Web Special / November 2007

Women’s U.S. Open report

I was “there,” yet I wasn’t there. I am referring to the sensational USBC Women’s U.S. Open at the National Bowling Stadium in Reno held on Sunday, October 14, 2007.

Perhaps I should explain my dilemma. My wife Brenda and I flew to Reno planning to attend the Saturday practice session and the Press Conference afterward. Of course, the main attraction was the Sunday televised finals or the most prestigious of all women’s tournaments, the U.S. Open.

Unfortunately, soon after arriving in Reno, the Bowling gods deserted me, and I got sick. Although I was barely able to attend the press conference on Saturday afternoon, I was in no condition to enjoy the proceedings, nor the usual pleasantries of the Reno atmosphere. Overcome by a weakened stomach. I was awake all night Saturday and was confined to my bed all day Sunday. Fortunately, my pain eased as I watched the television show on ESPN as four incredibly talented ladies displayed their bowling abilities before a packed National Bowling Stadium crowd.

Yes, I was there but I wasn't “there” for one of the best produced bowling TV shows I’ve ever watched.

Liz Johnson was absolutely fabulous in capturing her second Women’s US Open. She was practically flawless, missing the pocket only one shot, a shot that was light in the pocket and resulted in a 2-10 split. Nonetheless, she converted the spare. More surprising, Liz Johnson exhibited her “savvy” for overcoming some rather difficult lane conditions. The New York sharpshooter used two different balls on alternating lanes, averaging over 250 in her two-game sweep for the title. In annexing her second US Open title, Johnson gave further evidence of her superior execution from an outside line. In my opinion, Liz Johnson can hold her own against any bowler in the world, including the top players on the PBA Tour.

Prior to the taped format leading to the “live” finals, the USBC was criticized by a number of the leading bowling writers in the country. Unfortunately, none of these writers attended the qualifying rounds, nor the match game eliminations. This is not to say that these great writers weren’t entitled to their opinions, but TV ratings for the taped segments on successive Sundays were, for the most part, better than expected, particularly since they were pitted against the National Football League time slots. But, hasn’t the PBA experienced the same fate for the past five years?

At any rate, it was a great show and another credit to Tom Clark, USBC Chief Officer-Marketing/ Communications and his unfaltering drive to “sell” the USBC. Perhaps this is the only objection I find in Clark’s relentless efforts to publicize the governing body of bowling. I thought the USBC related ads were a bit of overkill. Yet, how can anyone criticize a person for doing what he is paid to do?

I believe the TV program should have spent a little more time highlighting the VIP section, an area I considered one of the brightest features of the tournament. Christine Brennan, a featured writer for USA Today, conducted several interviews from the VIP area. But, for the most part, they were primarily promotional ads for the USBC.

Fortunately, BPAA Executive Secretary John Bergland and USBC acting Executive Secretary Kevin Dornberger were shown briefly. Unfortunately, several Reno big-wigs were overlooked, including Mayor Robert Cashell Sr. There were other big sponsors of USBC events left out, including Rick Murdock, Vice-President Sales and Marketing of the Eldorado Hotel and Casino, and Jennifer Cunningham, Director of Sales and Marketing of Circus-Circus…as well as several leaders in the bowling industry.

Perhaps I was overwhelmed by the uniqueness and classy surroundings of the VIP section during my attendance at the qualifying and match game rounds a few months ago. Nonetheless, these are my personal views and, in no way, diminished the overall presentation.

The spectacular performances by the ladies was further enhanced by an outstanding bowling tandem, two of the best TV bowling announcers I’ve ever heard, Marshall Holman and Nelson Burton Jr. Both PBA Hall of Famers did their homework and provided great insight and analysis. Hopefully, they will be considered for future TV bowling productions.