Volume 3, Issue 14, The 118th Edition
By Angel Zobel-Rodriguez
There's probably no single word in the world of bowling that can bring on such strong feelings of disgust from most bowlers.
But there's a far cry from witnessing bad bowling to proving a bowler's dishonest intent and labeling it sandbagging. After fifteen years, I've seen enough clueless bowlers who can rack up a 250+ game, but as soon as they should adjust a board or two, they fall, hard, to well below 150. There's no way to distinguish the two types with confidence.
In my adult/junior league, I've been fortunate to avoid these creeps because there's no money in the league. Usually they're not in it for a trophy and a slice of pizza. They seem to flock to handicap leagues and on occasion have a "career" year in a high money scratch league with team maximums. Then they disappear into the background for a few more years only to do it again.
So last season, I was surprised when several of the older boys started whining about a particular bowler in the league. I was prepared to explain to them that not everyone has a clue, and even horrible bowlers have an occasional great outing. Since most of them had bowled poorly against him early in the season, it didn't exactly make their case. Unfortunately, after watching this particular bowler, I knew what I was dealing with.
He would invariably start out with a couple of strikes and as soon as he could figure he was ahead by enough, he'd "lose" his mark, and miss even the simplest spares. Could he have just been one of the roller coaster bowlers? Maybe, but he'd been able to win every team point but one over the course of five weeks. In a doubles league, with teams including small children, it doesn't exactly take a rocket scientist to figure out where the point of no return is.
I admitted to the people concerned that it definitely looked suspicious. I looked up what other leagues he was currently bowling. With a little sleuthing, we found we had a tried-and-true practitioner of average management. The guy had no book for several years, yet coached at a local center. He had subbed once in another league, but one session certainly can't prove he was sandbagging. Yet the feeling in my gut was there. From his four-ball bag and his well-worn, high-end, leather bowling shoes, there was just no way this guy was a 170.
But proving it? There was no paper trail. No suspicious book averages, no other leagues with a discrepancy between the averages. ABC has rule 17a that states a bowler can be removed for "misrepresenting an average to gain a greater handicap or establishing an average below the players ability to gain an unfair advantage" but HOW can you prove that? Everyone I talked to knew he was bagging, but agreed, bringing up charges was another story. Especially because he was bowling with his young son. After a few weeks, people began to dread bowling this team.
The only thing I could tell the older kids was to keep gunning after him. The guy was bagging, but the more pressure they put on him, eventually his average would go up. I'm a firm believer that the only reason a person sandbags is that they don't think they have what it takes to win on their own. Rather than getting frustrated and bowling poorly, I wanted the kids to come out of the gate striking and make him match them. Within a week or two, a father and son bowled their butts off, and took three of four points, proving it could be done.
And eventually it worked. Without the trophy to take home, it seems he lost interest in returning. But it's not over. Now this clown has an official league book. So he'll probably stop by a few tournament clubs until he gets rerated. The older kids in the league learned a valuable lesson, but there is no happy ending.