Saturday, June 30, 2012

One Man's Take on the U.S. Women's Open Finals Fiasco

I hadn't intended to write anymore about last Wednesday's Reno bowling circus until after the delayed broadcast next Tuesday. But I've been reading so many comments from people who were there or who, like bowling Hall of Fame performer and writer Jeff Richgels, weren't there but have heard loads from those who were, that I'd be remiss if I didn't share one of the more perceptive comments with you. It comes from someone on Jeff Richgels' Facebook wall responding to those who say that this wasn't the first professional bowling tournament conducted outdoors and that it will, in any case, draw more viewers than a more ordinary finals telecast would. Here is what he wrote that I think puts the event into benignly balanced perspective:

My only issue with what occurred is that this was for a major title..the summer series was a fun event with no significant pba title on the was a promotional event for the tour and manufactureres..the women only have a couple of events to showcase their abilities and make a case for sponsors to take a look at them...although the intentions were good and the outcome cant be blamed on human error, it was still go down as a disaster in the eyes of some viewers...we are trying to appeal to new viewers as a sport and those potential new viewers that will stumble onto the program will see these ladies bowling for a major title using the same balls the viewer can pick up on a house rack, and shooting the same scores and conditions you run into during cosmic bowing after birthday parties. This is not the fault of the ladies, equipment, or the organizers. This is to just an unfortunate turn of events.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A U.S. Women's Open Finals That Will Live in Infamy?

You may not want to know who won the U.S. Women's Open last night under the blustery Reno sky. And if you don't, don't worry. I'm not going to tell you now, even though I think that if you're reading this blog, you're bound to find out soon enough whether you go looking for it or not. If you do want to know, I'm still not going to tell you here, but you can find out by clicking here.

However, I do want to say a few words about the finals in general. No, I didn't drive the 120 miles to Reno to see them, and they won't be airing on TV till next Tuesday evening (7/3, ESPN2, 8 PM Eastern). But I did the next best thing to seeing them. I followed the USBC's Lucas Wiseman's Twitter and Facebook updates, and what his terse tweets and posts made all too clear is that the championship finals of arguably the most prestigious women's bowling tournament in the world was predictably reduced by the gusty winds and swirling dust to a clownish farce.

Don't take my word for it. Here is some of Lucas Wiseman's rolling account of an unfolding bowling disaster:

It's rather windy out here, maybe sustained winds of 5-15 mph with occasional gusts. Temp is cooling off fast.

The wind is really picking up out here.

Lanes really hooking, players seem to be struggling a bit with the environment.

Both players are completely lost. Things are flying around, this is going to be a challenge.

The lanes are really hooking and you can visibly see dust and debris on the lane. Even spare balls are hooking a ton.

There's a discussion going on with the tournament director and the bowlers. Not sure what the issue is.

If I were bowling under these conditions, I would throw my spare ball at the headpin, try to make spares and shoot 180s.

She's throwing a plastic ball. Yes, plastic.

Nation makes a ball change and goes to plastic.

This is easily the strangest and most interesting TV finals I have ever seen. You won't want to miss it when it airs.

There have been 10 strikes out of 43 first-ball shots so far. And a few of those were Brooklyns.

Missy Parkin is also throwing a plastic ball. Looks like that is strategy the rest of the way for everyone.

The person who makes the most spares is going to win this title. Carry is not good with plastic.

Both players appear satisfied with just making spares at this point.

This is getting ugly. Four opens in a row between the two players.

Both players have gone with the fall back shot using plastic.

Kulick follows the double by leaving the 5-8-10. Figured we'd see one of those.

Of course, there were some who tried to minimize the ridiculousness of it all. One prominent guy in the bowling community opined that all televised finals are a "crap shoot" no matter what the conditions are. Others said that the BPAA executives who approved and planned the event had no way of knowing that the weather would be so inhospitable. And a lot of people said words to the effect that the conditions were the same for everybody and that real champions triumph over whatever challenges they face.

But one guy posted a very incisive and eloquent response, and I share that next after saying that I look forward to seeing the finals for myself and posting to this blog about it afterwards.

