Volume 2, Issue 42, The 94th Edition
By Angel Zobel-Rodriguez
For a couple of weeks now, bowlers have been buzzing about a column by Sports Illustrated's Rick Reilly. Bowling is my sport, and aside from a mention or two every few months about a bowling wunderkind or a blind bowling grandma, SI isn't a must-read for me. But over the last two weeks, I've received a dozen emails, read numerous posts, and participated in several conversations with bowlers discussing this article. What has bowlers up in arms is a back-page editorial that does the unthinkable--it bashes bowling.
Let's face it, bowlers have their share of opinions. We all see the world differently. People either liked Big Lebowski or they hated it. People either saw Kingpin as hilarious or insulting. Cosmic bowling is everything from the death knell of league bowling all the way to a great promotion to get new people introduced to the sport. This article does the same. What's so amusing is which side of the fence people come down on.
I've seen some bowlers irate over the article, and others praising the writer for bringing out into the open the same thing they've been complaining about for several years.
Reilly admits to being a 140-average bowler, and some folks have chosen to focus on that. As if he can't possibly "diss" bowling from his vantage point, since his average is so low. Certainly it's okay for the higher average bowlers to blast the sport with both barrels, but when an outsider does it, some folks are closing ranks, saying, How dare he?
Sometimes, bowlers, the truth hurts. It's not exactly the story of the Emperor's New Clothes, but it's similar. The truth of the matter remains that despite a tremendous loss of membership over the years and a tremendous decline in sanctioned leagues, honor scores are breaking records every year. And there's no proof that we've masterminded an entire generation of incredibly great bowlers.
ABC just announced that the high season average was broken by Mike Scroggins, a part-time PBA tour guy. His 256.8 for 78 games of league eclipsed the previous record. He only had 3 sub-700 sets that entire year. Not to take a thing away from Mike Scroggins, he's probably a great guy, but has one PBA title from 1992 and the national resident pro (the Super Bowl for regional players). Obviously, on a tour condition, he's not quite so dominant.
What it comes down to is this: The ABC and WIBC created a System of Bowling that allows proprietors to put out a shot that makes it difficult to miss and balls that create hooking power that used to take years to perfect. ABC and WIBC sold their members out by allowing such conditions. Yes, we need technology, but not to the point that we embarrass ourselves. Picture Mark McGwire with an aluminum bat, and you'll see my point.
The proprietors sell bowlers short saying if they make the lanes tougher, bowlers will go elsewhere. Maybe not. Sure we'd lose bowlers, but we're losing them now. Proprietors might just get some of those open bowlers back for that thing we used to call....practice.
Even bowlers themselves seem to take delight in ripping bowlers for shooting an honor score in what "must be" an easy house. Let's face it, with the 3-unit rule, it's unlikely ANYONE bowls on a tough shot. People honestly think their 230-average ranks them up there with the PBA elite. Nice try, but we're talking apples to oranges here. All it takes is a trip to a High Roller or a World Team Challenge for some of these "house gods" to realize that they've sold themselves out.
And judging by the declining numbers at these "elite" tournaments, it's easy to see that even bowlers know down deep they don't have the game nor do they practice enough to handle the conditions that tougher tournaments require of them. I mean really, does anyone think they deserve to average 2-teen or more bowling just three games a week? Even the ABC and WIBC tournaments, which don't exactly feature difficult lane conditions, end up disallusioning bowlers who face a "reality check" when it comes to scoring. No wonder it takes a die-hard to go back.
But now that out of control scoring is not bowling's dirty little secret, and it's out in the open, it's a good time to discuss it. Maybe now ABC will take some steps to get the scores back within reasonable conditions (the Sport Condition may be a part of it). We can undo the harm that's come already, but it will take more than Rick Reilly. After all, he might be right, but he's not a bowler. We've got our work cut out for us, but it can happen.