World Exclusive PBA Commissioner Tom Clark

When the struggling PBA was purchased by three former Microsoft employees in 2000, I found it to be a very uplifting and interesting story and one I could pitch to get significant space in USA Today to tell it.  It actually was from my work at USA Today where I got to meet the leaders of the PBA in its resurgence, such as Chris Peters and Steve Miller, and where I developed a bowling column for the still fledgling USAToday.com that lead to me working in the bowling industry.

Tom Clark is a man who simply loves bowling, He always has, despite being a busy PBA Commissioner he still finds time to shoe up in a father and son league. The day job has been a big challenge but a rewarding one as bowling is seeing fantastic growth on TV again and it is pretty much down to this guy. When it has been time to think outside of the box, Tom has been there with ideas and no fear in trying new things. Fans differ on opinion as to what they like and dislike, more so because of social media but the truth is Tom is a clued up individual with experience that places him as the best and probably only man to achieve the goal of another Golden age of Bowling. We think you may learn a thing or two in this interview and we would like to thank Tom for giving such detailed and amazing answers.

tom_c8.jpgWhy bowling Tom? Of all the things you could have gravitated to when and where did this happen?

I grew up in Syracuse, NY. My father, also Tom Clark, has been a scratch bowler for 50+ years. He brought me bowling and we bowled parent-child leagues when I was very young. I would go with him to watch him bowl in his leagues. We watched the PBA together every week. He taught me how to bowl and how to appreciate watching bowling. I loved bowling because I was pretty good at it and the competition part of it was the most fun. Competing with others and competing with your own progress.

I played baseball, basketball and football as a kid but bowling was the sport you could measure your improvement best.
My youth leagues in Syracuse were also very well-run. There was a junior traveling league for the competitive bowlers, there were professionally run tournaments for youths run by a dedicated organizer, there were youth TV shows I got the chance to bowl on hosted by local PBA bowler Marty Piraino and there were pro shops and bowling centers that were on the cutting edge.
There was also very good competition in my area, which was a bowling hotbed at that time. I never got tired of trying to be the best bowler I could be and trying to win every time I bowled.

tom_c1.jpgAs you hit your college years you graduated from Buffalo State College in 1992 with a degree in journalism. You did bowl though, winning the east region Association of College Unions International title in 1990 and advancing to the national singles championship in Reno, Nev. Did you have an option at this time to try to be a Pro bowler or was the lure of paid work and a job too much to turn down?

One of my skills is having an eye for talent and having a realistic view of my own abilities. When I bowled in college and in other tournaments during that time, even though I had some events where I could go on a hot streak and compete with anyone, I could easily see there were bowlers with talents I would never have. Bowling against people my age like Chris Barnes, Paul Fleming, Pat Healey, Justin Hromek, Mike Neumann and with some of my own teammates I could see that my game was not as solid, my ceiling nowhere near as high as theirs.

I could also tell that some of these players loved learning the game, adapting to the game and spent more time practicing. They were going to be pros, I was not going to have the amount of dedication necessary to get to their level.

If I could have been a pro bowler I would have pursued it regardless of any lure of paid work because it is so fun, challenging and rewarding to compete at the highest level, but I was not good enough.

tom_c13.jpgAn impressive career in Journalism was the path you took, working for many newspapers and climbing the ladder to USA today the nation’s highest-circulated newspaper. Looking back at this time, how important has it been for you to be able to see how other sports work and try new things?

At USA Today I had unique, privileged opportunities to sit down with the brightest minds in sports on all levels to learn about the business of sports and sports on TV. One of the most inspiring friends I made while covering tennis for USA Today was Billie Jean King. You can learn as much about the business of sports talking to BJK as anyone.

Another very interesting leader in an emerging sport was Randy Bernard of Pro Bull Riders. Bernard went on to be the CEO of Indy Car racing for a while, but his passion for bull riding and his efforts to build that sport into much more than what anyone would have expected was infectious. The way he handled public relations had a big impact on me.

I met, worked with and interviewed most of the top executives with the PGA Tour, LPGA, Golf Channel, PGA of America, USTA, ATP and WTA Tours plus the NFL and all the major networks including ESPN.

