"Many other professional sports combine entertainment elements within the sporting event, why can’t professional bowling?"
--Mike J. Laneside
PBA Xtra Frame's outstanding bowling announcer Mike Jakubowski (aka Mike J. Laneside) posted an article yesterday on the pba.com website that should provoke a lot of thought among bowling fans. It certainly has in me.
In his article, Is a Little Fun Really the End of the World?, Mr. Jakubowski argues that professional bowling needs to change with the times and do what's necessary to appeal to today's audience. Thus, bowling "purists" need to quit living in the somber Chris Schenkel style 60's and 70's of PBA telecasts and lighten up and embrace the vuvuzulas, blaring music, cheerleaders, and smack-talking, in-your-face competition of the season-ending Dick Weber PBA Playoffs of the modern era.
Here are some key passages from his article:
"Only a very small percentage of the audience in each sport sits in their seats the entire game or watches the entire telecast at home, watching every nuance, digesting every statistic, interpreting every announcer utterance. A very small percentage, the rest are there to have fun...The world of sports entertainment has changed by leaps and bounds over the last generation, while some professional bowling fans cling to the notion that presenting professional bowling the exact same way it was presented 30 or 40 years ago can engage a new generation of fans brought up on computers, video games, cell phones, texting, 500 television channels and the Internet – and most importantly, sponsors to support the sport. What other sport is presented the exact same way it was presented 30 or 40 years ago?...Pro bowling is starting to resemble professional wrestling? Good, it’s about time. I will take their television ratings, their merchandising outlets, their live audiences, their pay-per-view revenue and their sponsorship opportunities...Professional bowling never was, and never will be professional tennis or professional golf; no matter how desperately some bowlers or fans want it to be. Selling those models to a public that doesn’t buy it will never, ever work. Ever. No matter how often ‘purists’ post to Facebook or opine on message boards...This is the new world of instant social networking, smart phones and reality television. Instead of pining for something we can never be, how about we lean into what we really are?"
If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you know that I've been pretty critical of the PBA's attempts to make its bowling telecasts more "entertaining." I was especially displeased with its coverage of the "Bottlegate" incident and with the vuvuzelas and the Dick's antics in the Dick Weber PBA Playoffs, and I expressed the hope that the PBA wouldn't try to turn its telecasts into the "bowling equivalent of Wrestlemania."
Yet, judging by Mike J's column, that's exactly where the PBA may be headed because that's where it thinks today's fans and professional bowling's future appears to be if it's to have any future at all.
How do you feel about this? Does Mike J have a point? Do you think the PBA can stay alive and perhaps even become more prosperous by making itself more appealing to a broader demographic less interested in bowling per se than in being entertained, and how far in this direction do you think it can and should go before it goes too far to hold your interest?
I'm going to give the matter more thought and read what others have to say about it. Then I'll post more on the topic in an upcoming entry.