People continue to express opinions on last Wednesday's controversial finals of the U.S. Women's Open. If you don't know what I'm talking about, let me briefly explain that five women made the stepladder finals after progressing through several qualifying and match play rounds in Reno's National Bowling Stadium. However, rather than conduct the stepladder finals in the Stadium, the people who put on the tournament decided to hold the finals outdoors on lanes terminating at the Reno Arch. I guess they thought this would create more excitement and draw more spectators to the site of the finals as well as attract a bigger viewing audience to the televised presentation of it the following Tuesday.
No doubt they were right in their thinking. There may well have been as much excitement surrounding last Tuesday's finals as any big tournament has ever generated, and there may be more interest, at least among those who know about it, in the upcoming broadcast than there's ever been before.
The problem is, the bowling took place in a wind and sand storm that had all the competitors using plastic balls for their strike and spare shots early on and struggling like mad to make even simple spares. Consequently, there have been many criticisms directed at the people who approved and ran the tournament, and there have been defenses on their behalf.
Yet, until yesterday, I hadn't seen any of the actual finalists answer any of these criticisms. But then I posted some criticism on Jack LaMont's (the Play-by-Play TV announcer of the televised finals) Facebook wall, and, immediately thereafter, Shannon O'Keefe and Stefanie Nation responded. Here is the exchange:
Dave LaMont: A night of bowling like no other before, a major championship decided in a once in a lifetime atmosphere but with rough desert conditions in Reno. I called it "Survivor-Reno" and you can see the challenges five remarkable bowlers, Kelly Kulick, Melissa Bellinder-Parkin, Shannon O'Keefe, Stefanie Nation and Lynda Norry Barnes battle it out July 3 at 8 Eastern on ESPN2
Me: I thought even before the fact that it was ridiculous to hold the finals outdoors because of the weather conditions, and I got booted out of BowlTV's live streaming chat and unsubscribed from BowlTV for saying it aloud. But it looks like my opinion was vindicated by the ensuing debacle Wednesday night. Still, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to seeing the finals on TV as much or more than I've ever looked forward to seeing ANY bowling telecast over the past 50 years. The problem is, I'm not sure if I and other people are looking forward to it for the right reason. We should be looking forward to seeing the best female bowlers on the planet use their best equipment, smarts, and physical skills to show what they can do against each other on conditions not altogether dissimilar to what they bowled on to earn their way into the finals. But, instead, we're looking forward to seeing a comedy of errors in which crazy wind and dust storms reduce arguably the most prestigious women's tournament of the season in the whole wide world into an unprecedented farce. :-/
Shannon O'Keefe: Hello Steve....I understand your opinion but from one of the ladies that had this incredible opportunity I look at tho show as a blessing and a triumph! Were the conditions crazy...sure but again I'm beyond grateful we have been given the opportunities to continue women's bowling. The how was an amazing experience and one that I will NEVER forget...the atmosphere and energy of the crowd was incredible....does everyone wish scores were higher...sure but I can tell u I have never been so nervous to shoot a spare...lol! I know everyone had an opinion and they are more than entitled to it, but please from a woman who has very few opportunities to bowl, let's embrace this experience and show...I don want all the nay Sayers to ruin future opportunities for all!Stefanie Nation: I second Shannon's comments. I do understand your perspective and agree with it to an extent, but Having said that, it truly was a challenge and certainly QUITE the experience.... The intentions of the venue were absolutely the right ones and we very well knew we could not control mother nature. People will be talking about this a while and yes, whether it be for the 'right' reasons, who knows. Press is Press. Josh Blanchard falling in the gutter on the PBA telecast got bowling all over the web. Tom Daugherty shooting 99 was chirped about for months. It's all said and done so I'm hopeful that you will watch the show and help boost ratings for our sport!
Me: Well, Shannon, your firsthand perspective of the event should certainly carry immensely more weight than mine, and I greatly appreciate reading it. I watched the live streaming all throughout the tournament and was tremendously impressed with how well you and the other finalists bowled during qualifying and match play. However, I just want to clarify that I'm not saying you ladies weren't blessed to have this opportunity over none at all, and I can well imagine that the excitement level soared to heights never before felt. But I'm just hoping that there's another U.S. Women's Open next year and that this time the powers-that-be decide to hold it in conditions that, no matter how novel and exciting, still allow you ladies to make full use of your best equipment and skills on lane conditions that are at least somewhat similar to what you bowled and excelled on all week, not just so that you'll shoot higher scores but also so that you'll be showcased at your very best as the fantastic bowlers that you are.
Me: Thank you too, Stefanie. You bet I'll be watching Tuesday night! I wouldn't miss it for the world! :-) And I'll be posting about it on my bowling blog as soon thereafter as I can.
Shannon O'Keefe: Agreed with stefanie and one more note...we had two practice sessions before the show started and both of those practice sessions were normal...as a matter of fact I put surface on one of my balls when we practiced from 11-1. Chris and Cathy came around and asked us right before the show started what we were planning on using and what we would switch to....however once the show started and the sun went down...the wind picked up an half way through the first match the unexpected happened...it was not malicious and we were all beyond excited for the opportunity!!! So again I understand all the opinions out there an I respect them and good or bad at least we have people talking about bowling and isn't that what all of us want!!!!
I guess I'll let the comments above speak for themselves until after we all have a chance to watch the televised finals tomorrow night (7/3) on ESPN2 at 8PM Eastern. After that, I'm sure I'll have more to say and perhaps even be able to embed videos of the telecast in my blogpost for those who want to watch the action there.