I had the opportunity to attend many of the biggest sporting events in the world such as golf’s Masters and tennis’ U.S. Open and learned how the events worked from many different perspectives, including financially. At the same time I was managing fairly elaborate budgets in management roles in the media so had real experience in working within budget constraints. I also worked with sports agents for many of the star athletes I covered, and again learned about the media from both their perspective and the counter perspective of Gannett and USA Today’s great staff of journalists at the time.

I always thought of bowling’s plight when talking to these people and how bowling could make a breakthrough or emulate some of their strategies or find its correct niche again in an ever-crowding space.

When the struggling PBA was purchased by three former Microsoft employees in 2000, I found it to be a very uplifting and interesting story and one I could pitch to get significant space in USA Today to tell it.  It actually was from my work at USA Today where I got to meet the leaders of the PBA in its resurgence, such as Chris Peters and Steve Miller, and where I developed a bowling column for the still fledgling USAToday.com that lead to me working in the bowling industry.

tom_c3.jpgA natural progression seemed to take you to the United States Bowling Congress leading to you being the Vice President for the USBC. What things did you achieve with the national association?

I believed as an observer that the formation of the USBC in 2005 was another great sign for the bowling industry. Despite diving into my career in the news media, having jobs as executive and managing editor at media companies and then the daily competitive grind at USA Today, I never stopped caring about bowling and felt the USBC was a sign the sport was uniting.

When I spoke with the USBC executive leaders at the time, Roger Dalkin, Roseanne Kuhn and Jack Mordini, plus the president Mike Carroll, it was clear to me they were going to put the sport first and I would have the opportunity to make an impact. As a new organization it was going to have growing pains but I am very proud of the initiatives, programs and direction we had taken by the time I left. It was a privilege to be on the front lines bringing the dormant U.S. Women’s Open back and putting it on national television, creating the USBC Clash of Champions for CBS that put all of USBC’s programs on display, sponsoring clever initiatives such as the USBC Women’s Challenge and working with the PBA and ESPN on a Six Flags Summer Series and the PBA Women’s Series.

I was mostly proud of being on the team throughout the formation, implementation and marketing of PBA Experience Leagues.
We did some proactive public relations efforts that garnered a lot of positive national press, and I was with USBC when I met a young NBA star Chris Paul and brought him into the bowling family, which has been very positive for the game.

tom_c1.jpg2008 and you get a call from the PBA and offer of a job, How quick was that choice to make?

Pretty quick. I remember the call from the PBA’s CEO at the time, Fred Schreyer, who I have great respect for. At that same time, the USBC board had decided to close the Milwaukee USBC offices to move to Arlington, TX, in order to share a new office with the BPAA.

At USBC we had built up a lot of momentum bringing the sport of bowling into the public eye more which was very difficult to leave but that “Grow the Sport” strategic initiative was a multi-year plan that was now going to take a back seat to the overwhelming task of moving to Texas. So, I agreed with Fred that my impact on the areas of my expertise would be better for the game working with the PBA.

Plus, I have always loved the PBA as a fan. Like so many people in my generation I grew up looking at Mark Roth, Marshall Holman and Earl Anthony as heroes. I followed the PBA as closely as I could, checked scores in the paper, attended events when they came to Syracuse, watched

every ABC, NBC, CBS, ESPN telecast my whole life. As a kid I would bowl with toy plastic ball and pins in the hallway of my home while the PBA show was on TV. Watching was a shared experience with my father, and the inspiration of the PBA is why I decided
to move to Buffalo for college. The PBA and sports on TV in general played such a big part in my life, so being able to work for the professional bowling organization and possibly help it and the players I greatly admire was an opportunity I would never pass up.

tom_c12.jpgI guess there is no other way than to say when you got to the PBA things were not looking good, Did you just look at this as a simple, “let’s try something new”?

Although the new ownership had deeply invested into the relaunch at a loss to the organization’s bottom line, the PBA was still gaining traction and on a solid trajectory at the time, but we have to remember that the economy suffered a dramatic recession later that year (2008). That recession had a huge negative impact on bowling, the PBA’s sponsors, investors and everyone in-between. At the same time, we tried many new things to continue to grab media attention and engage fans in fresh ways and had a lot of success in those areas with unique events (some that were a little ahead of their time). But soon, the obvious key to our survival was going to be creating economic efficiencies across the board, both for the PBA players and our own operations. The trick would be making those new efficiencies resonate and thrive despite more limited resources.

tom_c11.jpgWorld Series of Bowling, Summer Swings, PBA League and so much more in the last few years. Momentum seems to be building now with TV coverage and growth in audiences?

