View Full Version : What pool could learn from bowling

02-17-2004, 07:28 AM
I am not an avid bowler. Maybe play once or twice a year. But I was watching bowling on ESPN last week. It was some good competition, and I found myself wondering why a non-bowler like myself could get interested in bowling on TV, why can't the casual viewer get interested in pool?

AFter watching a little bit, I realised that the bowlers were VERY emotional, getting excited about good shots, showing frustration with missed shots, interacting with the crowd. They were excited about what they were doing and it showed. That excitement spread to the crowd who had their favorites. There were signs in the audience supporting their favorite players. It was an event!

Switch to pool. Hushed voices, subdued crowd (with a few polite golf claps between shots) and players showing very little emotion or excitement. It's something the knowledgable player will enjoy, but the average viewer will become bored very quickly.

Until someone figures out how to create and generate some excitement that comes through on the broadcasts, I'm afraid our sport is going to have a hard time building any kind of following that will support it on tv.

Oh, yeah...If I'm not mistaken, bowling is broadcast live at the same time every week.

Any thoughts?

Keith Talent
02-17-2004, 07:39 AM
I agree ... to the nonplayer, it must be like watching chess. About the only time I've seen emotion come across in pool on TV has been on the Mosconi broadcasts.

02-17-2004, 09:16 AM
Bowling was my game for forty years, and I can tell you that the enthusiasm you are seeing on TV is contrived. It is being encouraged by the people putting on the show, maybe by placards or silent cheerleaders or something of the sort. It doesn't normally happen. For that matter, head-to-head matches have never been a big part of bowling. They happened, now and then, but usually in the late night, and most of the players did not display such emotion except perhaps on a game-winning shot.

Gambling in bowling was mostly by jackpot game, which is the equivalent of the ring game in pool. Side bets were common in those games, but unlike pool, bowlers get a score, whether they win or lose, and they can bet on it.

Pool is about the only game in which top players still go head-to-head. In golf, tennis and bowling, a successful pro tour has put an end to most such matches. They play for other people's money.

Anyway, if you want emotion for TV, you will have to invent it.

02-17-2004, 09:22 AM
My friends can't understand how I can watch hours of pool on TV. However, when I pop in the Hustler or Pool Hall Junkies and run the chapters that contain shot scenes, they stand mesmerized. If you could get a tournament player to run off 7 racks by doing three ball caroms into the nine banking it cross side, the match would be live on primetime. The casual player can not appreciate how hard it is to do what tournament players make look so easy. So to them it is boring.

In order to attract a much larger audience, there would need to be the sizzle of off the scale masse's, banks, etc. and the entertainment qualities of somone like Keith McCready. I've yet to see that on TV.

02-17-2004, 10:35 AM

02-17-2004, 11:56 AM
Bowling has come a long way man. I used to be a touring pro back in the late 80's to around 1991, and it is night and day compared to now. Back at that time, the tour was pretty much in a state as men's pool is today, with only minimal opportunities for people to make a good living at it.

It is true, the PBA tour does very much encourage people's "personalities" to show when they make the TV finals, and people love it. BUT, it is not all just show, quite a few of these guys are just as intense during the tournament and matches all during the week that lead up the the main TV finals.

If you should ever learn of a PBA tour event in your town, stop by and check it out. They do have heads-up match play as part of there tournament formats, and it gets quite intense. I think you will find it quite entertaining and will probably be surprised by the number of people there watching the event.

Today, the PBA tour is huge. Currently now (the current season) through 17 events there are 18 players who have already cleared 50,000 in earnings with 5 more tournaments to go. On top of this, in those 18 players, 7 of them have already cleared 100,000.

The tour has done an exceptional job over the last 4 years of marketing itself and now has the finals of each event live on ESPN each Sunday. Prize funds have also been raised substantially from this marketing and now each event pays a minimum of 40,000 for first place.

I guess what I am trying to say is that if pool got together, gathered all the tours together and tried to merge there efforts, who knows what can happen. It was not that long ago that some PBA tournaments were only paying 16,000 for first, now they have "major" tournaments (such as the Masters in golf) that pay 100,000 for first.

02-17-2004, 12:22 PM
I read somewhere that the bowling tour was all but out of business. Some new people are now in charge and that the players are instructed to act out. Much of it is contrived as a attempt to get fans that just like that kind of stuff, Sort of like wrestling. Any truth to that. Also, they were playing for $15000. first prizes years ago. It seems like they haven't progressed at all compared to other sports. Bowling is shrinking from what I see. Where I live there must have been 5 or 6 bowling alley 25 years ago. I can only think of one still open now. The owner of one where I used to go to play pool yeras ago told me that when all was said and done, all he saw in the way of profit at the end of the year came from the bar. He owned the property and sold it to put up a shopping center. The value of the property could not justify a bowling alley anymore. Too many square feet for the return. In some ways a pool room falls into that same thing. It just cost too much to run a nice place in many towns to justify the return on the investment. I can't justify taking a building I can rent for $120,000 a year, throwing out the tenant and opening a pool room. It would not make sense.

