Taking off in a more daring direction – Striking Out – glamorizing costumes of women bowlers

Dick Evans

HOPEFULLY, PEOPLE IN THE bowling industry paid attention to the Winter Olympics and noticed that the female ice skaters went to great lengths to display their own individuality.

Before the figure skating finals, there was a segment about costumes that were being designed specifically for each contestant’s style and body. The live fans, TV viewers, and press responded to that, and interest in figure skating soared across the world.

Here is what a reporter had to say about Anni Friesinger, the glamour girl of speed-skating: “Friesinger clearly enjoys publicity. She’s called speedskating an `extremely sexy, pure erotic’ sport and has appeared in revealing photographs. She sports a Deltic flame tattoo above her bellybutton and doesn’t mind showing it.”

Another reporter wrote that the French pair in ice dancing wore “racy costumes.” People magazine went so far as to call the costumes worn by Irina Shutskaya “feisty,” Jamie Sale “simply sexy,” and Michelle Kwan “sleek.”

And how about tennis, where Anna Kournikova has earned a fortune just by showing off her natural attributes? Despite having never won a singles title, Kournikova is widely recognized as the most photographed and Web-downloaded female athlete in the world. You can spot her face on TV commercials and in magazine ads for such items as Omega watches. And with reason: She wears tennis outfits that are form-fitting, and she knows how to play to the public.

Like many purists or prudes in bowling, tennis great Martina Navratilova is against plunging necklines on female tennis players. “I don’t criticize the players themselves, but the WTA policy that encourages them to exploit the glamour side. You have to realize that sex is part of the circuit and the WTA is in favor,” Navratilova says.

WTA tour spokesman Jim Fuhse says the tour doesn’t take a stand one way or another. “The women are world-class athletes. They’re young, vibrant, and attractive. Their glamour is something we neither promote or shy away from.”

Or how about the recent press release put out by the Billiard and Bowling Institute of America after naming champion pool player Jeanette Lee winner of its 2002 Industry Service Award? After listing her many accomplishments and honors, the news release pointed out that she was one of the sport’s most recognizable players and “earlier this year was featured on ESPN.com/US Weekly `World’s Sexiest Athletes’ show, where she finished third.”

It’s obvious: Women pro bowlers are making a mistake by not promoting their feminine attributes. Why haven’t women pro bowlers jumped on the bandwagon and come up with outfits that extol their individual charms?

The answer apparently has three arms:

* PWBA members don’t earn enough money to have professionals design their outfits.

* The pros can make a little extra money by wearing bowling shirts/ outfits manufactured primarily by the bowling ball companies.

* The PWBA touring tournament committee has a rigid dress code that discourages individuality.

Many people think their current outfits are downright sad compared to those in other women’s sports today.

John Falzone, president of the PWBA, apparently would be in favor of women pro bowlers showing more individual taste, as Chris Barnes, Brian Voss, Danny Wiseman, and Ernie Schlegel have shown on the PBA tour. He realizes that tournament attendance probably would go up and TV ratings would climb if PWBA players who so desired could show their own individuality.

Last year Kim Adler, who dares to be different, was featured on a Web page as “the doll of the month.” She got a lot of publicity just by wearing an ordinary swimsuit in one picture.

Which brings me back to a story/photo shoot deal that I worked out with then-publisher Mort Luby of Bowlers Journal. Paula Sperber was an attractive young bowler who knew that the fastest way to the top, even back in the 1960s, was to show off her natural charms. So she agreed to go with me to the beach so that I could take pictures of her playing in the surf and even rolling a bowling ball on the sand.

Her comments and pictures proved to be winners. Soon The Associated Press and Sports Illustrated were lining up to do stories on and take photos of this unabashed U.S. Open champion. And then came appearances on national TV talk and game shows.

She really shocked the establishment when she jumped on a desk at the staid newspaper The New York Times and had her picture taken with a bowling ball in her hand.

The PWBA doesn’t lack attractive players–the players simply lack attractive outfits.

Beauty sells. Just ask the female figure skaters who appear on TV almost weekly or the women’s tennis players who are attracting more and more fans and TV viewers–and making more and more money.

Or ask the tennis pros who appeared in ads for tennis wear in the March 2002 issue of Tennis magazine. Some of the comments that went with the pictures of players, who were dressed in different companies’ tennis attire, included:

* “This hot pink dress has a snug-fitting top, a flowing bottom for easy movement, and a peek-a-boo back for sex appeal.”

* “This combo is extraordinarily comfortable to play tennis in, yet it’s slinky enough to turn heads at your next tennis mixer.”

* “The tank’s mesh insert below the chest will cool you off, but the sexy see-through effect could do just the opposite to your mixed-doubles partner, particularly if the tank is paired with this miniskirt.”

Even golf’s LPGA is starting to realize that ratings and attendance go up when stiff dress codes are broken down. “We have quite a few attractive women [on the golf tour], and we should use our looks to our advantage,” golfer Laura Diaz says. “After all, what’s wrong with seeing an occasional bellybutton?”

The latest pictures of upcoming tennis stars Kim Clusters and Justine Henin did just that–expose their belly buttons.

Don’t get the wrong idea–everybody on the women’s pro tennis tour does not have a picture-perfect body. But everyone realizes that for all on tour to prosper, each player must be allowed to dress according to her own taste.

Women representing their countries in international amateur bowling events show a lot more imagination with their colorful outfits than PWBA members do.

Listen up, folks: The PWBA needs help. The PWBA members must start thinking like women in other professional sports. They must enter the 21st century with their own feminine and colorful bowling outfits if they hope to survive in this competitive sports world.

Ditto for the manufacturers of the mostly drab bowling outfits that have changed little in 50 years. Why can’t they be daring like the exploding ice skating and tennis industries? The future of women’s pro bowling could depend on it.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Century Publishing

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group

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