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A LEAGUE OF ORDINARY
USA: Magnolia Pictures
Cast: Steve Miller, Pete Weber, Walter Ray Williams Jr, Chris Barnes, Wayne Webb
Director: Chris Browne
USA: 93 mins
USA Release Date: 27 May 2005 (Limited Release - New York)
Imagine that Tiger Woods still walks the earth anonymously, his name and toothy grin still unknown to the hotel receptionists who greet him on tour. Imagine that he is sometimes ashamed to tell them what he does for a living. And finally, imagine that after completing one of the most successful seasons in PGA history, he finds himself in a freezing Detroit parking lot scraping the ice off the roof of his RV so he can drive home to Florida.
Welcome to the world of A LEAGUE OF ORDINARY GENTLEMEN. The film opens with a look at the cultural perceptions that surround bowling in modern day America. Footage from the days of mullets and beer guts is interwoven with commentary from a diverse array of observers, including Robert Putnam, Harvard professor and author of Bowling Alone; journalist Bernie Goldberg; NBA All-Star and bowling fan Charles Barkley; and the executive producer of TV's ED, Timothy Busfield.
Tracing the historical arc of the professional bowling tour, the film includes archival footage from the sport's glory days in the 1950's and 60's, through it's near extinction in 1997. The story takes a dramatic twist when three retired Microsoft executives purchase the PBA and immediately install Steve Miller as CEO. Miller, whose resume includes a 10-year run as the Head of Global Sports Marketing at Nike and a brief stint in the NFL, immediately sets about modernizing the PBA, transforming it into a slicker, more colorful media-friendly package.
Modernizing the PBA is a bit like introducing democracy in post Taliban Afghanistan and Miller must contend with the bowlers themselves, most of whom are products of the old PBA. They embrace his changes with varying degrees of enthusiasm, but frequently chafe against his "bull in a china shop" style.
In addition to Miller, the movie focuses on four bowlers, each of whom offers a different perspective of life on the PBA tour. Pete Weber, bowling bad-boy and son of legendary bowler Dick Weber, is trying to do his part by introducing a few controversial antics that are winning the sport much-needed media attention - despite offending some of its fan base. Pete's nemesis is Walter Ray Williams Jr., a straight-laced six-time world horseshoe-pitching champion, and with 36 PBA titles to his name he is the dominant player on the tour. Walter Ray clashes with Pete on the lanes and CEO Miller off the lanes; his conservative style doesn't jibe with the direction Miller is taking the new PBA.
Other characters include Chris Barnes, a young father of newborn twins, who must leave his wife and sons at home and hit the road to compete for the winnings that his young family is depending upon. Finally there's Wayne Webb, a 20-time PBA champion who has fallen on hard times, and hopes to squeeze another good season out of his career to stave off bankruptcy.