The 2014-15 PBA Tour on ESPN season was extremely encouraging. Our audience improved by 24% over the previous year, the biggest increase year-over-year in decades. It was a culmination of a few positive initiatives: smart programming decisions largely surrounding the WSOB; events such as the Chris Paul PBA Celebrity Invitational bringing younger viewers in; capitalizing on new media in conjunction with our industry partners; the unique time in the game with upcoming stars competing with legendary figures (think Norm Duke vs. Jesper Svensson at the Players Championship); and a TV production team building on its experience.
The gains enabled us to add more live events this year, add some prize money and reinforce our value to current and prospective sponsors while solidifying our place with ESPN and improving our relationship with CBS Sports Network on the Summer Swing (which will take place in the Fall in 2016 as a Fall Swing).

This past season we maintained the growth, and for the last four PBA League shows of the year were up 14% over last year’s League series.

Our relationship with ESPN is in its third year of a five-year agreement and our average audiences of 800,000, with some shows over 1 million viewers on average make it a mutually beneficial partnership with the worldwide leader in sports television. Capitalizing on this viewership momentum and the positive ratings story we now have to tell is our top priority moving forward.

tom_c7.jpgThe PBA league in particular has connected with bowling fans and at last the crowd participation is being encouraged like other sporting events with more noise and fun. It is not unlike the Weber Cup now in presentation. How much work has gone into the whole league format and tweaking it until its just right?

Thank you, it has been four years since the launch of the PBA League, with a lot of work and negotiation across the entire spectrum of PBA constituents to make a vision become a reality. But as you point out, while some ambitious aspects of the PBA League have not worked yet to our satisfaction, the best thing to happen was finding the perfect location and fans for the event in the unlikely setting of Portland, ME.

The PBA had never held an event in Maine, but after I had just one night of exposure to the groundbreaking league they have at Bayside Bowl it lead us to bring the PBA League there. The bowlers from that center have the perfect blend of passion for the fun and sport of bowling. They are all ages, enthusiastic and love the PBA. We didn’t have to teach the crowd how to act, it is purely them and the way they want to show an appreciation and support for the greatest players in the world being in their bowling center.

We felt the PBA League competition was the perfect fit for Maine and it has been the most fun most of us involved with the PBA have ever had. Complete with tailgating, great music, great food, great sponsor engagement. There has also been a lot of memorable PBA bowling on the lanes already in just two years and it shows well on TV – a great combination to build on for the future.

We’d love to build on the PBA League concept with more host venues and cities that bring the combination of great setting, local sponsor support and wildly enthusiastic fans. There are many different ways the PBA League can grow and there will be many differing opinions on that direction but the last two years being so well-received will ensure a good future.

tom_c14.jpgThat leads us onto the Trans-Atlantic tussle between the USA and Europe, This event has grown in the 16 years since it started and now boasts an all PBA line up. Could we see the PBA embrace this event more in the future and maybe it being staged in the USA?

I love to watch the Weber Cup as a fan. It’s very exciting and a neat opportunity for some PBA stars. And I agree that a home-and-home USA vs. Europe with PBA involvement is the best and hopeful progression of the event. A little over a year ago we had very promising discussions with Barry Hearn and his group about doing just that but the logistics unfortunately did not work out. We are hopeful of joining forces in the near future.

tom_c4.jpgSome other great additions to the PBA portfolio has been the PBA Network spanning social media through Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and more. How important has social media been to the PBA?

We launched the PBA Network last year and it has been a tremendous success. For fans, following the PBA is much different than in the days of ABC-TV. It can definitely be more challenging, but at the same time there is exponentially more content and more chances to connect with the PBA at every level today. When the PBA was on ABC, fans might have seen the top 24 in the morning newspaper, waited for it to come on TV, watched the show and that was the extent of the experience. A few hundred lucky fans were able to be there on site for the finals, some more all week.

Today, during the course of a typical event due to the PBA Network there is live frame-by-frame scoring and daily stories with interviews with players on pba.com; highlight videos, notices and photos on our social media outlets Facebook, Twitter and YouTube; live streaming video of qualifying and match play on Xtra Frame with guest commentary from players and leaders in the industry; email notices to our fan database making sure they are aware of the event. During the finals show fans talk about it on social media in a second-screen experience; after a show airs, our social media and web site carry full stories and multiple photos plus video highlights; and three days later on our YouTube channel the full show is there to watch or re-watch. Fans can directly communicate with the players who have their own Facebook pages or Twitter handles, and players in PBA events are even encouraged to interact on social media while bowling if they’d like.

