Off Beat

The Glory That Is Bowling

EVER SINCE THE Professional Bowlers Association was unceremoniously demoted from ABC to ESPN two years ago, Off Beat has been despondent. (We're not too proud to admit that we often drown our sorrows in repeated viewings of Kingpin and The Big Lebowski.) Imagine our elation, then, upon hearing that the Twin Cities' own homegrown public-access-TV paean to the sport, Let's Bowl, may soon be broadcast nationwide. Over the past week, executive producers Tim Scott (a Mystery Science Theater 3000 alum) and Rich Kronfeld (who does double duty as Let's Bowl's bowel-obsessed co-host, Dr. Sphincter) have been filming pilot episodes for the Comedy Central network on location at local ten-pin emporiums. The segments will feature music from Soul Asylum, as well as the show's trademark bowling grudge matches. (Past match-ups on the show have included a divorced couple battling for the microwave oven, and a rematch of the Civil War.) If Comedy Central likes the results, Let's Bowl would go global. Scott, who has been peddling his show since its debut five years ago, says his reaction upon finding out that Comedy Central was interested was: "Duh." It's about time, he adds, noting that Let's Bowl has built up a strong track record of ratings not only in the Twin Cities, but also in Madison and Chicago. "There's a lot more security in going with a show like Let's Bowl than there would to be to go with an unproven commodity." Duh. (The crew will be at Chanhassen Bowl, 581 W. 78th St., this Sunday afternoon from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m.; the public is encouraged to attend.)

Wild Thing

WHEN OUR BUDDING NHL hockey squad settled on a name back in January 1998, "Minnesota Wild" was fighting words to Jay Erckenbrack. Erckenbrack, who founded McGregor-based Minnesota Specialty Crops, Inc., in 1990, sells 86 food products (including jellies, syrups, salad dressings, and pancake mixes) and 15 different wines under the moniker Minnesota Wild. He told the Wild so, and when he wasn't satisfied with the team's response, he took the matter to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Then the Wild actually commenced playing hockey (after a fashion). In mid-October Erckenbrack filed a federal trademark-infringement suit against the team and NHL Enterprises, charging that "the massive advertising and marketing blitz unleashed by Defendants in recent weeks threatens to eviscerate MSC's trademark rights." Among other claims, Erckenbrack's suit alleges that the hockey team's appropriation of his protected trademark has caused people to "[express] distaste for sampling wine that they associate with the image possessed by the Hockey Club." But what really frosts him are the team's food- and beverage-linked promotions. "Opening night they gave away 20,000 boxes of Minnesota Wild Wheaties," Erckenbrack seethes. "They're crossing over into our core businesses." Bill Robertson, the Wild's vice president of communications and broadcasting, says he can't comment in any detail about the matter. "All I can say is, we're hopeful of working out a solution with the Specialty Crops folks," he offers.

Doing Our Civic Duty

WE FIGURED THAT by actually going out and voting--for some judges we'd never heard of, among others, no less!--we pretty much got our electoral obligations out of the way, but goshdarnit, it seems some folks expect more of Off Beat. See, in recent days several loyal City Pages readers have e-mailed this paper admonishing us to persuade the vice president to give up his quest for the White House. "Please have some courage in your editorial column and encourge [sic] Al Gore to stop this by conceding the election," wrote one. "Al Gore should stop his 'whining' and step aside. The People HAVE spoken," declared another. Okay, you get the idea. So here goes: Al, if you're reading Off Beat, we're urging you: Stop your whining and step aside. And to Deb Rand of Buffalo, John Hoffsommer of River Falls, and Lori Bunce of Plymouth: Consider your voices--to paraphrase the eloquent Ms. Bunce--heard.