Volume 1, Issue 52
By Angel Zobel-Rodriguez
I'm not someone who looks down on things, but when I learned that a 180-average bowler recently shot a 870 series, it was pretty tough to hear. A 180 bowler shooting games of 280, 290, and 300 should bring cheers from fellow bowling enthusiasts, but with today's game, that's not the case. Before I go any further, let me say congratulations, because regardless of the issues revolving the integrity of this sport, the bowler in question deserves his due.
What's wrong in this sport? Why is there such debate going on? How can someone shoot an honor score, and bowlers everywhere want to roll their eyes? When the System of Bowling (aptly nicknamed SOB) made changes to the game in the 1980s, bowlers knew that things were going to change. Some of the changes I agree with: I do believe the lanes should be certified before a bowler ever hits a pair. I always thought it was unfair that someone could shoot an honor score only to have it denied on the basis of something they had no control over. Lane certification after an honor score allowed for interpretation from the person checking the lanes--making decisions after the oil had a chance to move around or evaporate, or worse, allowing for the decision to be based on a personal bias.
But not all the changes have been for the better. The 3-unit rule allowed for lane oil to be applied in any fashion, so long as each board begins with a minimum of 3 units. Flood the center with oil, and stick to those 3 units on the outside, and there's a shot that takes more effort NOT to hit the pocket. Add in bowling balls that virtually have snow chains in the form of mica (ground glass) and it's giving bowlers more area. Forget about splitting boards, people don't have much trouble simply splitting arrows.
A 300 once that would cause an entire league to stop, now might only get announced after the twelfth shot. And then there's the hierarchy of judging who should have one, and snickering at the other ones (and count me among the few, the proud, the 300-less. At least no one is snickering behind my back). With the SOB, bowlers realized, the once impossible was imminent. A bowler shooting 900 wasn't a question of if, it was a question of when. So instead of cheering for a Midwest college student and a league bowler from Wisconsin, many folks remember back to a gentleman who had done the same thing, under a different set of rules and was denied the credit. Glen Allison's 1982 900 series was every bit as impressive as Jeremy's or Tony's. Until ABC acknowledges Allison's feat (with an asterisk or otherwise), the other incredible honor scores seem hollow.
But in other areas, the ABC must tighten the reigns. It's time to admit the way the proprietors oil the lanes help the ball get to the pocket, and aid in scoring. And it's time to admit that manufacturers have created bowling balls with everything except a remote control to get it to the pocket. And all along ABC and WIBC have virtually ignored the consequences.
The Roger Dalkin interview in Bowler's Journal this month hints at a fork in the road. Soon we'll have bowling for fun, and bowling for sport, each with their own rules of oil patterns and ball dynamics. It's a start. But when I say ABC or WIBC, let's not forget who "they" are. They are us, and bowlers have got to send a clear message that we will support this sport. Tell your proprietor you support plastic ball leagues, and then BOWL them. Encourage the house to put out challenging conditions, and then don't complain. Leagues have even alternated between PBA, ABC Nationals, World Team Challenge and other difficult oil patterns.
But bowlers are going to have to make the decision of how they perceive themselves, and live with the consequences of those choices. And it won't be easy, deciding to drop in average, perhaps needing to buy new equipment to it. But if bowling is ever to become an Olympic sport, we have to start acting like one. And if that means making it tougher, fine. Some folks will leave the bowling regardless, and others will have the game to fall back on.
No matter what comes down the road, it's time to start looking for solutions to the problems this sport faces. When bowlers can't even congratulate their own for a job well done, the integrity of our sport is at stake.