These uniquely intimate connections create deeper bonds with fans, create rooting interests and people learn more about their own games.

When I was a kid in the 70s and 80s if I had the chance to watch Earl Anthony trying to make a show in California during the position round live from my living room in New York I would not have missed it. That opportunity exists every event now all over the world with the PBA Network and its growing over-the-top content.

Of course, social media is a double-edged sword. On the one hand it can be the greatest marketing tool ever created because the entire bowling community and our fan base can not only stay connected but literally help the PBA promote itself to wider audiences with simple retweets or shares of information. Fans can reach out and thank sponsors and hosts so easily. Truth is through social media our fans can help pro bowling in ways most can’t even imagine. But at the same time, the “freedom” of expression social media provides ignorant or disgruntled people can turn new people to the sport off, turn sponsors off and sap resources. I wish the people who love bowling, yet can’t figure out any other ways to get their frustrations out would stay off social media. The PBA is promoting bowling every single day, relentlessly and I don’t think they understand the negative impact they have or they wouldn’t do it.

The PBA Network has made it easier to publicize all the great pro bowling action going on in our Regional program as well. The PBA hosts more than 150 events in that many distinct markets each year in the Qubica AMF Regional Tour, the greatest bowing tournament club ever created.

The second step in the growth of the PBA Network is mostly technical and already underway: Revamping pba.com (a gradual relaunch is ongoing, already making mobile use far better by being responsive); improving and expanding our official social media; and upgrading Xtra Frame with our partner Neulion (also already evident through a gradual launch). The next step will be improving the overall reach and cohesiveness of the Network to maximize its potential as a revenue stream.

tom_c17.jpgIt seems year on year Xtra Frame gets better, Production quality has improved and more important viewing numbers have grown, Is it frustrating though that numbers could be so much higher despite what is an amazing price for the content you get?

Thank you. We are very proud of XF growing from 1,000 subscribers to 8,000 in five years, but yes I wholeheartedly agree that there are more than 8,000 true bowling fans that would find great value in subscribing. We need to bring the number of subscribers up. We have several pricing packages, from 3-day passes for $3.99 to monthly rates at $7.99 but the yearly subscription of $64.99 is by far the best value at around $5.40 a month.

While there have been production and announcing improvements involving more experts, replays, archiving, ability for the user to work within the site, our mobile app’s improvements, etc., the most significant improvement with Xtra Frame has been the increased amount of pro bowling content. It is actually amazing in 2015 and 2016 we will have a combined 2,000+ hours of original live content on Xtra Frame. The entire PWBA Tour, PBA50 Tour, the PBA national tour and the developing PBA Xtra Frame Tour of 10+ national title status events all around the country are live and archived on Xtra Frame.

There are so many uses of that kind of content for viewers depending on what they want. We know the product isn’t perfect, sometimes technical difficulties depending on locations or other things some fans wish was better creep in, but the consistent value of Xtra Frame far outweighs any negatives.

As a bowling fan I watch it to see styles, watch the competition, see who wins, follow certain players, improve my own game, learn about the industry, you name it. And I can watch events from all over the country and world on my phone, on my laptop, plugged into my TV, so many different ways. It really is a spectacular development.
Just last week alone I watched at least five dramatic moments live on Xtra Frame that I can’t imagine any bowling fan not appreciating.  I am jealous of kids today that can watch all this stuff when as a kid I’d have to get lucky to see my favorite players on TV for one game.

Other sports can monetize fans through ticket sales, but in our unique position the only way we can really sell “tickets” for substantial revenue is through a subscription to live streaming video all over the world. You can do the math; if 20,000 or 50,000 or more fans were subscribers to XF, it would mean so much towards growing the game.

pba-bowling-challenge-image-2.jpgOne thing I have to thank you for Tom is the mobile PBA game by Concrete Software, A few years ago you joined a facebook page I had started calling for a game on PS3 and Xbox360, A lot of the things suggested in there made it to the mobile game and a whole lot more too, With Virtual Reality coming soon could we one day have PBA pros stood next to us in our homes?

