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-Evolution in Bowling

7/16/2000 - By George Freeman
      The game of bowling has changed much in the 105 year history of the American Bowling Congress. The ABC was originally formed to give some kind of uniformity to the sport of tenpins. Over the years, the ABC has become the standard by which the game is played. Bowling balls, pins, lane surfaces, and the bowlers themselves have changed constantly over time. For better or for worse, the ABC has regulated these changes.

      Some would argue that the game today has become too easy. The proof being the explosion of honor scores over the last 10 years or so, right around the time ABC's System of Bowling was introduced. Many articles have been written bemoaning the travesty that bowling has become. And to be honest, it is an arguement that bears attention. One cannot deny that honor scores have risen exponentially while membership in ABC has declined every year for the last 15 years. Just last month Sports Illustrated's Rick Reilly wrote about how easy the game has become, getting his information from ABC itself. Resin and particle bowling balls, plus the soft lane conditions, combine to make scoring easy, therefore taking the integrity away from the game. That is all well and good, but why doesn't anyone acknowledge how much more complicated the game is now?

      Let's go back to the pre- System of Bowling and Resin ball era. You had urethane, plastic, and rubber. Rubber was beginning to ease its way out of the game, so I'll forgo rubber. You had plastic, which generally was a hard surface that was not very porous, therefore allowing the ball to skid and go straighter. For urethane, you had soft, medium, and hard shell. The softer the ball, the more it hooked. Weight blocks were just starting to get attention from ball manufacturers. Synthetic lanes were starting to boom, but the majority of bowling centers were all wood. It all seems so long ago, doesn't it?

      Now, in the year 2000, technology has made the game much more complicated. Today, there are over 300 bowling balls on the market. Resin, Pro active, Titanium cores, computer generated weight blocks. Bowling balls in general are infinitely more dynamic, therefore harder to predict, therefore harder to control. How many times have you seen a game like this:?


      In today's game, this is a common result of a bowler overpowered by his equipment. Yes, the more violent hook will result in a more severe angle into the pocket. But since the control is not there, the ball will get away from the bowler, and wild misses will result. Yes, he'll throw more strikes, but he will also have more opens. As far as the number of honor scores, it is impossible to argue with the numbers, more 300's are being thrown. But who is throwing them? How many first time honor scores do you think are being shot every year? In the 1999-2000 season, I've personally shot 5 300's so far. Mike Scroggins, the new high average leader, had 14 800 series. Between 2 people, 19 honor scores have been shot (I do not have the number of 300's he shot, but it is safe to assume there are some). ABC has been asked for the numbers of first time honor scores, but they do not deliver, so it is impossible to tell how many first time bowlers are shooting the 300's and 800's. I guarantee you that 35,000 different people did NOT shoot 300 last year. The mean average for ABC is still in the 170's, so how is the game getting easier? One could almost argue it has gotten more complicated.

      Now, lane surfaces. Back before Resin, there was wood, and synthetic. Now, you have wood, synthetic, Guardian (a plastic overlay), the new AnviLane, and others I'm not mentioning due to lack of space. Each Scragging surface has its own characteristics. Add that to the thousands ofScraggingt configurations of bowling balls and weight drillings, there is a mind boggling combination of variables just given these two ingredients... Ball and Lane.

      Have bowlers gotten better in the last 20 years? Yes. Why? Lots of reasons. Not the least of which is that more and more bowlers are making an effort to learn. Camps like Dick Ritgers' Bowling Camps, or USA Bowling's own Coaches Certification Program, are turning out coaches of considerable quality, and more and more people are making use of them. The Kegel Training Center is the training ground of many players looking to advance their own games. Kegel also trains teams from other countries for international competition. Their coaching staff is considered one of the world's best, as evidenced by the countries that come to train there. In addition, there are plans in the works to build more training centers like the facility in Sebring. Dick Ritger's has schools all the time, so the quality coaching is there.

      Another thing that has happened in the last 10 years or so is that fitness and conditioning are being utilized more often. We know much more about the body and the way it works than we did 50 years ago, and we are finally putting some of that knowledge to use. Look at the current crop of stars on the PBA Tour: Chris Barnes, Parker Bohn III, Walter Ray Williams Jr., Norm Duke...all of them are in excellent shape, you have to be to withstand the rigors of the Tour. Conditioning and fitness may not help them throw the ball better per se, but it will give them an advantage in the later rounds, when fatigue can cause a deterioration of motor skills. I'm not saying you have to look like a Barbie or Ken doll to be successful, but good conditioning is essential, especially for the advanced players.

      The game is constantly changing, technology will make sure of that forever. Those who bemoan what the game has become have only seen the tip of the iceberg. The breakthroughs and developments are just beginning. It's like death and taxes, it's going to happen. Change is inevitable, what one does with it determines their fate in this sport. Those who do not wish to learn will get left behind, and will probably never be able to catch up, not from lack of learning ability as much as stubborness. Those who adapt and learn the new technologies will be the ones who will dominate the game for years to come. It's been proven that bowling is indeed a lifetime sport. Legends like Joe Norris and Dick Weber have proved that. However, one must be willing to accept the fact that the way it is done today will not be the way it is done forever. So, next time you go out to practice, take the time to learn something new about the sport, you'll be ahead of the game!

-Myth vs. Reality - Pins

7/16/2000 - Bowling Newsline
      "If it looks like a pin, and feels like a pin...doesn't mean it acts like a pin."

Myth: Pins have changed dramatically over the past 20 years, resulting in higher scores.
Reality: Pins have been remarkably unchanged.

      There have been false claims made over the construction of pins, such as the center of gravity is higher, or that the velocity of the pin when struck by a ball has more than doubled. In reality, those claims are incorrect.

      In 1963, the center of gravity on a pin was established using solid maple pins at approximately 5 3/4" above the base. Since that time, despite a change from solid maple pins to nylon and surlyn-coated maple pins, the specification has remained unchanged.

      Based on laboratory test, the velocity of the solid maple pins from the 1950's and 1960's is virtually identical to the nylon and surlyn pins of today. The visual difference in velocity seen in today's game is not from construction of the pin, but from the attack of angle and speed by which a ball is thrown.

      By using the ABC/WIBC automated ramp assembly to test both the solid maple pins of the past as well as the plastic coated pins that have been approved for the current season, it has been determined that the currently approved pins score the same as solid maple pins of the pins of the past.

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