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Is bowling on the comeback trail?

Eric Forkel in January averaged a blistering 272.2 over five games in winning a tournament.
Courtesy of Eric Forkel

The advertising campaign that Bowlmor AMF recently launched holds special significance.

The “Bowling Makes Saturday Night More Fun” commercial that is running on MTV, Comedy Central, E! and Spike TV, among others, is being touted as the first national bowling ad in more than 40 years.

And that raises the question. Is bowling making a resurgence?

That question was asked to Eric Forkel, the insightful and top professional bowler who provides no-holds-barred opinions on Bowling Evolved podcasts. Forkel is close to the bowling scene, recently winning a Southern Nevada Bowling Tour event by averaging a spectacular 272.2 over five games.

“I don’t know if it’s in the process of a revival,” said Forkel, a longtime San Fernando Valley resident now living in Henderson, Nev. “I would say it’s at its crossroad. It’s no secret the industry is trying all it can to reinvent itself and bring bowlers back into the game again. The trick is to get the word out and if this commercial helps, that’s great.”

Forkel added: “Bowling I believe is still the No. 1 recreational thing that families can do. Birthday parties, cosmic bowling, juniors – I think the brand is still great – just have to keep working to find the magic that will move it forward.

“[Working] in the pro shop and still bowling professionally, I do see a lot of what’s going on. . . . Junior bowling is not as big as it should be. It’s tough to reinvent the game so to speak. I feel the trick is to re-evaluate the way the game is perceived and promoted.

“Back in the day, I would never have wanted to be a pro bowler if I hadn’t seen it on ABC. Now all you have is taped shows – no real tour. Just teams, exhibitions and some events. No real sense of a pro tour for kids to aspire to.”

Currently, 70 million Americans bowl every year and there are more than 5,000 bowling centers throughout the U.S., according to the Bowling Proprietors’ Assn. of America. More than 10 million kids have “bowling birthdays.”

It certainly seems as if bowling has an opportunity to make big strides in the near future.

Consider this:

On Saturday night, BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse in Century City was packed with customers. All over the restaurant were televisions showing the Los Angeles Clippers against Golden State in the seventh game of a first-round NBA playoff game.

Most of the patrons seemed to be in their 20s and 30s. Was anyone watching the game? Strangely, as the game was being played, there was hardly a reaction to the game’s plays. Even the servers expressed surprise. Most people seemed more interested in their food or conversation and paid little attention to the game.

And that should provide a lot of hope for bowling. Pro basketball – as big as it is – doesn’t seem to have swept away the interest of our youth like many would have us believe.

Perhaps bowling is receiving renewed focus.

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