Thank you for mentioning the PBA Bowling Challenge game, which has now been downloaded for free by more than 16 million people on their iOS or Android mobile devices. It’s become a way to reach more fans, younger fans, grow the name recognition of players, events, equipment, playing fields plus of course be very fun with great networking potential. There is a very real financial benefit to all involved with the PBA due to the licensing agreement we have with Concrete Software, which created the game with our input. We will work together to keep the game fresh and most importantly, fun.

Having grown up myself with first “Pong” and then Atari, to see where e-gaming is today is remarkable so I would not put any cap on what the future may provide.

tom_c15.jpgFor all the great work done, there is still a long way to go in terms of making bowling more mainstream, attracting big name sponsors and more important bigger cheques for winners. You seem to be a man with a plan, what is next on that plan?

Yes there is a long way to go. We are not satisfied in many areas. But we will not rest and we are inspired by the positives we see every day. I believe bowling, as one of the most popular sports in the history of mankind, has the potential to be an emerging professional sport with wide interest so that the areas you mention increase substantially.

It also is a sport with unique challenges and obstacles that have been proven to be difficult to overcome by many skilled and passionate people. So it will take the entire industry working together to reach our potential. The competition out there isn’t from within bowling, it’s other sports, other media and the incredible array of choices consumers have today.

The fact the PBA is now financially stable on its own after many years operating in the red, no longer relying on the personal investments of our ownership, has our entire organization poised for tremendous growth. We have three key groups to thank most for that:

1) The experienced, dedicated and most of all professional staff of the PBA. Only this current group could do as much with less.

2) The product registered companies who stand by the PBA, help the players, help promote the pro game and invest in our success.

3) The members, and regular players who enter our events.

Securing television rights fees, international expansion, licensing rights, corporate partners including title sponsor, membership gains and monetizing digital content are all ways I see the PBA growing. And a healthy PBA means a healthier sport.

tom_c9.jpgAs a lifelong bowling fan Tom, do you still have to pinch yourself when you realise the people you are meeting and which legends have you met where you became nervous?

Let’s put it this way, having Marshall Holman as a friend is surreal. As a teen I watched VHS videos of him bowling for hours just hoping his game would rub off on me. Now we go to dinner or joke around and I my hero is my friend. Having the privilege to talk to people like Carmen Salvino, Mark Roth, Johnny Petraglia, Nelson Burton Jr. or Mike Aulby about bowling is not something I take lightly.

I’m actually in a very unique spot as the commissioner of a sport in that people I literally was a fan of when I was a kid are still competitive in the sport I am administering. For example, I remember being in awe of Pete Weber from the time I saw him as a teenager bowl a PBA event in Syracuse, NY, in the early 80s. I was just a few years younger than him. Then following Pete throughout his entire career, getting excited when he would make a show. Now, he is competing in an event I set the rules for. I’m not sure many other sports heads have been in that spot.

I hear all the time people talking about how difficult a job I have. Of course there are challenges, frustrations, long hours and a lot of time away from home but as long as I feel like I am advancing the PBA and the sport to the best of my ability, I feel like having this job makes me the luckiest guy in the world.

tom_c18.jpgIs it true a realisation came some time back to embrace what was becoming a strong World bowling sport and there was relaxation of the way you became a PBA player. How important has the international field been to the PBA?

One area that was bothering me just before coming to the PBA was that above all other things I felt the best players in the world needed to be on the PBA Tour, and I wasn’t sure if that was true anymore. I remembered a difficult time in the late 90s when top “amateur” bowlers were choosing to skip PBA membership in order to compete in High-Roller events, which were cool, but for a sports fan like me with a reverence for the Professional Bowlers Association, I wanted to see those players compete for the prestige that can only be found with the PBA.

I saw a similar thing happening with the emerging international talent in the mid 2000s and the PBA was not quite conducive or alluring enough for many top international players to compete regularly.

The event that was a watershed moment for the expansion of international professional bowling was the 2008 WTBA Men’s World Championship in Bangkok, Thailand. It was the first time PBA stars were permitted on Team USA and this “Dream Team” opened up the eyes of the world. At the same time, by attending the event and through contacts such as Mika Koivuniemi and Tim Mack, I was able to meet with top international players such as Australia’s Jason Belmonte, England’s Dom Barrett, Sweden’s Martin Larsen and Finland’s Osku Palermaa and through their insight the PBA World Series of Bowling was born.

