, and, for the record, Belmo has had nothing but good words to say about Angelo ever since the incident, whereas Angelo, although generally complimentary to Belmo, continued, in this interview that Mr. Thomas cites as an example of Angelo's graciousness toward Belmo, to express skepticism about Belmo's intentions.

But what disappoints me perhaps most of all is that Mr. Thomas and, presumably, the PBA he represents, seems to think that turning PBA telecasts into bowling's version of Wrestlemania is a good way to promote the PBA. Thomas writes:

"So, if you are not currently a Brad Angelo fan, I would strongly encourage you to re-evaluate your position, if not for the sake of his fan club mailing list and highly successful bowling camps, then at least for the message it sends to his fellow players that what you want to see on TV is candid, in-your-face, bowling action, which when we get it, showcases our sport at it's very best and most dramatic."

I don't know about you, but I think PBA bowling is at its very best and most dramatic when the players let their bowling balls and not their mouths do the talking in outstandingly executed and nail-biting matches to the wire. They don't need to get in each other's faces, and, if and when they do, the PBA doesn't need to glorify it and then take snide shots at those who criticize them for doing so. If professional bowling in this country is so desperate for ratings that it's seeking to turn its telecasts into "PBA Sunday Smackdown," Jason Belmonte's right. The PBA *is* "clutching at straws,"and straws won't keep it from drowning.

You can read my previous entries on "Bottlegate" here, here, and here.


  1. I read Thomas' piece on Monday. My initial thoughts on it aren't fit for publication. Angelo is now some kind of hero, to be held in higher esteem than the likes of Jack Jurek, Tommy Jones, Norm Duke, WRW and many, many others? wow........

    I am completely and thoroughly disgusted with him and the PBA, for not only condoning but obviously approving of his and Angelo's behavior.

    I had intended to obtain the Xtra Frame goodies, via a yearly subscription. I'll not do that now. I'll not support an organization that doesn't share and uphold the value system that I hold dear. My value system puts honor, honesty, integrity and fair play above all else.

    Obviously, they think that pro bowlers have to change into some kind of reality show participant, where the folks can tune in and laugh at the dysfunctional players. Next we'll have "inside" looks at the pros double bunking in their hotels, fighting over the bathroom and TV remote and so on. We'll get to watch and listen to their phone conversations with their wives and/or girlfriends, completely revealing their dysfunctional relationships over the seasons. Of course, that won't be enough. They'll have to have several staged fights at every tournament, with lots of commercials showing teasers of the fights in upcoming matches.

    No thanks. Not interested. Maybe other folks are and they'll succeed. If not, I'll wait until they go under and see what, if anything, takes their place.

    I will say this about the water bottles. I have a new brand of bottled water at home, with bottles that make a lot of noise. Those bottles store energy and will make noise for some time after they've been set down. You take a drink, cap the bottle, set it down and it'll entertain you for a couple of minutes. That's something that I'm quite sure Angelo and company don't know or wouldn't share if they did know.

    Lastly, I'd offer up this video clip for those that like to whine about noise ruining their shots. It's the 1999 PBA National match between Dave Arnold and Chris Barnes.

    Their treatment of Belmonte has left a sour taste in my mouth and seriously dampened my enthusiasm for watching bowling.


  2. Kerry, I don't see Jason Thomas' column on the PBA site. Maybe he read your comment. ;-)

  3. He's still employed, has a column dated today and the article about Angelo being his new favorite bowler is still there, on page 3 of the news. So, nothing has changed, AFAICT, nor do I expect anything to change.

    I don't know how to properly put a link in, but this is the url of the article.

    The really sad part is that I can't find a way for the public to contact anyone in authority at the PBA, if you have complaints or suggestions. Obviously, they're not interested in hearing what the public might have to say about any topic or any member of the PBA. Given the way they operate, I guess that shouldn't be a surprise.

    The USBC is quite the opposite, giving anyone access to the Board of Directors via email, from the president on down.


  4. Kerry, thanks for the link.

    I don't agree that Thomas should be fired. As I wrote in my blogpost today, I think he works very hard and generally does a great job for the PBA. We all make mistakes, and I just think that he made one with his handling of Bottlegate. Sadly, I doubt that he sees it as such, but maybe he'll come around in time.