02-17-2004, 12:47 PM
Well, as far as out of business, about 5-7 years ago that was a real danger for them. They were having trouble keeping sponsorships, sponsorships were dropping in terms of $$$ spent and therefore the number of people willing to try to earn a living on tour was fairly small.

Yes, they have been bought out by a group several years ago made up of some dot.com millionaires and some ex-Nike maketing execs. The experience of this new group and there exceptional marketing experience enabled them to get the tour going better, stronger, and managed to negotiate better and longer TV contracts as well as attract new additional sponsorships.

Yes, they do encourage people to "act out" and certainly "put on a performance", but probably 95% of these guys who make the TV finals are not acting and they display the same enthusiasm during the week as well as on TV.

While they were certainly paying $15,000 several years ago for first, the biggest thing (IMO) they have done is gotten more money, but balanced the payouts. It used to be if you got the last check (last to cash) it was barely enough to pay your hotel for the week. Now the last check is $1,000. I am not saying this is "great" money, but it is much better than it used to be. Also, in the year 2000, the normal tournaments (not majors) paid out $19,000 for first place, so they have increased $21,000 to a total of $40,000. In the 4 major tournaments in 2000, they paid $60,000 each, and it is now $100,000 for each of the majors.

In addition on the money side, the PBA tour also offers up additional ways for players to make "bonus" money. One is offering $10,000 for a perfect game on TV, and that has already happened once this season. Also, players get some very good $$$ paid by ball manufacturers, shoes, etc. for using there products on TV when they make the show. Players can average anywhere from $8,000 to $25,000 additional in these types of "perks".

I certaily do not disagree on the economics of owning a bowling center and making money. It is very tough indeed, and yes, there have been quite a few go out of business.

#### leonard
02-17-2004, 02:31 PM
My pool backer Father Dominick, took 16 year old Dewey Blair on the road in the early 60s. He said he lost one time with Dewey. They were at the Eastern States league night in Paramus NJ. All the spectators was down at the other end watching Dewey bowl.

We kidded Father all the time about how good Dewey was till one night when Playing Charlie "The Bear" Scalise at Fieldstone Billiards in the Bronx. Father made eye contact with a spectator and where do I know you from ensued. I remember you were at Madison Square Lanes with Dewey Blair when he played Mike Lomengella. Okay tell them how good Dewey was. He was the best bowler I ever saw he replied he never shot a ball out of the pocket. In fact he bowled a 300 game in the final to win all the money.####

Ralph S.
02-17-2004, 03:33 PM
Poolteacher....While I generally like and agree with the majority of your posts, I disagree here to a certain extent. Did you by chance watch any of the Mosconi Cup? The problem isn't with lack of excitement or enthusiasm.... It is with the way the events are promoted, broadcast, etc. I do beleive that if we aired our televised events like the Europeans, that veiwership and the excitement level would increase dramatically.

02-17-2004, 04:57 PM
that's true, pool does seem appealing to only those who can appreciate the difficulty of running through 4 or 5 consecutive innings.

put on a trick shot magic show though and everyone will be into it. you get excitement and incredible shots, i still don't believe a few of them that i've seen.

p.s. anyone ever see table tennis on ESPN? now that's some intense stuff, hehe.

02-17-2004, 05:31 PM
Living in Scotland I can only go by what I have read on this and other forums when it comes to American TV coverage of pool tournaments. That said, all I can say is - give it time. Listen to what the former bowler said about things being night and day when comparing 15 years ago to now.

Matchroom Sport have done wonders for the game here in the UK. Granted, they only produce 4 tournaments a year, and 2 of those are invitationals, but it is a starting block for all of us to build from. We need to be willing to work our asses off!

Ten years ago when the first Mosconi Cup was held, it was nothing more than an exhibition tournament. Finding an American Pool table in the UK was difficult, if not impossible. The American side was full of veterans who, while able to play the European side off the table, were not the big names that we had read about in magazines. The European Team was peppered with Snooker players, just to get people used to watching Snooker on TV to watch the coverage on Sky TV and get people to turn up at the venue. There was a juggling barman behind a bar who would juggle bottles going into each commercial break. But it was a start! We had live 9-ball on TV.

