Volume 2, Issue 37, The 89th Edition
By Angel Zobel-Rodriguez
This is a big country. And while the Internet is making people seem a lot closer, there must be a trickle-down theory when it comes to bowling. While we all bowl leagues, and most of us are sanctioned, we don't all play by the same rules. I may live on the West Coast, but before you say things are weird in California, let me just say things are weird everywhere.
Substitution. Leagues in Southern California thrive on roving subs. I've been a "hired gun" many times for people who went on vacation, injured themselves, or had a special engagement. One week I might sub on team A, and the next week I sub against them as part of team B. It's very common here. It's nice for the sub (free practice), and it helps a team remain competitive and not have to take a blind score. Yet I know of parts of the country where subs are not allowed and instead, a 5-person team roster might include seven or eight bowlers.
The nice thing about allowing subs is the steady stream of potential recruits. A sub this year might never have known about the league, and next year might want to join. The same goes for a permanent replacement. Plus, a 180-average sub might fit for several bowlers on various teams. On the other hand, teams that have an expanded roster of players basically have a built-in sub list (providing that the players still fit without putting the team over). Those bowlers can not sub on other teams, and might only get a few games in, preventing them to bowl later, when certain numbers of games are required. The benefits are that when league rules require "no subs" on a position night, an expanded roster gives a team a chance at full team strength. Another thing expanded rosters can do: bowlers who don't want to bowl the entire league schedule can "trade off" with someone as part of an expanded roster. I'm doing that now with my husband and son in an adult/junior league. One week I bowl, the next my husband does. Neither of us is a sub, although no one here is accustomed to the expanded roster concept.
And where they do allow subs, do they CHARGE for the privilege? I will say as a sub, if I drive halfway across the Valley to help someone's team, I really don't appreciate being asked to pay for the privilege. And as the regular bowler, the lineage and the prize fund are guaranteed to the house, so why now would I want to have to pay an ADDITIONAL amount (because there's no way I'd ask someone to sub only to have them CHARGED for taking time out of their day to do me a favor)?
Average Caps/Handicap. Do you cap the league? The bowlers? Or both. I can remember when my friend told me if I ever moved to Detroit, I couldn't bowl her league because my average was too high. I'm not that high so I quickly figured I could find a few low bowlers to even a team out. What she meant however was that the league prohibits bowlers over a certain average from ever joining. Rules like this blow my mind. But apparently they work well in places with large bowling populations to draw from.
Out here, I'm used to seeing league "maxes" or caps. Basically, the 5-person league is given a maximum entering average of say 900, and from there it's all about getting as close to the max without going over. This goes throughout the season with subs too. But as long as you come in below 901, your team members can average anything you choose. Pick five 180 bowlers. Four 200 bowlers and a 100 average bowler. Or anything in between.
I'm even used to seeing maxes on handicap leagues--especially considering handicap is often 80% or 90% of the max. Yet I've heard of some leagues in FL that have either very high maxes or no max at all, and have teams over 1000 competing with teams under 800. It doesn't take a math major too long to realize that one team is going to struggle very quickly, even with handicap.
And in some parts of the country, finding a scratch league is all but impossible. That might be the reasoning for the high max handicap leagues--they're really easy to fill. Get five people together, and they bowl. Now whether they return or not is another story.
Mixed Versus Single-Gender Leagues. This might really be a Southern California dilemma, or maybe it's just me. But the chances of me moving to other parts of the country and being happy would hinge on this issue. While most of the scratch and handicap leagues I have bowled have been mixed, this is not the case in the rest of the country. Even though women can join the ABCs, leagues can (and do) still create rules to prevent their bowling, or require them to bowl on an entirely female team (I really don't comprehend this part, but my understanding is that it limits their chances of finding five competitive women and perhaps bowling the league at all).
I have to think REALLY hard about finding any "men's only" leagues here, and off the top of my head, I can't think of one. On the other hand, there are a few daytime women's leagues, and their numbers are shrinking. The clear majority are mixed leagues. I've always felt a bowler is a bowler, and I wasn't too worried about what side of their shirt the buttons were on. Most scratch leagues in SoCal fill their rosters with bowlers--not men or women. Some leagues even have rules that require a person of each gender per team. And we're not talking about "mixed" as some sort of pejorative--I mean 950 and 1000/five-person leagues.
Secretarial Duties. Perhaps there's no stranger case of differences than that of league secretaries. Some leagues pay a set fee at the beginning of the year, say $10 per league bowler. Other leagues pay the secretary a weekly salary of 50 cents a week or whatever. All the places I've bowled the secretary and treasurer has been a combined position. Yet I know of plenty of folks in other parts of the country where a secretary handles league standings and the treasurer handles the money, and they're two distinct positions.
Here in the Valley, the sheet service is an entirely different company--not the house, and not the secretary, and they get 25 cents per week per bowler for doing the sheets. What does the secretary do in those cases? I've been asked. They handle sanctioning, verify averages, find subs for teams, and handle awards. Trust me, it's still a lot of work.
The reality is that despite all our differences, we are competing in one sport. And while we each may think what we do is "normal" and every other place is different, there probably is a reason why they're done that way. If not now, perhaps when the tradition got started. But just like family traditions, it's not a bad idea to see if there's anything to the other traditions you could incorporate in your leagues and get more out of it.
I'm sure these are only the tip of the iceberg. If you know of any other wildly different rules that are the norm in your region, let me know. Email me at [email protected]. I'll share them in a future article.