Opinion: Bowling needs to be more serious

I was watching the PBA World Series of Bowling: Chameleon Championship this afternoon, and I said to my dad, “You know, I don’t know exactly why, but watching the pro bowling telecasts isn’t exciting to me anymore.”

We talked about why this was the case over dinner, and there were two main issues we came up with. The first one I brought up, and that was the commentating needs to be more informative. For example, a graphic always comes up listing the three bowling balls players brought with them (although I seriously doubt that’s all they have), and next to the ball names is a number, representing the ball’s hook rating. The problem is we don’t know what the difference between a 9.0, a 9.5, and a 10.0 hook rating is. Each one of the bowlers has different bowling balls they are using, yet they all have the same hook ratings, between a 7.5 and a 10. That’s confusing. If I were a person not familiar with the bowling world, I would be wondering why there would be so many different bowling balls that do the exact same thing, according to the number it was given. Of course, I know different ball manufacturers are competing and make their own versions of bowling balls and balls from different companies roll differently, but non-bowlers don’t. Also, as a bowler, I don’t know how the bowling balls I use compare to the ones the pros use. Do the pro’s balls hook more because they have a higher hook rating or because they throw it better than I do? Randy Pedersen should elaborate more on what a specific ball does, why it’s a good choice (or a bad choice) for the given lane condition, and why a ball gets a particular rating. Another question is who determines the ratings? Is it Randy’s personal opinion? The bowling ball manufacturers? The bowlers?

Randy also needs to keep the TV audience engaged by talking about player’s shots, strategy, and struggles. If you watch old bowling telecasts on YouTube, the commentators will mention where the bowlers are playing, why exactly a particular shot had a bad result, and moves players can make to solve their problems. Randy occasionally talks about these things, but never in enough depth or frequently enough to where people at home can learn from it. With the way it currently is, the TV audience doesn’t feel like they’re a part of the action, and therefore it’s not engaging.

Then my dad, after some thought, said, “You know what I’ve noticed? Bowling’s much more distracting than it was in the past. Before, it was just the bowler versus the lane. It was serious and it was tense. But now, there’s music, the audience has got crazy signs, and the jersey’s are extremely vibrant.”

All of these distractions take away from the present, the here and now of the moment. It’s hard for the TV audience to get absorbed in the bowling when music plays in between shots or a player’s jersey demands your attention. This distraction takes away from the professionalism of the sport. Before, when the Tour stopped at places like the National Bowling Stadium there was an aura of professionalism that signified these bowlers were in a different level than people watching. But when more than half of the tournaments are in a bowling alley on the bottom level of a casino, there’s nothing special or professional about the arena.

When you watch golf, you know how important and difficult a putt was because the commentators break it down and there’s nothing distracting you from getting caught up in a player’s world. When they’re looking over a putt, you holding your breath and your eyes are glued to the ball. You’re invested in the outcome. But with bowling, neither the commentary nor the environment aids in creating that type of viewer involvement.

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