Since the advent of the WSOB, there are 100 international PBA members, at least a dozen international players have qualified for ESPN PBA shows and 10 new international PBA titlists. Before that the history of international bowlers having success on the PBA Tour started with Amleto Monacelli and ended with Mika (with a dash of Matts Karlsson).

The PBA is where legends are born and where the history of the sport is defined. I think with those rising international stats, the amount of international event titles PBA stars have won and of course the incredible run Belmo has been on, international bowling colors the PBA in a compelling way for fans, inspires legions of young people all over the planet who can watch from anywhere and opens up doors for global expansion.

tom_c10.jpgYou mentioning Belmo and his amazing run, What did you make of two handed bowling when you first saw it, I am kinda guessing your eyes lit up and your mind started thinking wow?

Actually the first time I thought about the style was the 2004 US Open when I watched Osku on the finals telecast. It was shocking and intriguing that someone had made it to the top of the game bowling like that, but felt like an anomaly until a bunch of videos started going around of other two-hand styles. At first it seemed kind of freakish. Then, when I was working for the USBC at the Masters a couple years later I heard a lot about Jason Belmonte when he came to bowl. He was brash, had a big personality to go along with this radical game and admittedly my first instinct was, “Who does this kid think he is, and what is this ridiculous way of bowling and what does it say about our sport?”

Then I talked to some open-minded people such as PBA bowler Tommy Delutz and eventual World Bowling CEO Kevin Dornberger, who strongly encouraged me to watch this kid. So I did. And unlike a lot of people who get stuck on their first opinion of something and don’t allow themselves to re-think and consider different perspectives, I began to change my mind about two-hand bowling.
I had a meeting in my office with Belmo that week and we talked bowling. I remember him looking at the poster on my wall that had the 25 greatest players of the 20th Century on it. He knew something about all the greats and I was impressed by his understanding of the history of the game. I wrote a column for a bowling magazine saying the combination of this two-hand style that was putting more power on a bowling ball that I had ever seen, his charisma, youth and Australian roots, we could be looking at someone who could impact the game in a way we hadn’t seen.

But there was one problem, the PBA Tour didn’t seem to be top priority for Belmonte at the time, who was able to make a living bowling internationally on his own tour of events, picking and choosing spots. Living in Australia, the PBA grind was not necessarily feasible or conducive to his lifestyle. To me, as I explained earlier, in order to have that true impact on the sport, a player must prove themselves in the PBA, must gain the media exposure and credibility only the PBA can give a bowler.  Also the PBA brand needs to represent the best.

So I gave him some invitations to PBA events, such as the special Summer Swing we had at Six Flags and then exemptions into exempt field events on the PBA Tour in order to get him more involved. These invites rankled other players and I understood that but again I felt despite having no PBA titles, Belmonte was one of the best players in the world and for the good of the game the best belonged on the PBA Tour where they can make the most impact.

I remember sitting with Jason with Carmen Salvino at a Johnny Rockets restaurant during that Six Flags event, talking about the PBA. Carmen made a beautiful pitch to Belmo as only he can, speaking of the opportunities the PBA could provide.
When a year or so later, Belmo eventually won his first PBA title on Long Island, in a radical event I had devised that used a different oil pattern on the right and left lanes of every pair, It was a remarkable performance and I had the feeling the game was about to evolve. It did.

Now when you go to a youth event it seems like half the players are using the two-hand style. Belmonte faces a lot of criticism, probably has more “haters”than any other bowler, but at the same time he has inspired more kids to bowl and inspired more imagination about the game than anyone in decades. New stars like Anthony Simonsen and Jesper Svensson grew up emboldened to stick with their instincts because of watching Osku and Belmo succeed on the PBA Tour.

I definitely don’t want this to come across as me advocating a style or individual.

I have even heard conspiracies that PBA conditions have been set up to favor individuals, which is the most ridiculous charge I have ever heard. Once there was a thread that the PBA was setting up conditions to favor international players, as if the pins know you speak with an accent. Crazy stuff out there.

I can envision a time when the top player can bowl right, left and two-handed with spin either way. Or the top player could just simply master a purely straight delivery but with a strength of mind no one can even fathom. There is no one way to bowl and that is one of the things that makes the game so mysteriously great.

