Olympic bowling could be one heck of a turkey By Ryan White

    08/13/08

    United States

    Republished courtesy of The Oregonian - Portland, OR, USA (Aug. 13, 2008)

    KevinDornberger.jpg The guy to talk to, I was told, is "the kingpin of bowling."

    The guy's in charge of "everything in the United States and everything in the world." Everything in the bowling world, but do you oversee anything enjoyed in 109 countries?

    Me neither.

    He called five minutes later. How great is that? Try to get David Stern on the phone in five minutes. I dare you. Better yet, the guy was happy to talk about why no one's bowling in Beijing -- at least for medals.

    "It's a political process," Kevin Dornberger (pictured) said. Forget "Kingpin." As the chief operating officer of the United States Bowling Congress and the president of the World Tenpin Bowling Association, Dornberger's more like "The Big Lebowski" -- if we're talking bowling movies.

    The dude abides, despite Olympic setbacks.

    "It dates back," Dornberger said, "many, many years."

    He said bowling was exhibited before the start of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, and was going to be an exhibition sport in 1940 -- until the 1940 Olympics didn't happen. It was an exhibition sport in Seoul in 1988, but didn't catch on. They haven't been that close since, and gone, it seems, are the days when you could slip the members of the International Olympic Committee some custom ugly shoes, a personally engraved ball and a solid gold pin and call it an officially recognized sport.

    Salt Lake City put the pinch on the bribery racket for everyone.

    I suggested they pitch synchronized bowling, because the IOC seems to like synchronized things.

    Dornberger laughed.

    "We have some failings as a sport," he said. "Our events are not very spectator friendly. They aren't media friendly. As a result, they aren't sponsor friendly."

    I've never been to an event, but I've been bowling, and there's always beer at the bowling alley. I'd say that makes the events extremely spectator, media and sponsor friendly. Yet the Professional Bowlers Association has Denny's as a title sponsor.

    Say what you will about bowling, but table tennis is an Olympic sport. Badminton is an Olympic sport, and badminton should never be played more than 20 yards from a grill and a cooler.

    Gymnastics? Sure, it takes a ton of talent, but when you're done with your routine, it goes to the judges. You knock down nine pins, you've knocked down nine pins. No debating that. Is there not an Olympic purity in that?

    Despite the many great arguments for bowling, the IOC remains against it. Dornberger said the sport is off the short list of sports to be added in 2016, and is aiming for 2020.

    Dornberger will use the time to work on those problems. He said they'll try a number of new approaches later this month at the men's world championships in Bangkok, Thailand. The U.S. will also send its best players, the pros, to compete.

    That's right, as the United States Bowling Congress' recent news release said, we're sending a Dream Team to bowl in Bangkok.

    It's only a matter of time now.

    It has to be.

    Ryan White: ryanwhite@news.oregonian.com