When the Professional Bowlers Association moves to CBS for its telecasts in the spring, it may be a case of less is more.
Less, not only because the number of shows will be cut to nine from the customary 14 or 15, but just as important, the program will run for only an hour instead of the 90 minutes previously occupied on ABC.
More is what the players are seeking in terms of the number who will appear on the show.
"The one-hour format forces us to do something different than the traditional (five-player) stepladder format. . . . We only have time for two matches," said Dave Schroeder, a PBA spokesman who was in Rochester last week to publicize the upcoming Ebonite Challenge at Marcel's Olympic Bowl, Oct. 12-15.
Doug Kent and Walter Ray Williams Jr. addressed the players' concerns.
"I'd like to see five, six, seven, eight guys on the telecast," said Canandaigua's Kent, who won the Japan Cup in Tokyo for his second PBA title on Sept. 21. "But because of the (reduced) time of the new shows we'll have to see what will fit."
Williams, the two-time defending champion in Rochester, said: "It's kind of disappointing that we're only gonna have an hour, but I guess an hour's better than nothing.
"With the two matches, one of the things I'd like to see is as many guys on TV as possible. I think we could have seven, eight, nine guys in the finals. We could have four guys bowling at one time, three guys bowling at one time, or something like that where the winner of that group advances to the next match."
Schroeder said the PBA had its first "sitdown" with CBS last week after having asked the PBA membership for ideas. "Virtually every format (including five-frame games or 10-frame shootouts) has been discussed," he said.
Under the multiplayer scenarios advanced by Kent and Williams, some of the elimination matches could take place before the TV show, but Williams was particularly enthusiastic about something like a four-player semifinal.
"When you get that many guys bowling at one time it becomes very exciting. . . . It's like boom, boom, boom. Guys are throwing shots all over the place.
"You get all these guys throwing strikes, throwing spares, picking up spares, picking up splits. Then you come down to the last match, where two guys are going for the title. I think it would be very exciting."
Schroeder said a three-match TV telecast was unlikely because "we want to do other things on the shows, some up close and personal features.
"We want to do features that maybe illustrate the technology of the sport and how it is much different today. Maybe try to explain a little better the lane conditions these guys have to deal with.
"Or another option, people have always said for the folks that are here during the final position round match (the night before the TV finals) . . . 'Boy, that was one of the most exciting parts of the tournament.' Maybe we could show some of (the position round). So if we incorporate some of these ideas we wouldn't have time for three matches."
Kent said financial incentives for the players who make the TV show are why it's important to the PBA members to have as many on the show as possible.
Schroeder was sympathetic. "We don't want to penalize the players because there's a lot of money to be made on TV by these guys from the ball companies (and other sponsors). When you go from five to three (or two) that takes a lot of money out of their pockets.
"What we'd like to do is get more name recognition. The more guys we get on the show the more people are likely to recognize Doug Kent in the mall and that's what we want."
On the subject of announcing teams, Schroeder said it was his feeling that ABC's Chris Schenkel would not be a part of the CBS package, but that color commentator Nelson Burton Jr. was a possibility.
"Marshall Holman has done a stand-up job on ESPN and ESPN2. That's a name we'll consider," Schroeder added. "And people talk about Earl Anthony. There's a number of guys qualified to do color commentary.
"CBS will have a lot of the say-so on the play-by-play person and I think they're gonna look to us for some direction on the color commentary. These decisions may not be made for a couple of months yet."
There is much uncertainty still in the air, but Williams tried to remain hopeful.
"It's hard to say what CBS is going to decide," he said. "If they lean one way and if the players are saying, 'Hey, we don't know if this is such a good idea, maybe you ought to think about it again,' I think they're gonna be open to what the players are feeling and hopefully they'll do something that will be the best for bowling."
Falls tournament seeks entries
Bowl-O-Drome in Niagara Falls is holding a Classic High Roller Win-a-Spot Tournament on Oct. 19 with one squad only at 3 p.m. for men and women 40 and over. Entry is $50 for four games across the house with the top eight qualifying for a two-game match play round, and the top four gaining the stepladder finals. The field is limited to 48, with air fare, hotel and entry in the January Classic High Roller to the winner, a value of $1,050. It is open to ABC and WIBC members 40 and over on Jan. 19, 1998 and $10 will hold a spot. Call 282-5696 or 622-5256.