    I agree that it would be nice to have an online way of contacting the PBA. I suppose that one could write snailmail to their headquarters, but e-mail is faster and cheaper. What I also find disappointing is that they used to allow and even invite comments on their stories, which they would publish below the stories. But now they seem to have stopped that. Perhaps they got tired of moderating them.

  5. I think it's appalling that a person's reputation means so little to Thomas and the PBA. It will be important to see how this affects Belmonte's current and future earnings from product endorsements and sponsorships. Things like this incident have caused other sports figures to lose their outside income overnight. Hopefully, this incident won't hurt Belmonte's appeal to sponsors and product endorsement people.

    I think that bowling and golf are 2 peas in a pod, both being a gentleman's sport. The PGA wouldn't put up with Angelo's schoolyard bully antics. The PBA shouldn't either.

    Bowling and golf are also alike in that the competitors don't have offense or defense. They are trying to conquer the holes or the pins. Who they bowl and their score shouldn't bother a pro bowler. Their only course of action is to knock down as many pins as possible. Of course, it's human nature to rank your "opponent". It's obvious that many players worry about who they are bowling against. They get tight when someone like WRW is their opponent and slack off when they're bowling against a soft competitor.

    Angelo is not a top level bowler. He only owns 1 title, after 9 years on tour. In the last 5 seasons, he's only made TV finals 7 times. In the last 2 years, he's only made the TV finals once each season. He didn't make the championship match either year, but both this year and last, he's played the schoolyard bully routine while on camera.

    I think it's disgusting that he's decided to embellish his schoolyard bully image for his claim to fame, rather than his bowling skills, and that the PBA is encouraging that. It is this behavior, not his bowling skills, that made him Thomas' new favorite bowler. How admirable.....

    Before you say that may not be his intention, I'll remind you that he had the perfect opportunity to talk to Belmonte during the commercial break. He chose to make a scene on camera instead. Additionally, I'd simply offer up the green shirted fan club that he had at this year's match. They were clearly there to emphasize his bad boy image. The T-shirts were emblazoned with "That Ain't Brooklyn" and all of their signs emphasized his bullyboy image. That is not normal fan behavior. It was clearly orchestrated.

    I'm not going to write the PBA via snailmail. It seems clear to me that they don't want input from the general public in any fashion, via direct email or via comments on the stories they publish.

    I read your latest article on the subject with interest. Obviously, you are much more familiar with Thomas than I. I'll take your word that he's much better than my impression of him. What I think doesn't matter anyway and now I've said all that I have to say on the topic, which is probably way too much already.


  6. Kerry, I doubt that Belmo will suffer any discernible loss of reputation or remuneration as a result of all this. He's too charismatically personable, awesomely talented, and exciting on the lanes for that to happen.

    As for Thomas, I hope you'll give Xtra Frame a trial, and check out Thomas' work on it with as much of an open mind as you can muster. I think you'll like the service and come to respect Thomas' substantial role in providing it.

    I do think he screwed up with Bottlegate and the Angelo column, but we've all made our share of mistakes, and maybe Thomas will learn from his.

    I will say in passing that I bowled in a tournament down in Southern California that Thomas bowled in last summer. Being the shy guy that I am, I didn't talk to him. But in watching him, I got the impression that he's a nice guy, and he's a pretty good bowler to boot. From what I understand, he and Robert Smith were the two terrors of the Southern Cal junior circuit back in the day. And I also saw him exhibit a pretty mean two-handed game toward the end of the tournament after he was out of contention and Mike Devaney had run away from the pack.

  7. I greatly admire your loyalty and optimism. I sincerely hope that it pays dividends for you.

    An excellent quote here; "I think PBA bowling is at its very best and most dramatic when the players let their bowling balls and not their mouths do the talking in outstandingly executed and nail-biting matches to the wire."

    I certainly agree with that premise. However, that quote is in direct opposition to the current actions of Thomas and the PBA.

    As for me, I'll probably continue to watch the TV shows that I can record on my DVR, until such a time that the PBA and Wrestlemania merge for Sunday smackdowns. When that happens, I'll find something else to do with my time. :-)

    I also sincerely hope that changes are made to the point where I can engage in bowling competitions. I won't hold my breath, but maybe if the PBA folds, the USBC or another organization takes over and makes changes to eliminate the great divide between normal people and the pros. Honestly, I don't see that happening anytime soon. :-(