The bottom line is that the usbc [BPAA] is trying to cover up a problem with smoke and mirrors. Instead of fixing the problem, its "hey look, we are bowling outside, how cool is that?!" Now obviously anyone in the bowling industry knows it's not that easy, but it was allowed to get out of control. Challenging is one thing, but this has nothing to do with instincts or transition or adjustments. Sometimes things devolve into a flat out impossibility. "Oh they are pros, they should adjust." Not so much. Have you ever bowled on a dirt and debris covered lane? Dont think so. Yes everybody had to deal with it, but following a week of shotmaking, they were stuck with the biggest crap shoot in bowling history. They spent all that money on installing those lanes, when they had the national bowling stadium a few blocks away, just for THAT. Really feel bad for the competitors.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Chris Barnes Answers My Question About Bowling in the Windy Outdoors at the U.S. Women's Open

Last night during live streaming of the final round of match play of the 2012 U.S. Women's Open, Chris Barnes was sitting in the booth commentating on the action, and I was able to ask him via the chat function how he thought the strong Reno wind would affect the scoring. He replied with his customarily incisive analysis. If this guy isn't the most articulately knowledgeable bowling analyst around, in addition to still being one of the best bowlers around and one of the greatest ever, I don't know who is. Here is Chris' response to my question:

"The one time we bowled the Six Flags thing in Chicago, it was very windy, and the one thing that happens is that you get a LOT of dust on the lanes, and that dust makes the lanes change REALLY quick. You won't have nearly as much heat, so you won't have as much dissipation of the oil. But there'll be a lot more friction on the surface, and what you're going to see is probably a lot of balls hitting flat down lane, because they're rolling through the gravel on the way to the head pin."

I still say, as I wrote earlier today, that I think it was a bad idea to hold the finals outdoors in the wind, even if I'm sympathetic to the reason for doing it, but I'm eager to see if Chris' prediction comes true.

Robin Romeo Wins the 2012 U.S. Women's Open Title

Eyes are now focused on tonight's regular division stepladder finals of the 2012 U.S. Women's Open. But there was a senior division as well and some very good and famous bowlers competing in it. After the dust cleared Tuesday afternoon, former PWBA star Robin Romeo emerged the champion, despite the fact that USBC Hall of Famer Lucy Sandelin dominated the pinfall up till that point.

Click here for the USBC's story on the finals, and you can watch them below. The first video is of the entire finals, and the second is the USBC's (Matt Lawson's) video recap of the tournament.

Bowling Video--Final Qualifying Round and Match Play Rounds of 2012 U.S. Women's Open

In case you missed Monday's final round of qualifying or Round 1 of match play of the U.S. Women's Open or yesterday's second and final match play round and you want to see them, or you did see them and want to see them again, you've come to the right place. Just take a look below and let your finger do the clicking.

Bowling Quote--Kelly Kulick's Steely Determination

"I'm just going to try and put myself into a little cubby hole, bowl the pins and not worry about the outside factors. I'm going to try to adjust and adapt when I need to. Whether it's windy, calm, people are screaming or not, my goal is to find the pocket and knock down 10 pins at a time. It's going to be a great showcase. Whatever happens, it's going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I get to share in that." ~ Kelly Kulick

Five of Bowling's Best Will Brave the Elements Tonight in the Finals of the 2012 U.S. Women's Open

I got myself into some trouble yesterday during BowlTV's live streaming of the final match play round of the 2012 U.S. Women's Open. I made some ill-advised remarks in the online chat window accompanying the bowling action in which I playfully questioned the intellectual capacities of those who planned and approved the holding of the televised finals outdoors in the fierce winds sure to be blustering under the Reno Arch this evening, and I got unceremoniously booted out of the chat and had my subscription to BowlTV revoked.

I concede that I could and should have expressed myself more tactfully. The powers-that-be behind this tournament are to be commended for seeking and finding a novel and exciting way to bring bowling to the public, and having Lynda Barnes, Stefanie Nation, Shannon O'Keefe, Missy Parkin, and, of course, Kelly Kulick compete in the stepladder finals of the most coveted and lucrative women's bowling tournament in the world under the semi-famous Reno Arch is nothing if not novel and exciting.

