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Bowling in the News
All across the country, bowling fans are crying about the way bowling is treated by daily newspapers.
Sadly, it's true...
Most newspapers ignore bowling today. Thirty and even 20 years ago it wasn't that way. There were an arsenal of outstanding sports writers across the country who loved bowling and spent their lives trying to report the sport to the American public.
Unfortunately, time caught up with most of these dedicated sports writers. Many have retired and a few have died and with their departure came the decline of bowling's popularity.
Even worse, there are few new YOUNG writers out there who appear to love the sport of bowling and are willing to go the proverbial extra mile to fight for space in the sports sections. Oh, they will cover a PBA or PWBA tournament when it comes to town, but you seldom find a major daily newspaper today with a designated bowling writer who commands a lot of space year around.
I know I am prejudiced, but I think the bowling industry has never thanked these veteran writers enough for their tireless efforts. And make no mistakes, getting space for bowling was no easy matter. You had to fight with your editors and you had to spend a lot of your own time and money covering tournaments and getting interviews.
Two of the greatest writers in my opinion were Jim Fitzgerald of the Chicago Tribune and Seymour Shub of the Chicago Sun-Times. Almost until the time they died, they fought for every inch of space in their two major newspapers and they got plenty.
J. T. Phillips of the Tennessean also comes to mind. This Pulitzer prize winner loved bowling and did it proud with his pen and camera. I'll never forget how he went to tournaments on his own money and then took pictures for a USA Today. A few weeks later someone from USA Today would call and ask your opinion about some timely subject.
Who can ever forget Don Snyder, a gifted writer who made everyone smile. Everyone was surprised and dismayed when he died recently after a long and prize winning career as bowling writer for the Los Angeles Times.
One of my favorites was the late Tom Williams, who wrote for the Dallas Morning News. This guy knew his way around a sports department, but he also knew a good bowling story and knew how to get it in the paper.
Other top newspaper writers who have passed away after brilliant bowling writing careers include Dave Roberts (Portland, Ore.), Dick Carmody (Long Island), John Martino (Syracuse), LeRoy Chase (Peoria, Ill.), Ed Browalski (Detroit), Bob Zellner (Long Island'), Tom Bolger (Toledo) and Milwaukee's Billy Sixty and Hank Sayrs.
Other great bowling writers like Bill Hengen (Minneapolis Tribune), Bob Schabert (St. Paul Pioneer Press), Ed Reddy (Syracuse-Post Standard), Doug Bradford (Detroit News), Tom Gaffney (Akron) and Matt Fiorto (Detroit) have either retired completely or have curtailed their bowling coverage.
There are a few old-timers still around trying to get ink for bowling, John Archibald of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, New Jersey's Chuck Pezzano, Indianapolis' Dick Denny, San Antonio's Harry Page and Los Angeles' Joe Lyou to name a few.
The thing that most people do not realize is that most of the writers were first and foremost great newspaper men. Most of the time they covered bowling on their own time while spending their working hours on their assigned beats -- everything from boxing to religion to TV to high school sports to golf to tennis to horse racing.
Over the past 43 years of covering bowling for The Miami Herald, I have seen proprietors get rich, pro bowlers get rich, bowling magazine publishers get rich and manufacturers get rich off the bowling game. But I have yet to see a bowling writer get rich writing about the sport. Matter of fact bowling writers are lucky to even get a few thank you notes for the way they cover the sport and the ink they gave individuals.
In my opinion, it was a labor of love for these newspaper writers. Of course, there was a day when the publishers of a few bowling publications could make a good buck, but those days seemed to have diminished along with the sport's great popularity. Perhaps John Jowdy, who made a world name for himself as a bowling coach, best exemplifies how bowling writers feel about the sport. Jowdy, who commands a good paycheck when giving lessons at clinics, is a gifted writer who pens an instruction story for every Bowling-Digest issue. He gets paid for that story. But John also writes for bowling publications every month and he does it for free.
Greater love has no man than he works for free.