One Hall of Fame too many?


BOWLING ISN'T THE ONLY sport with unique and illogical quirks. Major League Baseball requires its coaches and managers to dress as if they were players. The long-revered national pastime also has a perpetual love/hate relationship with the concept of the designated hitter. 

Other sports offer their own oddities. You have to be at least three years removed from high school to be eligible for the NFL draft — thus, teenagers do not play pro football. Yet it’s common for an Olympic gymnastics team to have members as young as 15 —  allegedly younger for female gymnasts from China.    

Then there is boxing, which touts three rival “legitimate” sanctioning bodies, not to mention at least a half-dozen others that award titles and belts that are mostly considered worthless. It’s enough to make the alphabet soup we’ve come to know in the bowling industry downright coherent.

Still, bowling is far from innocent when it comes to authorizing confusion. One of the most obvious examples is the existence of two national halls of fame: the USBC’s Bowling Hall of Fame, founded in 1941, and the PBA Hall of Fame, in existence since 1975.

The grand opening of the relocated and updated International Bowling Hall of Fame & Museum at the International Bowling Campus in late January has ignited renewed debate over what the USBC-sponsored facility is designed to promote and who it is supposed to honor. Meanwhile, the PBA Hall is “taking the year off” on the heels of a seven-year hiatus (2001-08) when no one was added in the Performance category.

An ongoing criticism from some quarters is that the USBC Hall has become barely distinguishable from the PBA’s. That argument was fortified two years ago when the USBC Hall of Fame Committee amended a long-standing rule and permitted tenure as a PBA national touring pro to count toward reaching the 20 national tournament participation requirement. That revision put Mark Roth on the ballot for the first time. In one of his last public appearances before his stroke, Roth was among those honored with induction last May in Reno.

While changing the participation requirement riled some, so did eliminating the “Non-Pro” category as a way of earning Hall of Fame recognition. Actually, the two actions were made for entirely different reasons. Yet the immediate effect seems to shut out all but the best known PBA stars from making a Hall of Fame that has been constructed, promoted and aggressively funded by the USBC.

Then again, it would hardly make sense to build a first-rate facility, designed to attract visitors, and fail to fully recognize the sport’s biggest names such as Roth and Marshall Holman — recently named a 2010 inductee. Not only was their dominance undisputed, but excluding them would be based on a technicality borne of past grievances between the sport’s governing body and the pro tour.

Consequently, the Bowling Hall of Fame & Museum represents and honors the entirety of the American sport of tenpins, somewhat at the expense of natural parochial interests of the USBC. Taking the high road in this manner may not be entirely popular among all sectors within the USBC, but it does demonstrate an aspiration appropriate to the goals of the International Bowling Campus.

Many who’ve made the PBA Hall of Fame consider it singularly the most significant honor of their careers. The memorable induction ceremonies were frosting on the cake at the Dinner of Champions that preceded every Tournament of Champions between 1975 and 2000, and then again at the organization’s 50th Anniversary Gala in 2009. 

But with its continuity again questionable, is it time to consider the PBA Hall a product of a bygone era when the organization had reason for such hubris and extravagance? Sentiments aside, is it time to contemplate strategically blending two increasingly duplicitous halls of fame into one?