A League of Ordinary Gentlemen

Saturday, February 09, 2008
Bowling was once one of the most popular sports in America. A great activity for the whole family, teens would gather together at the lanes on the weekends, and men enjoyed a night out with their buddies. As television took over as our main form of entertainment, bowling found a new way to reach the masses. At one point, televised bowling matches were beamed into more homes than hockey (remember...this is the US) or ladies golfing. However, as other sports changed their approach to marketing and growing their audiences, bowling suffered because it did not. In the minds of many, it became associated with fat, sweaty beer swilling non-athletes rather than wholesome family entertainment. It also wasn't very thrilling to watch when you compared it to football or wrestling. After enjoying it's television heydey in the 80's, the next decade saw a decline in viewers and lack of sponsors. The Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) was in trouble and in danger of shutting down.

A League of Ordinary Gentleman chronicles the resurrgence of the PBA after it is bought by three former Microsoft execs intent on helping it reach new heights, and new audiences. Shot over the course of the one "season", we're introduced to the top professional bowlers and their personal quests to reach the top of their games. The ultimate prize? The World Championships with a top prize of $120,000. No, that's not a typo. There's big money in bowling, if you're any good. Take Wayne Webb for example. One of the PBA's top bowlers in the 80's, he's a member of the PBA Millionaire's club. However, his success didn't last. After spending the last 20 years battling a gambling addiction (which he hasn't quite kicked), a number of failed relationships, and his own inner demons, Webb is broke and desperate to regain his former glory.

Then there's the self-proclaimed bad boy of bowling, Pete Weber aka PDW. The son of bowling legend Dick Weber, he's got a lot to live up to. Along with WWE like introductions before matches and a flashy PBA marketing campaign, Pete brings life to what some might consider an otherwise dull sport: he wears sunglasses whenever he bowls, the famous "crotch-chop", and a whole lot of trash talk. Who knew bowling could be so exciting?

I did. You see, I was a bowler as a child and into my teen years. I even did a bit of bowling in my adulthood. However, we were 5-pin bowlers in my family. And I was good. My biggest claim to fame: one year, I was the provincial bantam girls YBC champion and went to the nationals where I finished a fairly respectable 8th best in the entire nation for my age group. Let the adoration commence... I even had my own purple suede bowling shows. And my dad had a friend of his create matching bowling pin/ball covered leather belts. This last one was a bit too much for me and I thought it was a joke. My dad's still upset about that to this day...but I digress. Perhaps it's because of our family's immersion in the sport for so many years that I found this interesting or maybe it really was entertaining. Hard to distance myself. I'll admit it wasn't as good as The King of Kong, but I'd still recommend it. Give it a go if you get the chance and check out the new look of professional bowling.


Gardenia said...

Ah - I had forgotten. I remember the sounds of the balls meeting the pins on TV - and the hushed voices now...........a ways from here is one classy bowling alley - I wish I could find someone for grandson to bowl with - he has his own ball, the works....

Candy Minx said...

Sounds like good reading. I heard bowling was getting trendy again. I had a friend in from NY and his office had a bowling party just this past week. There is a swanky bowling lane and bar downtown Chicago.

I love bowling in downtown Vancouver on Granville under the Commordore!

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