Fast forward to 2002. There are American Pool rooms all over the UK with professional tours running in both Scotland and the UK as a whole. Viewing figures for 9-bal tournaments on TV are getting better ratings that Snooker tournaments. The Americans send their strongest ever side. There is now only one Snooker player - Steve Davis - in the European side but he has proved that he can really play 9-ball. And EVERYBODY is taking it very, very seriously! They want to win this more than anything!

Step forward to 2003 - Viva Las Vegas! The Mosconi hits the American shores! Who would have thought it? And you guys are getting some coverage - all be it delayed highlights, but action never-the-less.

My prediction - in 3 years, the Mosconi will be live on American TV. A year or 2 after that, the World Championships will be live on American TV. Well, it's my prediction and my prayer. I also hope that the building blocks that Matchroom have put in place are built upon so that pool may thrive to become the sport we would all love to see it become.

Just my thoughts on the matter from a non-American point of view.

Best wishes


02-17-2004, 06:03 PM
Just watch the 2003 U.S. open accu-stats match between Parcia and McCreedy. The one Keith wins. Certainly entertaining and enjoyable.

Or watch John Daly's recent win in golf.

The personalities make it entertaining. The commentators should transfer knowledge and color and otherwise stay out of the way.

I do not think pool needs to be live. I do think it needs to occurr frequently at a reguarly scheduled time.

Anyway, some thoughts.

02-18-2004, 05:57 AM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote whitewolf:</font><hr>
What about Vivian Villareal (sp?)? Of course half of the CCBers here think she is just too much. Half of the CCBers (I am talking ~2 years ago) also didn't like the contrived (cheer when the cards are held up)pool on TV. Personally, I like all of this stuff. And ohhhhh, I almost forgot, at that time half of the CCBers did not like Earl the Pearl. Now I don't hear too many Earl bashings since he has become sort of a hero to Americans due to the Mosconi Cup.

I think the CCB is wising up except for a bunch of old farts who would rather stay in the days of the spittoons in pool halls.<hr /></blockquote>

You were doing good until you typed that last paragraph.
Although true, now you will suffer their wrath.
But then, some will have to back off, lest everyone thinks of them as the old farts.


02-18-2004, 06:54 AM
I agree that some pool broadcasts generate some enthusiasm. My point is more that it needs to be done more consistantly, with the goals of presenting the match to showcase the talent and skill of the players, but at the same time, make it more exciting for the casual viewer. We know it CAN be done...it just needs to be done more frequently, and with some of the bells and whistles that will give it broader appeal. I know most of us here watch it regularly, but there has to be something to make the channel surfer put down the remote when they come across pool on the tube.

02-18-2004, 07:27 AM
Agreed. I know that when I tell my friends to stop surfing when they pass pool on TV, they just give me this blank, or WTF??!?! stare...it's a little unsettling. But the times that they do stop, I try and explain to them why what they are seeing looks so easy. Then when I get them on the pool table itself, they physically find out. Too bad they forget about it the next day...oiy


02-18-2004, 04:34 PM
"I agree that some pool broadcasts generate some enthusiasm. My point is more that it needs to be done more consistantly, with the goals of presenting the match to showcase the talent and skill of the players, but at the same time, make it more exciting for the casual viewer."

There in lies the problem, the better pool is played the less interesting it is. Pool consists mostly of doing simple things consistently and the simpler the better. Except for a short time, it can only be enjoyed by the knowledgeable player. Poker is almost as boring to watch as pool except for one thing, the money. They push around unreal amounts of money and that is what captivates the public interest. If two pool players played a publicized match $1000,000. People who never watched a game of pool would tune in. This is not going to happen on course but that is the difference. Pool has an image of being small time and it is. Perception is reality to the public, pool has to be made to seem important.

I remember when Fats played Mosconi many years ago. Prier to that match they were on Johnny Carson show, interviewed constantly. You read quotes in the papers, people who never played pool were talking about pool. Chess, although not televised, has a air of importance. When a championship is played, results are widely covered. Everybody knows about it, are talking about it and chess exists almost in obscurity but it seems important. The overall public perception of pool, is something you do between beers in a bar. If any potential sponsors do research, (I am talking non pool related), they would conclude that there are better things to do with their advertising dollars then sponsor pool. It is a catch 22. No sponsors no pool, no pool no sponsors. No answers here, just my opinions and observations.

02-18-2004, 04:56 PM
I think there are a lot of problems. One is the money prizes. That in itself makes pool appear small time.

