75th BPAA Convention may have been No. 1 By Dick Evans

    07/06/07

    Column

    The 43 bowling proprietors who gathered June 7, 1932, in Detroit would have been proud of what they conceived – an impossible dream that became an American mainstream reality.

    Chicago's Nick Bruck, elected the first president, would have been proud of Fort Lauderdale's Joe Schumacker who served as president of the 75th Bowling Proprietors Association of America Convention June 23-28 at the Mandalay Bay. A record 5,538 signed up for the BPAA event that had something for everybody. That was up six percent over 2006, which was eye opening since the BPAA convention traditionally shows a slight decrease its second straight year in Las Vegas. If Quarterback Peyton Manning was the cornerstone to the Colts' Super Bowl victory, then Executive Director John Berglund was the foundation of the six-day BPAA convention that featured a lot of scoring plays. Berglund did it all with finesse – passing off key assignments to his receivers, deftly making hand offs to his ball carriers, maneuvering behind his blockers and when necessary carrying the old pigskin himself. And make no mistake, Berglund had a winning team on his side of the ball. It seemed like everybody who was anybody – including wives – carried out their assignments without once fumbling the ball or being called for a penalty. The Mandalay Bay Hotel/Casino/Meeting Rooms/Convention Center presents a formidable challenge in itself. For the delegates and visitors it required being on your toes and not giving in to sore feet or tired backs. To Berglund's staff, it meant smiling and getting things accomplished even when a little tired and weary from sometimes working from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. I heard a lot of positive comments, but I never heard an unkind word about of any staff member. It was encouraging to hear so many proprietors say that their business was up and I was in downright awe about the action that all the exhibition booths were getting – Ebonite especially caught my eye. Robert Reid, vice-president/marketing for Ebonite International, hinted that with the addition of Columbia and Track balls it could be a record Bowl Expo year for the fast growing company located in little Hopkinsville, Ky. There were several bowling groups in attendance with their own agendas, but somehow Berglund and his efficient staff where up to the challenges. These groups included bowling writers from as far away as Germany and South Korea, bowling proprietors from across the world, USBC leaders, PBA commissioner, all branches of the United States Armed Forces, elite and soon to be elite bowling coaches, bowling ball and lane manufacturers, pro shop operators, food and beverage experts, computer whizzes, tournament promoters, lane machine inventors, insurance experts, past BPAA presidents and Hall of Famers and great bowlers like Walter Ray Williams, Pete Weber, Tommy Jones, Parker Bohn, Chris Barnes, Mike Aulby, Wes Malott and Carolyn Dorin Ballard to name a few. And then there were the keynote speakers – James Carville and Mary Matalin – who gave hints about how to live a happy married life despite being separated politically and offered some tips about the next presidential election. Jay Levinson should have put a little fear into the proprietors with his ' Guerrilla Marketing' talk that centered around more and more government regulations that could not only hurt the BPAA but America. Jeff Boje, the former BPAA president who is now president of the USBC, gave an inspiring talk about how the membership organization was going to push bowling as a sport. You can't be anything but impressed with his demeanor and love for bowling as a sport. Joe Schumacker was free with his praise but also challenging with his remarks and took a few swipes at the Professional Bowlers Association (which will be addressed in a later column). I thought Tom Clark's USBC question- and-answer session was refreshing, but too short and too poorly attended. But to this old reporter, John Sommer's grandchildren were the biggest hits of the entire convention. John Sommer, who last year was inducted into the USBC Hall of Fame for his devotion to women's pro bowlers and high school bowling, gave a heartfelt acceptance speech after being inducted in the BPAA Hall of Fame. I was in awe of the BPAA presentation and was hoping that USBC officials in the audience were taking stock of the prestigious induction ceremony. Sommer, a private man who avoids the spotlight, appeared slightly nervous during his short speech, but was he was left speechless when his grandson, John Nicholas Sommer (8) walked up on stage and did a beautiful rendition of ' God Bless America' without music and his 7-year-old sister Brynn Elizabeth Lambrecht 'signed' the song with her hands for the deft people in the audience. Not even the beautiful and talented LeAnn Rimes could top the young and talented grandchildren of John Sommer. On a personal note, I have to thank Marie Shatto, Cary Richmond, John Berglund, John LaSpina and anyone else associated with the presentation of the impressive Chief Wapensky award to this old bowling writer. I always knew the BPAA members were courteous, but I knew new how kind they were until being congratulated by so many after my 133 second acceptance speech...brevity has its rewards. I also was elated to see fellow BWAA members like Joan Romeo, Lenny Nicholson and Hazel McLeary receive special recognition during a BPAA event. It was a 75th convention that Nick Bruck and his fellow pioneers would have enjoyed – if they had good walking shoes to maneuver back and forth across the giant Mandalay Bay complex that could use walking sidewalks. Email address: [email protected]