Clash and Convention -- A One-Two Punch in Kansas City, Mo. By Dick Evanes

    05/13/08

    Column

    ColumnistDickEvans.jpg In this state the motto is "show me" before I will be a believer.

    The Clash of the Champions, the United States Bowling Congress Convention and a group of ladies showed them and no one who sat in on the happenings at the Kansas City Municipal Auditorium went home a 'nonbeliever.'

    And in the process, hopefully bowling and bowlers showed the nation that bowling is a challenging and fun sport during two one-hour telecasts on the CBS network Saturday and Sunday.

    If you don't believe in bowling's bright future with its new look and new move to Arlington just over the horizon, then you mired in yesterdays and old traditions.

    The Clash of Bowling Champions was another unique and entertaining format that caught the fancy of the approximate 1,500 delegates and bowling fans who attended the taping session Friday night.

    The 16 bowlers were divided into groups of fours -- two squads of four men and two squads of four men.

    Each frame was a one ball rolloff...the bowler topping the least pins was automatically eliminated.

    It was a pressure situation with no room for a bad delivery.

    I don't think the spectators really appreciated the format...it was just as intense as the 18th and final hole of a golf skins game despite a pot full of money not being at stake on every ball.

    The drama got even more electrifying when Jenny Brown, a 17-year-old senior at DeLand High School, and Liz Johnson, one of the elite pro bowlers in the country, met in a toe-to-toe dogfight after eliminating the other two bowlers.

    Brown struck in the third frame, forcing Johnson to strike, which she did. CBS announcers Bo Burton and Bill Macattee could not come up with enough adjectives as the strikes continued and the tension and applause mounted until Brown left two pins in the ninth frame and Johnson added her ninth straight strike.

    Johnson appeared relieved that she had beaten the prep star, Brown hid her tears until embraced by her mother and father.

    And for the first time after covering bowling tournaments for 40 years, I saw the loser of a match -- Jenny Brown -- called back onto the lanes by the announcer where she got another standing ovation.

    I have never seen a better bowling match.

    A few hours later, another shocking bowling match took place on the four lanes they had built inside the Kansas City Municipal Auditorium.

    It was Lynda Barnes, a super amateur champion and the mother or two, up against Sean Rash, a rash young upstart who had won four PBA titles without losing a match on TV.

    But Lynda was not in awe. In a match that had more curves than a barrels of fishhooks, Lynda sat down after her final shot with a 258 but thinking that her male rival would strike out and beat her. But Sean couldn't strike when the game was on the line and wound up with a 237 score and his first TV lost. Oh well, he still hasn't lost to a man on TV.

    And Lynda went home with $50,000 of the Clash's $100,000 prize fund. A week earlier she had won $30,000 in the USBC Queens Tournament.

    For years, I have been hearing bowlers mutter a few words -- even a few curse words -- when miked up for TV comments during a match. No one in my memory comes close to Lynda Barnes when it comes to getting the TV audience involved in the tournament with her comments during and after her shots and with her animation and fantastic smile.

    She may be an amateur, but she's a pro's pro in my book.

    Which brings us to the election of four new members to serve on the USBC Board of Directors for three years.

    The USBC forced them to go through a grueling process to earn votes from the delegates. One two-minute speech was followed by questions and then another two-minute speech.

    I thought I was sitting in on a presidential debate last February but the USBC questions were tougher than the ones thrown at the presidential candidates by the press.

    Two incumbents -- Charlene Baker and Barbara Chrisman -- drew the most votes. Baker drew 728 out of 1,080 and Chrisman 572. Newcomer Marci Williams earned 559 votes and former PBA official Nicholas Hoagland was fourth with 557 votes.

    Thus three women will join the USBC Board of Directors in August. It was fitting in a way because in my estimation the female delegates in the audience out numbered the males about 2 to 1.

    Jeff Boje gave a moving speech as USBC president, which in a way reminded me about how President Kennedy challenged the country by saying: "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."

    Kennedy's comments resulted in the Peace Corps. Boje's comments could result in a Bowling Crusade if people start considering bowling a challenging a sport and not expecting tons of rewards for every tom/dick/harry score.

    The Bowling Writers Association of America were the guests of NABI at a breakfast and learned a lot about the upcoming 25th anniversary tournament at the Orleans in Las Vegas July 11-19.

    Before closing, I have to admit that one thing about the Clash and one amendment that the delegates passed left me shaking my head in disbelief.

    They oiled the four lanes far too often during the Clash, which resulted in long delays between games. It may have looked good on TV, but forcing any fan in any sport to six around for four hours for about 30 minutes of actual competition when a bowler is rolling his/her ball has to be remedied.

    And I know that there is a big move to get more juniors bowlers and junior leaders involved in more bowling programs and functions, but voting to OK youth associations to elect delegates to the annual meeting is asking for trouble in my opinion if you do not add that they must be 21 years old before going to a national convention.

    Many years ago I was in charge of the Miami Herald junior bowlers who competed in AMF's All-America Bowl, once in Pasadena and twice at the World's Fair in New York. I also took a team to a BPAA tournament in Washington, D.C.

    And I am here to tell you that all of the juniors were good bowlers/leaders second, but first and foremost they were kids. It was a 24-hour job to chaperone them when not on the lanes or on tour. I inspected rooms to make sure they had no booze, I checked to make sure they were in their rooms at the assigned times.

    I even have traveled with high school basketball, football, baseball, track and swimming teams. Coaches and athletic directors are not fools, they know kids away from home will push the envelope at every opportunity. That is why they bring parents and other coaches with them to chaperone the athletes.

    They owe that to the parents and they realize the school board can be sued if an underage youngster is caught drinking alcohol, or worst taking drugs.

    Young bowlers are good kids, but they are not angels and they are not adults and they don't belong on adult boards until they turn 21 and are responsible for their own actions when out of town.

    And that is my opinion based on hands-on experience.

    Evans121@aol.com