Volume 2, Issue 22, The 74th Edition
By Angel Zobel-Rodriguez
I've always been amazed at how one day the kids are saying "trick or treat" and the next day the stores have out all the holiday merchandise. I don't blame them, it just blows my mind how fast the year goes by. Before I know it, I'll be shopping for presents for my littlest bowler. This week the bowling companies showed their latest tricks in the form of spare balls during the PBA show. And these new treats I'm sure will be a big hit with many people during the holidays.
These balls aren't really bad. For around $100 it gives a bowler a chance to make a statement: Look at me. Years ago there were some pretty interesting clear bowling balls with "stuff" inside them.
Between the beer can and the rose ball, most people know someone who had one or at least they've heard of these legendary balls. Maybe the movie Kingpin was what started the ball companies thinking. Suddenly people were looking for the old GemTek rose ball like it was some sort of a quest. It's not that anyone forgot that they existed, but as equipment advanced, there was no need for them. But then a funny thing happened: Bowling balls began to hook too much.
As bowling balls have advanced to become hook monsters, coaches have advocated a nice, hard plastic ball for spares. And why not? For $50, all plastic balls were basically the same. Didn't matter the brand on it, if it was plastic, it wouldn't hook, and a bowler was good to go. Most people started with a plastic or hard urethane ball, so it was easy to keep the tried and true in the bag even while they bought the latest and greatest. But Ebonite changed that thinking.
It's been about a year since Ebonite bought the rights to the black and white ball innocently named the Zebra. I've heard it was originally made in Japan. They sold the lot they brought over so quickly that soon the Zebra Two was out, in living, neon colors. The stripes were still there, and the people bought them, and soon there was Zebra III with colors more in the orange and yellow family.
Ebonite had a winner on its hands. What Ebonite gave people was a chance to stand out a little in a game where every ball is regulation: round, 12" in diameter, and nearly every ball is virtually dark and solid in color. People see these new things going down the lane and stop. Well, they have to, or risk getting motion sickness. To be honest, I missed the boat with them. I thought why would people pay double for a plastic ball? Well, simply for the same reason they spend double on sneakers, or jeans, or whatever. Because it's cool.
A few months ago, Ebonite got away from stripes, and put out the Tai Chi ball. It's the three-dimensional version of the yin yang symbol. Just staring at it is a mind exercise. It's been out for awhile, but Dave Wodka threw it on TV last week in Detroit. Now even if a pro shop had been avoiding the trend, it's out of the bag.
And last week during the PBA telecast, we saw a second company enter the market. Brunswick's "Web" ball might be mistaken for a University of Michigan helmet with its yellow grid over a blue bowling ball. Both Mike Aulby and Johnny Petraglia threw the ball at corner pins. I don't think they missed a single one, but maybe that was just a trance. Call it whatever you want, but going down the lane, I call it rolling vertigo. But it had my son completely glued to the set. It's pretty funny when you secretly hope someone leaves a corner pin so you can see what they're going to throw at corners.
Recently I've heard that Ebonite is close to releasing a skull and crossbones design. I'm only disappointed this didn't coincide with the movie Mystery Men, so that little girls who dream of being Janeane Garafalo could have had a complete Halloween costume.
Now I know what is already out there, or lurking on the horizon, but what's next? I really want a big, yellow smiley face. I don't care who makes it, but if there is going to be a yin yang ball, there has to be a smiley face. If I used it for ten pins, it would be there smiling at me. If I missed one, I would put it back in the bag, saying it was possessed and it was merely mocking me. OK, maybe I better stick to my Pink Hammer.