When the Professional Bowlers Association begins the new Fall Tour of telecasts on ESPN on Oct. 6 you'll find them in a new time slot -- again.
As a noted sports philosopher once said: "Deal with it!"
And while you're getting used to the new (and mostly) 9:30-11 p.m. time period, don't forget to keep current with your cable bill or your satellite dish payments because your only venue in the near future (and probably longer) for televised pro bowling will be ESPN for the PBA and ESPN2 for the Professional Women's Bowling Association.
The PBA's long relationship with a major network -- ABC and most recently CBS -- is over. The PBA bought out the Year 2000 arrangement with CBS for a figure estimated between $750,000 to $1 million.
Long gone are the days when the PBA had its winter and spring run from 3:30-5 p.m. Saturday after Saturday leading into "Wide World of Sports." First, ABC started shifting the times. Then ABC pulled the plug altogether and CBS moved in for two years of shifting time slots and days -- some finals were shown on Sundays.
At PBA headquarters the glass is always half full rather than the other way but even commissioner Mark Gerberich admitted to Bowlers Journal: "We had great expectations for CBS, but in the end we were left holding the bag."
Now the relatively stable midweek ESPN evening slot moves to a later period. It's no wonder ratings drop, sponsors are lost and the PBA struggles to remain viable.
The Fall Tour begins with the AC Delco Classic on Oct. 2-6 in Virginia Beach, Va., with an arena finals Wednesday 9:30-11 telecast. After an Oct. 9-12 stop in Wichita, Kan., and a 7-8:30 Tuesday final, the tour moves to Canandaigua to start a run of five Wednesday finals.
"Naturally, we would prefer an earlier start," PBA public relations director Dave Schroeder said of the 9:30 air time. "But it's the back end of prime time and leading into "Sports Center" so it's still a good spot for us and it's good for West Coast viewers.
"We'd rather be on at 8 but that was an ESPN decision. Keeping most finals on Wednesday is advantageous to the host proprietors because they can run their pro-ams (for part of the previous) weekends and that's a good thing financially for them."
The PBA received confirmation this week that ESPN will carry eight finals on the Winter Tour on consecutive Sundays beginning Jan. 9. The sites and dates are expected to be announced next week.
Schroeder said in addition to the eight definite winter dates, the tour will be back with eight dates in the fall but the spring-summer schedule for 2000 is "very tentative" with seven possible events so far to replace 10 that were on CBS this year. This year the PBA had 26 national TV events including the ABC Masters and the invitation-only Japan Cup. One of the interesting aspects of tournament sponsorship is that there is only one non-bowling sponsor -- AC Delco -- on this year's entire tour.
While the fall schedule will have the standard five-man stepladder finals on the 90-minute broadcasts, if you liked the eight-man finals that made its debut in June in the World Championship you can expect more in this winter's 90-minute telecasts.
In that format of continuous three-player action, the winner among the 8-7-6 qualifiers advanced to meet Nos. 4-5 with that winner taking on the 2-3 seeds for the right to meet the top qualifier.
The format still has to be presented to the players tournament committee but it's hard to imagine the players turning their backs on an idea that results in more TV exposure and incentive money.
Around the lanes
Joe Ciccone averaged 227 and had a 14-2 record in match play to finish second in the King Pin Lanes PBA Eastern Region tournament in Rome (N.Y.) to earn $1,500. . . . The BPA/Certo All Stars roll today at 2 p.m. at Orchard Park. First-place Manor meets South Transit. Second-place and league newcomer Alden goes against Tonawanda. . . . The ABA has a $1,000 first-place tournament Sunday at Voelker's. The first of five squads is at 9 a.m. with finals at 4:30. . . . Thursday is the deadline to order tickets for the Tonawandas Association testimonial to honor retired secretary Ken Kreger. The dinner is Oct. 23 at the American Legion Sikora Post, 950 Payne Ave., North Tonawanda. Call the association at 692-8668. It's $20 per ticket; $35 per couple. . . . The Western-Central Scratch Shootout will be held Oct. 1-2 at Rochester's Olympic Bowl with a guaranteed $5,000 first place, a $2,000 Friday Sweeper and $1,000 first place all events. Call 1-800-365-4522.
FALL TV SCHEDULE
PBA Fall Tour on ESPN
ACDelco Classic.... Oct. 6 (9:30-11 p.m.)
Wichita Open.... Oct. 12 (7-8:30 p.m.)
Canandaigua Open.... Oct. 20 (9:30-11 p.m.)
Greater Detroit Open.... Oct. 27 (9:30-11 p.m.)
Bay City Classic.... Nov. 3 (9:30-11 p.m.)
Indianapolis Open.... Nov. 10 (9:30-11 p.m.
Brunswick World Tournament of Champions.... Nov. 17 (7:30-9 p.m.)
*Japan Cup.... Dec. 11 5:50-7 p.m.)
*Tape delay from Sept. 19
PWBA Fall Tour on ESPN2
Visionary Products Classic.... Oct. 4 (8-9:30 p.m.)
AMF Gold Cup.... Oct. 11 (10:30-midnight)
Three Rivers Open....Oct. 18 (8-9:30 p.m.)
Brunswick World Open.... Oct. 25 (8-9:30 p.m.)
Sam's Town Invitational....Nov. 8 (7-8:30 p.m.)
NOTE: All PWBA finals taped from previous Thursday except Sam's Town which is previous Saturday.