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-How Tough is Too Tough

5/14/2000 - By George Freeman
      I was looking at the scores for a recent youth qualifying tournament in Miami to go to Akron, Ohio for a national tournament, and noticed something interesting. Out of the 14 youth bowlers who participated, there were a total of 4 200 games bowled. These were kids of considerable talent, given their young age. The winner of the tournament shot -141... this is the winner, mind you. Then I took a look at a flyer for the tournament, and in the flyer they promise a tough condition, modeled after the ABC's new Sport condition. That is all well and good, and I am one of the strongest supporters for tougher conditions. There is no doubt whatsoever that soft house conditions have not only given rise to honor scores in the last 10 years, but also engendered a false sense of skill among many players, especially young bowlers who have really known nothing else. In a youth tournament, and indeed in bowling as a whole, you can see the field of bowlers, look at the scores, and realize that it is not an accurate representation of bowling skill. Rather it is little more than bumper bowling. That having been said, how do we go about correcting this? There is a distinctive difference between tougher and ridiculous.

      For some people in the industry, the answer seems to be to make them so impossibly tough, that no one will be able to score on them. In other words, the lower the scores, the better the condition. That is one of the most misguided trains of thought in the history of bowling. Angel Zobel-Rodriguez wrote a very good article a while back about subbing in league entitled "Just Because Its Legal Doesn't Make It Right.". The same can be said for lane conditions. Having a tournament that takes -680 to make the cut is no less wrong than having a tournament where it takes +680. There is still no accurate representation of skill. There will be a winner simply because the Law of Physics demand that someone comes in first. Indeed, many of these bowlers need to be taken down a notch, but they not need to be humiliated in the process.

      The PBA Tour, thanks to the Kegel company, has been able to offer tough conditions aimed at execution of shots. They have certainly helped the Southern Region out tremendously. Where it used to take +300 to get into 16th, now it takes just above even. Sometimes even minus. They still give us a chance to play, but you have to be able to repeat a shot. That isn't to say there aren't still tournaments that it will be a shoot out, but they are few and far between. Something like that would be much more beneficial to the kids than to just make them all look foolish, that serves no purpose.

      The new Sport condition being considered by ABC is another good idea. Again, the emphasis is on shot making. If you can repeat shots, you will have a better chance of scoring. Again, tougher, but not ridiculous. Hopefully, this lesson will be learned so that bowlers can develop their skills better.

      I dream of the day when bowling adopts something that will place an emphasis on skills, but doesn't go as far as humiliating. That day just might come...not yet, not by a long shot, but it may just come.

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