A League of Ordinary Gentlemen

0
264
A League of Ordinary Gentlemen
Cast: Documentary
Studio: Magnolia
Rating: 7/10

CORPORATE LINE: Though never a sport of Kings, at one point in time bowling occupied a perfectly respectable place in the pantheon of American sports. It has long been one of the most popular participatory sports in America. When Eddie Elias convinced the country’s top 33 bowlers to kick fifty bucks into a communal pot in a banquet hall in Syracuse, NY, in 1958, the Professional Bowlers Association was born. ABC began televising PBA tournaments in 1962, and as the lead in Wide World of Sports, Chris Schenkel’s Saturday afternoon bowling telecast was for many years one of the highest rated sports programs on television.

Then something happened: America ceased to embrace the portly, middle-brow image the PBA was selling, and bowling got kicked to the curb. The sport and its players, many of whom grew up idolizing the sepia-toned gods of bowling’s golden era, found themselves wallowingin the backwaters of the popular imagination, alongside rodeos and tractor pulls.

In 2000, three former Microsoft executives scooped up the entire apparatus of professional bowling — its players, tournaments, trademarks and trophies, all for about five million dollars and assumption of the league’s debt. Their stated goal was to save bowling from the brink of extinction and raise it to new heights, or at least put it on par with the Bass Masters tour, which, at current market values, would represent a tidy return on equity.

The heavy lifting for this mission falls onto the broad shoulders of a man named Steve Miller, a former top Nike executive who had played for the Detroit Lions and rescued Kansas State football from the NCAA cellar.

The film focuses on Miller and four of his charges, professional bowlers at very different places in their careers, and their sometimes funny, sometimes sad adventures on tour as professional athletes – albeit the Rodney Dangerfields of professional sports.

THE REVIEW: The documentary almost, and I repeat almost, makes you want to watch bowling on television. Football and basketball fans will still have a hard time seeing these guys as athletes. However with the introducing to the best bowlers and their lives outside of the ‘sport’ adds a different degree of interest once you know the history.

However—bowling is still boring—bowling appears more interesting in the film because the matches are cut down to a few frames. The documentary often seems like little more than a big money PR campaign for the PBA which is owned by former Microsoft executives.

It’s true that the best bowler Walter Ray Williams is boring. But its not his fault. Even the supposed bad boy Pete Weber steals his signature crotch chop from wrestling. It’s a real lack of creativity much like the rest of the PBA.

THE EXTRAS:
· Deleted scenes
· Skills Challenge highlights
· Dexter Approach: Tips and Techniques
· PBA Event Clips
· PBA TV Spots
· Theatrical Trailer
· Deleted scenes
· Skills Challenge highlights
· Dexter Approach: Tips and Techniques
· PBA Event Clips
· PBA TV Spots
· Theatrical Trailer
· Deleted scenes
· Skills Challenge highlights
· Dexter Approach: Tips and Techniques
· PBA Event Clips
· PBA TV Spots

FRANKLY: As uninteresting as bowling is the documentary is fascinating. The documentary tries to have its heroes and villains but never establishes them as well as Murderball. A League of Ordinary Gentlemen will keep you in your seat—but it won’t necessarily make you a bowling fan.

+ Charlie Craine

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.