Monday, February 1, 2010

Bill Simmons and the PBA: Successful Experiment?

Last Sunday's Dick Weber Open featured a third man in the booth. It was ESPN's The Sports Guy, Bill Simmons. Now, I have to admit that I enjoy reading Bill's columns and his interweaving of pop culture into his sports analysis is witty. I feel as if I am part of the inside joke with many of his television or movie references. I'm sure you do too. Most all males currently in their mid-40's can recite many lines from Caddyshack or Ghostbusters. Simmons' in-depth analysis of the movie Hoosiers is like something that I have never read. However, is he good for televised bowling? Does the PBA throw any random person into the announcers' booth as a bridge between the hardcore and casual fanbase? Should the PBA stick to only the 'experts' in the bowling industry?

As part of his ESPN duties, Bill also does podcasts, or taped Internet shows. The day before the telecast, he and Rob Stone discussed bowling and soccer. Entertaining interview, but one point made me wince. He asked Stone about the pronunciation of 'Weber.' He asked Rob if he should do some research or do 'fish out of water.' He, obviously, was the latter. Various comments across the Internet seem to dislike his performance.

Is this a one-time shot with the PBA? Will they also have other guest announcers? The WWE has guest host on RAW every Monday night on the USA network. Should the PBA also have William Shatner in the booth with Stone and Pederson?

This was good and bad. I think if Bill had done more preparation for the show, it would have worked better. Most everyone should know about Dick Weber. He should represent the casual fan that the PBA needs to expand its ratings. Also, to appease the hardcore fans, the announcer cannot appear to mock the sport. Rob Stone mentions this in his beginnings as a PBA announcer on the podcast with Bill Simmons.

The hardcore fans want another expert as the third announcer. Not every expert can be a good fit for the booth like Nelson Burton, Jr. or Randy Pederson. The show is not that entertaining if I hear too much technical commenting about how the bowler missed inside of target because of something the expert saw in the third step of the approach. I don't want too much hilarity, but I also don't want too much USBC gold medal coach jargon.

I like to be entertained when I watch the show. So, I give the Simmons experiment a 'thumb in the middle' sign. Maybe another celebrity who knows bowling could be a good fit. How about Jerome Bettis?
Or, bring back Simmons, and give him another shot when he is better prepared. He loves sports and can be that bridge between the casual fan and the hardcore fan if he just learned the sport. Most all of us like to explain the nuances of bowling to our co-workers. Let Randy school Bill like he does Rob.