Another is the production. They skip games and the interviews with the players if any look more like "Thanks for stopping by and playing, congrats, gotta go". The announcers back off on the technical explanations going for the "our audience wouldn't understand anyway" attitude. While I understand that technical talk along with some of the lingo to the game would be wasted on novices, chances are if the production was better and they enjoyed it more they would pick up on the lingo and technical aspects. I sure did with poker and any other game I choose to particpate in only from my couch. Also, they overreact to good shots using the word "great" much to often. If a baseball announcer did the same every time a ground ball was shorthopped, his credibility would go right down the drain.

When it comes down to it, pool should be a much more interesting game to watch than bowling. A strike usually looks pretty much the same everytime and a spare is usually(not always of course) as exciting as an extra point in football. Pool on the other hand has a lot bigger array of shots and a heck of a lot more obvious creativity.

Pool needs to get to the point where they have longer broadcasts, include more of the pre-final matches and possibly go to live broadcasts on nationally accessed channels. Throw a Brittany Spears or Janet Jackson into the mix for show wouldn't hurt either.

Keith Talent
02-18-2004, 05:52 PM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote whitewolf:</font><hr>
What about Vivian Villareal (sp?)? Of course half of the CCBers here think she is just too much. Half of the CCBers (I am talking ~2 years ago) also didn't like the contrived (cheer when the cards are held up)pool on TV. <hr /></blockquote>

Yeah, some of the women's matches I've seen lately with her seem all puffed up, worse than any batch of Wonder bread. She chatters on and on ... then the crowd goes nuts over a soft-roll straight-in shot down the rail ... then the silly pocket cam captures the great drama of a routine 9 ball falling, and more howling from the gallery.

But I liked some of the Mosconi camera work ... you really got a good look at the action on some significant shots. And the crowd was a little more spontaneous, too. A good start, I think. Had people watching over my shoulder at work who hardly know a thing about the game.

02-18-2004, 06:12 PM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote whitewolf:</font><hr>
I think the CCB is wising up except for a bunch of old farts who would rather stay in the days of the spittoons in pool halls.

Times are changing my friends. <hr /></blockquote>
Well, you pulled my chain with that one. /ccboard/images/graemlins/laugh.gif
No place deserving the name pool hall ought to be full of video games, foosball contraptions, dart boards and other such junk.

If you want tv and non pool related junk, call it a sports bar or whatever. Not a pool hall.

If you want kids and non pool playing females call it a family recreation room or something. Not a pool hall.

Hmm....come to think of it, I haven't seen a pool hall in years.

02-19-2004, 10:23 AM
Well, since I enjoy watching pool on tv, and watch bowling on sundays, or the replay later in the week, I have a suggestion. Pool doesnt have to be live to be a success. Since everything is edited anyways for time, why dont they include some extras in coverage. For example. Lets say Mika is playin Efren in current show, and comes up on a challenging jump shot/kick shot/whatever. Then, how bout a flashback from a different match of him/someone pounding an extremely difficult shot and making it with success. An example to this is the PBA. Everytime a 7/10 split comes up, you can almost bet they are going to show/mention Mark Roth picking it up in 1983 (or close), or when someone gets close to a 300, they mention/show others final shots for the accomplishment.

It seems that alot of people always say that non-pool playing people dont like to watch boring/inline every shot runouts, cause it seems easy with no flare. Seems that everyone is perceived to like to watch trick shots (ok the first time), banks, kicks, etc. So if they kept highlights of some of these, and interacted them into the match at hand it would be interesting. IMO

&lt;--am for one tired of watching the "Shot of the Match" be some straight in 9ball shot for Karen Corr or Allison Fisher to win the championship.

02-19-2004, 03:18 PM

I believe the Scotsman has the right idea - it must grow

Perhaps there are not enough pool players to impact the way
it does for golf, poker, bowling.

A quick fix would be to rob the pro golf tour - PGA - of 5%
of their prize money for a year - that would last pool several years with a lot of tourneys and 5 or 6 times the
prize money.

02-19-2004, 05:05 PM
I think the promoter, or referee, or some official should, when a match is being taped for broadcast, encourage the crowd to be emotionally involved and even boisterous. Honest emotions. No signs, just honest emotions allowed to come out. /ccboard/images/graemlins/grin.gif /ccboard/images/graemlins/confused.gif /ccboard/images/graemlins/shocked.gif /ccboard/images/graemlins/laugh.gif /ccboard/images/graemlins/crazy.gif /ccboard/images/graemlins/mad.gif /ccboard/images/graemlins/cool.gif /ccboard/images/graemlins/blush.gif all the emotions brought up by a good pool game/match. The ring games at DCC on the internet were pretty emotional and, I think, maybe even entertaining to the average Joe...especially given the stakes.