Photo from examiner.com)
Well, the telecast has aired, and now I can openly congratulate Kelly Kulick for winning her third U.S. Women's Open without spoiling the suspense for any of my readers. I can also offer some concluding comments about the whole messy business after having seen it, or at least most of it, with my own eyes.
I say "at least most of it," because one of my gripes, shared by many, is that ESPN2 cut out several frames of the competition in order to squeeze two hours worth of bowling action into 90 minutes. I seem to recall that last year's telecast was two hours and didn't edit out any frames, but perhaps I'm mistaken.
However, now that I've watched the telecast (and you can too below if you haven't seen it already or you want to see it again), what more is there to say that I haven't said already? Quite a lot, actually, but I'll try to keep it relatively brief.
First of all, I confess to being pleasantly surprised that things didn't turn out worse than they appeared to. I half expected to see a swirling dust storm all but blocking out our view of the action at times and sending papers and other debris flying past the bowlers and landing on the lanes and having to be removed between shots. And I more than half expected to see the ladies throwing balls that hooked off the lanes even though they were plastic, losing their footing on the dusty approaches, and looking really flustered at times. Instead, I saw consummate poise and professionalism from all the competitors as they as gracefully as humanly possible posted hapless shot after shot and made the best of a terrible situation and scored amazingly well under the circumstances. I have nothing but unbounded respect and admiration for how well Lynda, Shannon, Stefanie, Missy, and Kelly handled it all and how gracious the runners-up were afterward.
Second, I want to repeat what I've said before. I think Dave LaMont and Chris Barnes are the best announcing team in bowling today, and I'd love to see them doing ESPN's PBA telecasts together (Randy Pedersen could be there too) when Chris doesn't make the finals. They too made the best of a bad situation with that telecast.
Now, with due praise delivered, it's time to get to the criticism. I begin by asking, What were they thinking when they decided to hold the finals in a dusty wind tunnel? Don't tell me they had no way of knowing what the weather would be like when they planned things. Reno is a windy place all year round and any respectable meteorologist could have told them that if only they'd asked. Or perhaps they did ask but didn't care when they got the answer. Perhaps they were so busy falling all over themselves shouting, "They can bowl outside by the Reno Arch. How cool is THAT?!" that they didn't give the integrity of the bowlers and the competition a second thought.
I'm guessing they were thinking that bowling outside in that venue would inject a WOW factor that would put women's bowling on the map and draw more onlookers to the actual event as well as more viewers to the telecast. But is there any good reason or evidence to suggest that it would or did? How many extra viewers do they think the telecast actually drew because of where it took place, especially when the telecast was aired almost a week after the fact and everybody knew the outcome? Why do they keep showing these ballyhooed events a week or so late?. Yes, I've heard from someone who should know that showing these events live doesn't seem to affect the ratings any, but I'm not sure how they came to that definitive conclusion. I can't help but think that last year's finals in Cowboys Stadium with its one million dollar offer for a perfect game in the final match would have drawn more viewers had they been shown live.
I discussed this yesterday with someone very much in the bowling industry, and he said, as others have said, that they should have added the money they spent on constructing those outdoor lanes to the prize fund instead and held the finals in the ready-to-go National Bowling Stadium. That way, the finalists would have bowled on conditions at least similar to what they mastered to get them to the finals, they would still have been doing it in a great venue, and they could have used the special occasion to showcase the bowling stadium and talk about the extensive renovations planned for it that will make it an even more spectacular place for tournaments of every stripe in the years to come. Instead, they turned arguably the most prestigious women's bowling tournament on Earth into a freak show.
But, say some defenders of the format, they were all battling the same conditions, and, besides, the U.S. Open SHOULD be tough. Well, does this mean that we should move, say, the NHL Championship game to an outdoor parking lot filled with cracks and crevasses, outfit the players in antiquated field hockey gear and roller skates, and decide the championship THAT way? Or should we make the bowlers throw every shot between their legs to create that WOW factor and make it "tough" on them the way a U.S. Open should be?
Kelly Kulick averaged a blistering 240 + over qualifying and match play to achieve the top seed. Now maybe that was higher than the conditions of any U.S.Open worthy of the name should have allowed, but she should have been able to use the skills in the final match that brought her to it, and not have to resort to throwing plastic with no hand as straight as possible over 25 board and leaving 5-8-10's. The whole thing was a travesty.
As I said, and as you will see if you check out the videos below, the ladies were gracious afterward. And as I disclosed in a previous entry, some of them came to the defense of the BPAA, who sponsored and ran the tournament, because they were just grateful to get any chance to bowl for decent money anymore and were afraid that criticism could take even THAT away from them.
Well, what do you think? Do you think the BPAA will be scared away by all the criticism from sponsoring the event next year and nobody else will step up to the plate? Should we bowlers and bowling fans just keep our mouths shut, unless we have effusive praise for a bowling event and its sponsors, and just take it the way we get it and be happy that we get anything at all?
I think we can be pretty sure of one thing. If there is a U.S. Women's Open next year, and I pray that there is, the bowling ball manufacturers will probably make sure that they're held in a venue where the ladies can show off the latest, fanciest new balls on the market instead of ragged polyester equipment savaged by parking lot conditions. And hopefully the highest game of the stepladder finals will exceed 182.
You can watch the entire telecast in the first video below, followed by brief interviews with all the participants afterwards.