If the PBA folds, does it really matter?
by James Goulding III
This has been a subject that I had hoped to never write about, and that is the VERY real possibility that we are seeing the last days of the Professional Bowler’s Association (PBA) as we know it. With the recent confirmation that the tour stop in Medford was cancelled due to lack of sponsorship dollars and the hard economy, it brings once again to the forefront the possibility that the PBA may not last another season. I wonder, though, how many bowlers out there even care if the PBA exists? How many recreational bowlers have even HEARD of the PBA, nevermind catch a show on Sunday afternoon. Either way, I feel the if the PBA folds, it would be very bad for the long-term future of bowling as a competitive sport.
For one, there are far-reaching ramifications for the economy if there is no PBA. From bowling ball sales that would suffer because the players wouldn’t be visible to promote them on TV every week, to bowling shoes and accessories, there are MANY companies that make those products who stand to lose business from the lack of product recognition that the PBA tour provides every week. Also, the network stands to lose viewers who tune in to the PBA each and every Sunday, as well as losing the money that the PBA pays for the airtime. There would be many professional players looking for jobs, which adds to the unemployment numbers, and hurts the economy. Also, think about all the people on staff for the ball companies, coaches, ball rep’s, ball drillers, etc. that would be out of work if the PBA closed it’s doors. Like I said, there are very many factors outside of the fact that we (as bowlers) like to see the best players in the world compete week in and week out.
There are a few hurdles that hurt the PBA and it’s prize funds. One of them is the fact that the PBA pays for its airtime. Many other sports get paid by the network(s) to have their games broadcast at certain times. The PBA pays ESPN, CBS, whomever, to air the telecast every week. Plus, the rate that the PBA gets money for commercial time from sponsors, is lower than any other professional sports organization. It’s even lower than what hockey gets, and for a sport like bowling that is THE highest participation sport in the U.S., that is just unacceptable. The PBA has been branded as an organization that just doesn’t sell, for whatever that reason is, I don’t know, it just is. There needs to be a complete re-evaluation of what and how the PBA is marketed, who it gets marketed to, and how to more efficiently use the dollars that the PBA gets to turn it into a viable product for the consumer to view.
I also feel that the time slot the PBA gets shoved into hurts the product, and BADLY. The NFL is the most watched sporting event week in and week out, hands down. To have the PBA on at a time where most of america would rather watch the NFL at 1 or 2 PM on a Sunday afternoon is committing Nielsen ratings suicide. I feel that the PBA (since it pays for its airtime anyway) should try and get the tour either back in its original Saturday afternoon spot (which would compete with college football), or, try and get into a weeknight spot, like a Monday or Tuesday night. I think that Tuesday would be the perfect spot, especially if the PBA could get into a 7 PM slot, before the prime time shows begin. They could avoid the NFL altogether, plus maybe pull in some new viewers who may tune into their favorite shows early and catch the telecast. Those are just a few ideas, but at this point I feel that anything is worth a try.
Lastly, the PBA (if it survives) needs to find a way to creat revenue and get the prize funds respectable for the best players in the world. There are tournaments now that pay the same for 1st place as they did 20 years ago, and that is just unacceptable. If the PBA could find a way to get prized funds to the point where 1st place pays consistently 50,000 (+), many more people may be interested in checking out the telecast, and there would be more buzz around each tournament stop. It could also bring in more money to the TQR by creating an environment that would make more sense for those players to drop some cash to compete for a chance to make a bigger pay-day. This is where the USBC could step in, which I think would be a good idea. For years, the USBC has been cutting down on awards without decreasing costs. I would like to see the USBC commit $1 from every member that certifies, and put that money into the PBA prize fund directly. That could add millions to the prize fund, and make the PBA a marketable and viable organization again. I know as a USBC sanctioned bowler myself, this is one thing the USBC could do to give back to bowling, and at the cost of only $1 more, I wouldn’t even notice the cost difference out of my pocket.
Those are a few of my thoughts on the PBA, and my hope that it will continue to thrive and survive this tough economic time. There is no better honor than to be considered one of the elite athletes of your sport, and the PBA players are no different in that aspect. They deserve to be recognized and paid on a level more consistent with the best in other sports. It would be a great travesty if the PBA had to fold, and have devastating effect not only on the economy but on amateur and professional bowling as a whole. If there are no heros left to look up to, than where do we look?
As always, the opinions expressed in this blog entry are my own, and in no way reflect the opinion of the MSUSBC or their members. Thank you for reading, and please feel free to comment on anything you read here today. Take care!!!
-James Goulding III