And sports evolve. As bowling continually evolves, other aspects, rules and technology in the game will change along with the way the ball is delivered so anyone who knows exactly what bowling will look like five years down the road, 10, 20, has far more clairvoyance than I.

But I do know that some day when someone makes a new poster celebrating the greats of the history of the game I am sure Belmo will be on it with Don Carter, Dick Weber, Earl Anthony, Mark Roth, Walter Ray Williams Jr. and all the rest.

tom_c2.jpgI recently visited a QubicaAMF installation of TMS string machines, Now looking into the sanctioning of such machines I wondered if we will one day see tournaments bowled on them. They seem to be growing in number now and replacing traditional machines. With that in mind could we see a PBA event on string machines one day, even if its just to see what it is like? I like others would be interested to see a pro bowl on them.

Funny you would bring that up because recently there was the potential opportunity to have an event in a fantastic facility, but then I did more research on the history of the playing field and found that the install used string machines it automatically ruled the venue out (when it comes to an official PBA tournament). But everything changes and you never know. I have never actually bowled on a string machine other than a toy game and the strings always got tangled up. Haha, I am sure they’ve worked that issue out. But whether it could be USBC certified or suitable for PBA competition, we’ll have to wait and see.

In relation to QubicaAMF, you have now teamed up on the regional tour and actually have a skin and graphics on the fantastic BESX scoring system, I cannot help but look at the skin and think, Wow how cool would it be to have a PBA game on the system, Bowl against Belmo or Domsie Barrett and and others in your home centre, Maybe even integrating the mobile game as the graphics, Good idea or not?

That is a great idea, glad I just thought of it! Just kidding, but absolutely a better integration of the different forms of technology taking hold in and around bowling, tied back to the PBA in any form is something we have been working on for a while. We just need all the partners necessary to be on the same page with the capital and belief in an eventual payoff in order to get started.

tom_clark_trans.pngBefore you go Tom, We must have at least one question where we ask about the man you are outside of bowling, Those days I am sure are few and far between but what things do you enjoy when not surrounded by the sport? You dance of course as we saw recently at the USBC convention!!

My wife and I have two kids, a daughter 17 and son 13, so I enjoy finding shared interests with them and making the most out of them. With my daughter Quinn it might be as simple as shared interest in eating at Chipotle or watching Saturday Night Live; with my son Rory, he likes sports so we have a lot in common.

My lifelong favorite sports team by far with no second place is Syracuse Basketball. I bleed orange. So every year we plan trips around the SU basketball schedule. This March we had one of the most fun months I’ve ever had when Syracuse advanced to the NCAA Final Four and my son and I were able to drive to the games in St. Louis and Chicago. High-fiving and screaming at the top of our lungs together in complete joy because our team won is just about the coolest thing. Unlike me, he never even lived in Syracuse. He grew up in our current home in Milwaukee. My parents still live in Syracuse, but Rory being a die-hard Syracuse fan just because I’m fanatical about them, well that is neat.

Same with bowling. He and I are in the second year of bowling a parent/child league on Wednesday nights. We came in second last year. Yes, he bowls 2-handed (his choice).

But it doesn’t take much to make me happy away from work (which is definitely rare time). A game of one-on-one basketball in the driveway or walking our dog Roxy are the best ways for me to clear my head for a little while.
And if I want to make my kids laugh, all I have to do is attempt to dance!

Finally a simple question we now ask everyone, Why should people try bowling?

Obviously I fly in airplanes a lot. Sometimes when coming in for a landing, you get the view of thousands of homes at the same time in a city. I look out the window and can’t imagine that every single person in every single house or apartment wouldn’t love bowling. They’d love bowling in leagues. They’d love to bowl for fun with friends, or by themselves. And I think every single person would love to watch our PBA show. I think any of those tiny people in those tiny homes below that aren’t, are missing out.

I can’t imagine they would find some reason not to enjoy it. Can’t imagine some reason to think any time or money they spent on it wouldn’t be a good investment.

This might be demented thinking on my part but I guess that’s why I try to sell it every day, because I believe in bowling as a beautiful sport, a great challenge you cannot ever completely master, a great social activity, or family activity and for people of all shapes, sizes, races, sexes, religions, ages, physical capabilities, mental capacities. It is endless the joy the game can bring for a lifetime, it is endless the exciting moments and inspiration the best at it deliver when they compete.

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