However, the point raised by my indelicate remarks is not entirely without merit. These outstanding female bowlers rose to the top of the 200 + elite player field by bowling superbly INDOORS at the National Bowling Stadium, and now you're going to put them OUTDOORS for the most important part of the tournament and force them to bowl not only against each other but against a wild wind and a whole host of other variables profoundly different from the ones they mastered to earn their way into the finals?

Well, obviously that IS what they're going to do, and I'm as eager as anyone to see what happens, even if, barring a trip to Reno to see it in in person this evening, we have to wait until next Tuesday to watch it on ESPN2 at 8PM Eastern. But is it the RIGHT thing to do? What do you think? Or do you want to wait until after you watch the tournament to weigh in?

You can read's story on yesterday's match play and tonight's finals here, and you can view Matt Lawson's even better-than-always superlative rundown below.

Video--Walter Ray Shoots Another 300

Monday, June 25, 2012

Video--Who Do You Think You Are? Kelly Kulick Is!

It's the biggest non-surprise in bowling. But that doesn't make it any less impressive. Kelly Kulick is leading the 2012 U.S. Women's Open after the first three rounds of qualifying and will take that lead into the final six-game round of qualifying today.

Then, barring catastrophe, she'll move on to match play and, in all likelihood, be looking for redemption (and the $40,000 first prize) under the Reno Arch Wednesday evening for her loss to Leanne Barrette-Hulsenberg in last year's final match in Cowboys Stadium.

And I, for one, wouldn't bet against her no matter whom she faces.

Kulick and Sandelin Lead After Qualifying Round 3 of 2012 U.S. Women's Open

After three days of qualifying, the field of 201 has been winnowed down to 50 in the regular division of the U.S. Women's Open, with Kelly Kulick regally occupying her customary spot in first place and a predictable Who's Who of female bowling talent populating most of the other positions, including defending champion Leanne Barrette-Hulsenberg rising from 38th place the previous day to twelfth place yesterday. In the senior division, Lucy Sandelin continued her round-by-round dominance ending with a pinfall total that would have been good enough to land her in 28th place in the regular division, and the field of 60 has been cut to 15.

The remaining bowlers will roll six more games of qualifying before the regular field is narrowed to the top 16 and the senior field is cut to the top eight for 16 games of round-robin match play beginning this (Monday) evening. The top five in the regular division at the end of match play will meet under the famous Reno Arch Wednesday evening to battle it out stepladder fashion for the championship. It will be shown the following Tuesday on ESPN2 at 8 PM Eastern.

You can check the results of the first 18 games in both divisions and read the USBC's synopsis of the action here. Below, you can watch Sunday's qualifying round 3.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Bowling Video--Lynda Barnes is Back

Lynda Barnes was flying high through the first two televised matches of last year's U.S. Women's Open bowled in the novel venue of Cowboys Stadium in Texas until Leanne Barrette-Hulsenberg nipped her in the semi-final match to go on to defeat Kelly Kulick for the coveted title. Sometime after that, although I don't recall how it happened, Lynda injured her shoulder and has quietly but steadfastly worked through months of arduous rehabilitation to return to the form that's made her famous.

Well, she's back with a vengeance and occupies third place in a stellar national and international field after the first two qualifying rounds of the 2012 U.S. Women's Open, and  Matt Lawson of the USBC neatly summarizes her impressive comeback in the video below.

Bowling Video--Jessica Baker Bowls 300 in 2012 U.S. Women's Open

In last year's U.S. Women's Open, over a dozen 300 games were rolled. I guess they really DO like to do everything bigger in Texas. I don't know if they all came in qualifying or if some were also rolled in match play. But only one perfect game has been rolled through the first two 6-game rounds of qualifying this year on the lower scoring conditions at the National Bowling Stadium in Reno, and former Wichita State standout Jessica Baker is the one who did it last night.

You can watch her final three impressive shots below, courtesy of  the USBC's Lucas Wiseman's camerawork, as he took time out from his one-man calling of the USBC's live streaming of the day's action to masterfully capture the moment.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Bowling Video--Qualifying Round 2 of 2012 U.S. Women's Open

Bowling Video--Qualifying Round 1 of 2012 U.S. Women's Open

Here is Round 1 of the U.S. Women's Open from Friday, June 22, 2012 at Reno's National Bowling Stadium. I will post the other rounds as they become available.

