I've said and written many times that the United States Bowling Congress is not transparent enough and often is too fearful of putting itself out there, so to speak.
What that leads to many times in this Internet era is the USBC haters and conspiracy theorists setting the tone of stories, putting USBC on the defensive when it wouldn't have been if it had gotten all of the details out first.
For many people, first impressions are everything and what follows isn't going to change their opinion, even when it should.
That seems to have happened with something new for the USBC Open Championships that initially came out in a bad way for USBC, but that isn't quite how it was first spun.
USBC is offering discounts for the less popular February squads for the 2012 USBC Open Championships in Baton Rouge, La., with the first mention I saw coming in the local paper, The Advocate.
The tournament runs from Feb. 11 through July 9 and initially the discounts were to be available only for local teams.
However, Jason Overstreet, USBC managing director of communications, said USBC has decided to make the incentives available to all — something that apparently came about in the wake of reaction to first reports on the program.
"If there are additional teams we have not contacted interested in moving from prime May and June spots to non-prime February spots, we would be happy to attempt to include them in the incentive program," Overstreet said in an email. "Additionally, if there are new teams from outside Baton Rouge interested in non-prime February spots, (we) would gladly include them in the promotion as well."
This essentially is just a minor version of an idea I think USBC would be wise to adopt: charging more for prime times such as weekend days in popular months and less for less popular times and months, such as weekdays in February.
The incentive program stems from the challenge of scheduling in Baton Rouge with the Baton Rouge River Center housing 48 lanes compared to the National Bowling Stadium in Reno housing 78.
Entries are above 11,700 for 2012, only about 600 less than competed in Reno last year.
"Since the 2012 event runs across different dates with fewer lanes than previous years, it created some scheduling challenges because as you know most teams request to keep their dates year to year," Overstreet said in an email. "The tournament had several dates in February without many teams while May and June was so full it was difficult to accommodate doubles and singles times."
In response, USBC came up with a couple of incentive programs.
The first, Overstreet said, was that "We reached out to teams booked in prime May and June spots within driving distance of the venue (since they would be less likely to be impacted by airline reservations) and invited them to switch to non-prime spots in February. As an incentive, USBC offered to pay their doubles and singles entry fee."
The second, Overstreet said, was that "We reached out to local leagues in Baton Rouge and attempted to organize new teams for non-prime spots on February. As in an incentive, USBC offered to pay for half their entry fee."
Overstreet emphasized that USBC used operating and marketing funds to cover the incentives so the money coming from these teams will add to the prize fund, not detract from it.
"It is not unusual for USBC to purchase tournament entries for promotional or marketing purposes," he said.
In addition to concerns about the prize fund being cut, much of the negative reaction I have seen centers on some entrants paying less than others.
"We understand that some people might feel it is unfair for a handful of teams to pay less out of pocket to bowl the tournament than others," Overstreet said.
"However, if USBC had not offered these incentives then some squads in February might have been canceled with teams moving to alternate dates or the squads would have been so light, that the experience would be less than ideal for the bowlers.
"This solution allows all the movement to be voluntary, increases the overall prize fund by adding to the number of teams and exposes new bowlers to the event who may participate again in the future."
If you are someone who subscribes to the idea of primetime pricing and off-time discounts, you should have no problem with these programs.
The main fairness issue I see is people bowling on the same squads with others who paid less than they did. People paying more in those situations definitely have a beef, especially since they are people who entered early. Perhaps USBC should offer those teams that paid the full price refunds to put them on an equal footing with those who get the discounts.
That's another reason to have a comprehensive primetime and off-time pricing program that applies to everyone equally.
If you think I'm missing anything here and have feedback to offer, please email me!