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"Where have you gone Joe Bowler? A nation holds its lonely eyes to you." With respects to Simon and Garfunkel, you must be wondering what happened to Joe Bowler. He was just here--bowling in a few leagues, coming in Saturday with his kids and bowling with Mom on Saturday night.

But now he is gone. It's because of lifestyles, we are told. Or it's because of more competition. Or even the weather.

But let's look at competition. TV was supposed to kill the movies. Home videos were supposed to kill TV and the movies. The CD was supposed to kill videos, movies and TV (it succeeded only in killing the video tape). The Internet was supposed to kill all forms of "mass media." Sports on TV have bigger audiences than ever, as do the top 10 most popular shows. The iPod was supposed to kill radio; radio listening is up for the first time in three years.

Now "video on demand" is supposed to kill Netflix; Netflix grew 11% last year. The Kindle was supposed to kill bookstores. Hasn't happened. Go to a Borders or a Barnes & Noble this Christmas shopping season and note how many people have lined up to buy books. In fact, go there any time!

I think our competition is just apathy. Apathy on the part of manufacturers who have not given us technologically exciting, breakthrough products in years to attract new customers and retain existing customers. NO, I am sorry, big-screen masking units, new graphics for automatic scorers and a few other "cutesy" products do not a "game-changer" make.

Pinsetters, scorers, lights 'n' music, and bumpers--and maybe synthetic lanes. They are game-changers...but that's over 50 years. Five game-changer products in 50 years does not bode well for the health of your companies or for our centers.

But bowling proprietors haven't been innocent either. Apathy runs deep. We have not demanded these technologically cool products. To counter this argument, manufacturers will tell you that proprietors don't want to pay for new products. OK, its a draw. Now what?

The only fact that makes sense is for us to realize that our customers are leaving because there is NOTHING NEW. For those who hold to the sanctity of the game (and I am one as well), who say, "Bowling should stand by itself. It's a great game," you are absolutely right.

But the new customer doesn't share that feeling. Speak to some "twenty-somethings" and ask them why they don't bowl any more on Friday or Saturday nights.

If the answer that you don't want to hear is "your product is not exciting," then sit back on your apathy and wave goodbye to Joe Bowler.

Or you can DEMAND CHANGES from those who can deliver.

C'mon Mr. Brunswick, Ms. AMF, Mr. US Bowling, Ms. Switch, Mr. Murray and anybody else who can think and deliver a "game-changer" product for 67 million unexcited participants. We need it NOW!

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