Wednesday, March 22, 2023 Mar 22, 2023
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Arts & Entertainment

D Magazine’s 40 Greatest Stories: Bowling For Dollars

Writer Bill Porterfield waxes rhapsodic about the meaning of a TV game show.
By Jason Heid |
Illustration by Kolby Osborne
Illustration by Kolby Osborne

There used to be a TV game show on which people — ordinary human beings like you and me — would hurl balls at pins in the hopes of winning cash. It was called, in the parlance of the day, Bowling For Dollars. Meanwhile, other human beings — also, presumably, like you and me — would have sent in postcards with their names on them in the hopes of sharing in the winnings if some lucky amateur bowler managed two strikes in a row.

I was going to write about the oddity of this format sustaining a daily program, but then I remembered that we live in an age of televised naked daters and naked survivalists, so who are we to judge? (After all, I know what you’re thinking at this moment: Why hasn’t naked bowling reached the airwaves yet?)

Bowling For Dollars operated with a franchise model. Local stations produced their own versions, and in Dallas that was WFAA. Hosting duties for the show, which aired at 6:30 p.m. weekdays and began its run in mid-1975, fell to the station’s sports director. His name was Verne Lundquist. You’ve maybe heard of him, since he’s gone on to fame and fortune as a broadcaster for CBS Sports.

In the March 1976 issueBill Porterfield wrote one the 40 greatest stories ever in D Magazine about this remarkable step in the advancement of human progress, centering his piece on a postman from Carrollton who won $2,540 on the show. That’d be $11,252.62 in today’s dollars. If Channel 8 ever gets around to launching Naked Bowling For Dollars with Dale Hansen, I hope the jackpots are considerably larger.