Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Why Tommy Jones or Norm Duke and Not Walter Ray Williams Jr.?

I complained sometime back about Walter Ray Williams Jr. being dropped by Track bowling equipment after only one mediocre season following his record-setting seventh Player of the Year season. Track later informed me that Williams wasn't so much flat out dropped as he and Track were unable to come to terms on a new contract.

In other words, Walter required more than Track was willing to offer. I expressed doubt that he asked for more than he received the previous season, but I opined that he still deserved to receive as much as he did before on the strength of his amazingly long and successful career.

Someone recently posted a very thoughtful comment about this that I'd like to repost here, because I think it may go far in explaining why Walter Ray is not as popular with ball manufacturers as other, far less successful players have been:
I've always wondered about this, I mean WRW Jr. has had a bunch of ball sponsors over the years. I personally feel that he's G.O.A.T., but I suspect it's his winning style that may have cost him a bit in this area. Bear with me...

If a bowler is winning, and dominant, it doesn't much matter *how* they get it done, they're going to get offers from sponsors. In business though, it's not so much what you've done, but "what you've done lately".

Now, I've seen WRW hook the lane, but his general approach is "straighter is greater" and he tends to play down and in without a lot of hook. Watching him bowl, it looks like he could win with any manufacturer's ball, and he probably could.

I think the ball companies are more likely to want to sponsor bowlers with more ball motion. People at home see Sean Rash, Wes Malott, Jason Belmonte, Pete Weber, Tommy Jones, Jason Couch, Chris Barnes, Bill O'Neal, Michael Fagan and a bunch of the other guys roll various equipment and think "if I get that same ball I can make it roll like he does!" Meanwhile, Walter Ray's rev rate is probably a lot closer to a typical house bowler (about identical to mine, I think!)

I don't know, I could be way off-base but I think this is one reason WRW Jr goes from sponsor to sponsor. One below-par (for HIM!) season and he's just not the marketing draw some of the other guys are, despite the fact that his style, while not as flashy as a high-rev player, helped him become the greatest-of-all-time (or among the top three, at the very least!)

Me, I'm hoping he wins multiple titles next year, all with different brands of bowling balls, whichever is working the best that week... that would be great.
As I said, I think there may be a lot of truth to this comment. Ball manufacturers know that what appeals to a broad segment of their market is not tremendous accuracy and consistency but overwhelming POWER. They want to see balls rev like a buzzsaw, hook like crazy, and explode the pins like an atom bomb.

Walter Ray's relatively straight, low rev ball doesn't do any of that. Yes, it generates one of the highest carry percentages on tour, and he's almost superhumanly accurate and consistent with it, but that's not good enough. The ball needs to roll and strike in a flashy way. Then power-obsessed bowlers looking to buy their next ball can see a Jason Belmonte or Tommy Jones blast the pins with a manufacturer's equipment and consciously or subconsciously say to themselves: "If I get one of those balls, maybe it'll work like that for me too."

However, as I indicted in my reply to the reply above, I doubt that this is the full explanation of why Walter Ray has difficulty staying with a ball company. After all, Norm Duke, as indisputably great as he is, doesn't throw any more ball than Walter Ray and he's won far fewer titles, but, if I'm not mistaken, he's been with Storm for many years. Why is that?

I surmise that there's something about Norm's personality compared to Walter's that has a lot to do with it. Walter seems like a fairly shy, reclusive, and cerebral guy, and that just doesn't attract fans the way a more outgoing and outwardly passionate Norm Duke does.

I guess it doesn't do any good to complain about human nature and what people find and don't find attractive insofar as bowling releases and personalities are concerned. But I still think it's too darn bad that the most successful bowler by far in the history of the PBA Tour can't keep a ball sponsor or receive the respect from fans and the industry that he clearly deserves.

1 comment:

  1. Get rid of the phony teams--go back to the step ladder approach