Water no longer is only official drink of USBC Open Championships in Reno By Dick Evans

    03/01/10

    Column

    Say hello to alcoholic drinks (if so desired) while bowling

    ColumnistDickEvans.jpg I am sure that all the members of the USBC Board of Directors agonized over the tough decision to change 100 years of history and allow alcoholic beverages to be purchased by bowlers during the prestigious United States Bowling Congress' Open National Championships at the National Bowling Stadium in Reno.

    To me, this a decision that has both a right and wrong aspect, depending on how you view the USBC Open Championships, which for years was promoted as the Showcase Event of the American Bowling Congress.

    If you were on the USBC Board, you were keenly aware that the USBC was teetering on financial ruin if a lot of money could not be raised and raised quickly.

    And since the USBC has decided not to ask the delegates to vote for a dues increase that is long overdue, the board members were looking for life boats to save passengers on a sinking ship so to speak.

    And if estimates are correct, the USBC could reap a potential financial windfall of from $300,000 to $500.000 by allowing bowlers to drink alcoholic beverages while they are bowling in national championship tournaments in Reno and probably in El Paso.

    So from the board members' standpoint, I can see why they thought it was the correct decision in this particular environment.

    But I think it was the wrong decision because I know of no other sport that allows participants in its national championship tournament to allow athletes to drink alcoholic beverages from beer to Crown Royal during the actual competition. The PBA goes even a step farther and will not allow its members to drink any kind of booze in the bowling center before or during competition.

    But to be fair, I have tried to put myself in the board members' shoes and when I do that I am not sure how I would have voted --- for retaining tradition and image (which is vital to me since it takes many decades to create) -- or would I have voted to pump in some desperately needed funds even if I believe allowing booze destroys the perception of the tournaments as a major sporting event?

    But I am not a board member, I am just an old sports writer for a daily newspaper who has spent almost 53 years trying to elevate bowling's image with the public and media as one of the country's great sports

    So from where I stand --- and this is only my personal opinion -- I think it was the wrong decision.

    You can't buy perception, you can only earn it through years of effort and sacrifices. In my eyes, and maybe my eyes only, the USBC Open National Championships has been diminished in my image as a major sporting event with about a 110 year history to just another recreational bowling event.

    For years and years, Americans have looked down on league bowling because they believed it was only enjoyable with two or three beers.

    And maybe I had the wrong opinion, garnered during daily coverage of the 1967 ABC National Tournament in Miami and the 1978 WIBC National tournament. Those men and women came to bowl, everything else was secondary.

    I have debated my lofty views of the national tournaments with a friend who I admire and respect and he/she thinks most bowlers go to the two national USBC tournaments just for fun and fellowship and shopping and eating and drinking.

    I think most participants come primarily to bowl and hopefully to win money and titles. Bowling is the drawing card and that is why they invest so much money in brackets and enter so many side tournaments before or after they finish their team/singles/doubles games in the USBC tournament.

    My friend sorts of laughs at my lofty opinion and sent me this retort:

    "I think the majority of bowlers used to attend the tournaments primarily to bowl and win money and titles, but I the complexion really has changed over the years."

    If it has, then in my opinion it has changed for the wrong reasons and by allowing bowlers to drink during competition is only going to diminish its perception as a great sporting event.

    I have to admit I was caught off guard by the USBC's decision to replace the tiny water cups located behind the lanes for at least 60 years as the only liquid a bowler could drink during competition prior to the new alcohol rule being approved by the USBC Board of Directors.

    I found out about the new booze rule by reading an Internet story the USBC sent out Feb. 23, which I believe was three days after the tournament started --announcing changes that would be introduced during the tournament this year.

    Included in the list of changes was this line: "the allowance of beverages while competing."

    The release goes on to say "once on the lanes, bowlers will be allowed to consume beverages while competing. In the past, water was provided and all other drinks were prohibited."

    If they were talking about allowing bowlers to consume drinks like Pepsi and Gatorade during competition, I would say it was long overdue. But the release did not rule out alcoholic beverages and I think that rule hurts the perception of the USBC Open but will be a giant shot in the arm for the USBC from a monetary standpoint.

    And money talks, especially when it is in short supply.

    I have no background in economics, but I got to thinking about how much booze the 75 thousand plus bowlers at the two USBC national tournaments (I expect the USBC to change the drinking rule at the women's tournament in El Paso) would have to spend on alcohol for the USBC even to realize $300,000 in revenue.

    Since even the coffee is expensive at the National Bowling Stadium, I figure that every bowler will have to spend at least $20 on beverages for the USBC to net close to $300,000 on the two national tournaments.

    I have no idea how much money the USBC will receive from each drink order but I would have to guess (and this is only a far fetched guess) it would be close to 30 percent.

    At that point I tried to figure the cost of the average alcohol drink and I came up with a $10 total. I figured out in my head (which is a mistake) that at an average of $10 a drink that in order for the USBC to make as much $300,000 then the 75 thousand plus bowlers would have to spend almost a million dollars on booze.

    In my estimation, that could take some series drinking, although I realize each bowler's drink total would be spread over two days, so maybe I am way off base.

    I am not alone in my belief that booze has no place in a great national sporting event.

     


    2005PBA05BillSpigner.jpg Bill Spigner (pictured left), a bowler who used the USBC Open tournament titles as a stepping stone to Hall of Fame recognition, agrees.

    Spigner writes: "Don't know whose idea it was to allow drinking at the USBC championships, but it's an awful idea. It lowers the class of the tournament.

    "You can't even have an energy bar or a piece of fruit while bowling but now you can get drunk.

    "It saddens me that the great history of our top competition for bowlers (USBC/ ABC Championships) is becoming more like league bowling.

    "The tournament has been very successful without drinking. I think it will be in danger of no longer being the special event that it has been.

    "Will handicap be far behind?"

     


    Over the years, the ABC made many great changes to improve its national tournament and it grew. Among what I consider the most important changes were adding team all-events in 1947, eliminating the all-white rule in 1950, adding the Classic Division for pro bowlers in 1961, allowing women to participate for the first time in 1994 and introducing the Masters as a special tournament event in 1951 and making the Masters part of the ABC Nationals in 1980 before increasing the Masters' prize fund as it grew in statue and became a MAJOR Championship on the PBA tour.

    All of these changes were for the benefit of the bowlers.

    The new alcohol rule is for the benefit of the USBC and it will please some of the bowlers but not all of the bowlers.

    And I reiterate, I think the new policy -- no matter how much revenue it generates for the USBC --erodes the conception of the USBC Open Championships as a major sporting event.

    This is my belief, but that does not make it right.

    And it does not make the USBC Board's decision wrong.

    Timing determines many things in life and timing at this point in USBC's history has determined that money is more important than image.

    Money talks -- always has, always will.

    Hopefully the USBC will get a dues increase from the delegates next year and the alcohol rule for the USBC National Championship Tournament will be eliminated in 2011.

    At least I hope so.

    Evans121@aol.com