Younger Bowlers Rise and Shine in Early Stage of U.S. Women's Open

In my previous post, I mostly pummeled the USBC, BPAA, and bowling industry in general for their lack of professionalism in covering the great sport of bowling. In this post, I want to give credit where it's amply due by sharing with you Matt Lawson's of the USBC's excellent video recap of the first day of qualifying in the U.S. Women's Open. Matt always does a tremendous job with these videos. What's more, it seems that bowling's female "young guns" are loaded for bear. Now, if only they had more venues to hone their skills even further and reap the rewards of their hard won excellence.

However, I'm still pulling for local girl Leanne to repeat.

Elite Bowling Coverage Should be Better

Reno is now hosting the 2012 BPAA U.S. Women's Open at the National Bowling Stadium. Leanne Barrette-Hulsenberg is defending her championship that she won last year in the novel venue of Cowboys Stadium by defeating Kelly Kulick in the final match. This year's televised finals, albeit shown on ESPN2 six days after the fact, will be held in the even more unusual venue of outdoors under the famous Reno Arch.

As you can see from reading entries such as this, I covered last year's Open with considerable enthusiasm. As a matter of fact, I blogged a lot here about the PBA, women's tournaments, junior tournaments, international adult and junior tournaments, and bowling in general for a couple of years.

But I finally began to lose my enthusiasm not for the sport so much as for the haphazard way the bowling industry itself seems to conduct and promote it. I figured if they didn't care enough to do a better job of promoting, covering, and fostering elite level bowling in this country and, as a result, people don't care that much about the sport to follow it, why should I bother to blog about it? Why even people who call themselves bowling fans seem to suffer from a serious enthusiasm problem, and very few appear to regularly watch bowling telecasts much less read blogs such as this one, so, again, why should I spend a lot of time writing blogposts when almost no one cares enough to read them?

As an example of my displeasure with the way the bowling industry is handling their sport, I posted the following comment just a few minutes ago to the USBC's Facebook wall in connection with their coverage of this year's Open. It echoes, to a considerable degree, this blogpost of mine from a while back. A PBA representative took private issue with that blogpost. He said the bowling industry is doing all it reasonably can to promote the PBA and bowling in general. What do you think?

Elite  women's and, for that matter, men's bowling is in a sad state in this country even as it seems to be growing in popularity in other parts of the world. I agree...that the PBA seems to be hanging on by its fingernails, and there's certainly no indication that any kind of women's professional tour will be coming back. And although many will disagree with me, I think part of the reason for this is that the bowling industry has not made as concerted an attempt as it might to publicize and popularize the sport but, rather, continues on with business as depressingly usual.

I'm not sure what it would take, but maybe if they hired the best PR and advertising minds to barrage the media with compelling commercials, human interest stories, and intelligent and entertaining treatments of bowling, rather than the occasional clownish parody, in television series and movies, more participants and viewers could be brought into the fold. As it is now, bowling and bowlers "don't get no respect," and they should, if people had any idea how challenging bowling really is at the elite level.

One thing I find so disheartening is that bowling seems to get so little respect even from bowling organizations and sponsors. For instance, the BPAA, God bless 'em, is sponsoring the U.S. Women's Open, yet they don't seem to be willing or able to get the finals aired live. We have to wait several days after the fact to see them, and, of course, by then only the most hardcore bowling fan will tune in because everyone else with any interest in the results but not enough to watch a seriously delayed broadcast AFTER learning the results will already know the results and won't bother. What's more, the USBC website's coverage of the tournament seems like a confusing maze. Their videos are great, and Lucas's herculean one-man coverage is to be roundly applauded, but where the hell are the results encompassing ALL the bowlers and not just the top 49? And why can't the BPAA and/or USBC, in the interests of fan interest, provide help to Lucas and the USBC website in tracking results as they occur instead of us having to wait hours to find out how the bowlers are scoring?

If even national bowling organizations and sponsors don't respect their sport enough to give it professional level coverage, how can they expect the public at large to respect it enough to follow it and participate in it? We need a real shakeup in the bowling industry in this country, or elite level bowling here seems all but doomed!