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Bowlers Journal At 100 By Mort Luby Jr. IT SEEMED W (Part 11 in a 12-Part Series) LIKE A GOOD IDEA...


ith Keith Hamiltonin charge of the office, Bob Inserra in control of sales, Jim Dressel as editor of Bowlers Journaland Mike Panoz- zo as editor of Billiards Digest, I finally felt confident that we had


a stable company that could surmount just about any publishing challenge. Maybe that’s why I was moved to make the dumbest decision of my career: I decided to launch a third magazine about the video game business.


We called it Tavern Sports. The idea


was to capitalize on the hot, new fad for sports bars and video arcades. There already were two magazines in the field, but they were poorly edited trade books with limited editorial appeal. Our concept was to produce a crossover magazine that appealed both to serious players of the “tavern sports” (darts, foosball, shuffleboard, 8-ball, etc.) and “locations” (people who owned the environment where the games were played).


I soon found myself covering national


competitions for all these odd “sports.” The competitors themselves seemed astonished that anyone would think to interview them; previously, they had toiled in splendid solitude. We hired a pair of


enthusiastic young women to run the magazine — one as editor, the other to handle the advertising. Just about everybody, including industry insiders, agreed that it was a nice little publication. Our video game industry


Mort Luby Jr.


competitors soon took note. Their once-staid pages suddenly


blazed with color and fancy layouts. After decades of neglect, the editors soon began covering the various competitions. The publishers reminded manufacturers that our company was an “outsider” seeking only to enrich ourselves at the expense of longtime industry loyalists. We also discovered that our carefully


designed business plan was bogus. Our original concept was to distribute most of the Tavern Sports magazines to “locations” — the bars, arcades, colleges and bowling centers where most of the games were situated. We failed to appreciate the fact that the industry was controlled by “operators,” the local companies that actually owned the machines. These firms typically owned and placed the games, and then split the take with the house. The operators hated TS because it encouraged location owners to demand newer and more expensive games. We changed our masthead to Profitable


Games and tweaked every aspect of the operation, all to no avail. PG went down in


EVERYTHING BOWLING, ALL THE TIME


Bowlers Journal helped put international bowling on the map, and Mort Luby often traveled to far- off lands to cover tournaments and soak in the culture. Here, he attends a post- tournament gathering in Korea.


flames, dragging my pride and net worth down with it.


New Faces at the Helm Mike Panozzo and Keith Hamilton invited me to dinner one night at Lawry’s, an expensive restaurant near the office. I knew something was up. About halfway through the prime rib, they told me they wanted to buy the business. As was typical for me, I hadn’t given much thought to the future of our little enterprise. I had been approached by several would-be buyers over the years. The PBA’s Eddie Elias had arranged a meeting with ABC-TV’s magazine division back in the 1960s. As the network which then broadcast the “Pro Bowlers Tour,” ABC seemed interested in buying a tenpin magazine. That effort went nowhere after they saw our financial statements. Rance Crain, then publisher of


Advertising Age and numerous other major business publications, came to our office one day with an insulting offer. There were


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