Volume 2, Issue 25, The 77th Edition
By Angel Zobel-Rodriguez
Sometimes I just have to wonder what the good folks in Wisconsin are thinking. The National Mixed Doubles Tournament was renamed the Festival of Bowling this year, with the new name reflecting a major redesign--a plethora of side tournaments with different events for every conceivable bowler. From a six-game tournament for bowlers who've thrown a 300 game honor score, to separate tournament for league and association officers, all the way down to a "starter" singles event for low-average bowlers--kind of a "welcome to tournament bowling" tournament. The pop-up ad on the www.bowl.com site very clearly reads "Serious AND Recreational Bowlers."
Except from all that I can see, the tournament was anything but friendly to new bowlers. Last year the scores from the last Mixed Doubles tournament were reportedly pretty high, aided by an easier lane condition. I wouldn't know, since at the National Bowling Stadium I always bowl like something I'd prefer to scrape off my shoe. This year, in an effort to attract more bowlers by keeping the scores lower, and therefore perceived as attainable, they changed the shot. Drastically.
The oil was long--very long. Standing around 20, hitting 10 board got me 10--not ten in the pit, rather the 10 pin. Not exactly the result I am used to seeing. OK, so I moved right. And right some more. And since I had been warned about the difficulty of the shot ahead of time, I resurfaced a ball and had my pro shop put no shine on it whatsoever. Standing 10 hitting 10 worked for me, sometimes.
Now keep in mind, I'm all for anything that gives bowling more credibility. If making the shot difficult is the way they want to do it, great. But does the average league bowler know the difference between a tournament shot and a house shot? Wouldn't it be up to the same organizations that make both shots legal to SPELL OUT to their members those differences? Or would that make it glaringly obvious that many house conditions are too darn easy?
I'm sure the notion of having so many side events was to encourage multiple participation by the folks already in attendance. Rather than trying to recruit thousands of new bowlers, take your die-hards, and get them to bowl more. Not a bad idea. However, the shot is so difficult that I witnessed Silver Level bowling coaches and regional and senior PBA members alike shake their heads in disbelief. If a group bowled a side event before their scheduled team event floored, I'm willing to bet they didn't bowl many other side events. And for the poor folks that showed up for Team/Doubles/Singles first with the latest ABC-approved hook monsters, I'm guessing they got out of the stadium as quickly and quietly as they could.
To market this tournament to low average bowlers and then give them a shot that challenged even the most-skilled bowlers--that hardly seems appropriate. There was no weigh-in of equipment, and the obligatory dork dance down the center aisle was there, so it seems there was an attempt to dumb down the tournament. Great. It's a mixed handicap tournament. That's all I expected. But I realized I was actually looking FORWARD to the ABCs this March because they'd be easier.
The great thing about a shot like ABC National Championship or the long-oil of the Festival of Bowling is that it challenges a bowler to make great shots. And when he or she goes home, they undoubtedly bowl better. I found my timing was significantly better off when I got back from the ABCs in Syracuse. And it lasted for quite awhile.
But call something a "Festival" and talk about "fun" and bowlers think it's a romp. Maybe they can call it a "Bowling Challenge" and use words like "test." That way there is no mistaking the intent. Our group will be back. We go because we want to be tested. But if someone doesn't explain that to the rest of the bowling world, then we might be the only ones in Reno next year.