I have been thinking a lot lately about the direction of the sport of bowling, and some of the good and bad things that have shaped the sport we have today. Any way we slice it, technology advancements have put their permanent mark on the game of bowling, and the jury is still out as to whether or not those changes have helped or hurt the game as a whole. The one thing that can not be debated, however, is that there seems to be no turning back to the old days of sub 200 averages being king, and spare shooting being the name of the game. Today’s bowling is a different animal altogether. If it is true in baseball that “chicks dig the long ball”, then I think the same can be said about bowling in the sense that “chicks dig the hambone”. What I mean, of course, is that stringing strikes together is the name of the game nowadays, long gone from the days of grinding out 192 games to take a high game pot. Now, if you can’t shoot 250+ on any given night, don’t even bother wasting your money. Is this the way the sport is going to stay, or is there a possibility of striking a balance between tradition and technology that everyone can live with?
First off, let me say that the USBC has done a wondeful job with bowling ball research, and possible solutions on the equipment end to reign in the scoring pace across the board. The new porousity rule for coverstocks, as well as increasing the minimum rg value (which takes affect next season), are both welcome and needed changes to bring more “standardization” to bowling equipment. The reason for all this, of course, is to minimize the effect bowling balls have on lane conditions, and to help bring into focus the scoring pace of bowling as a whole. With all that being said, I still think the USBC has been dropping the ball (figuratively speaking) to bring ALL aspects of the sport up to speed and keep integrity in the game of bowling.
One aspect that has been seemingly ignored by the USBC is what the bowling balls glide through as they go down the lane, and that is lane oil and lane conditions. The rules on what needs to be put down for a bowling shot to be legal, according to USBC, is almost laughable, as houses have a very wide margin for manipulating shots to increase (or decrease) the scoring pace, while still being within USBC specifications. In my opinion, tightening up restrictions on lane oil conditioning is the key to bringing the scoring pace back to a more rspectable level, which brings factors such as talent and mental toughness back to the game of bowling. Lowering ratio of oil, shortening patterns, or even just telling bowling centers they need to put out one of three patterns and that’s all they can lay down night in and night out, could have drastic effects on the game of bowling. Also, the USBC could look at lane oil viscosity, and standardize some sort of conditioner that houses could put out, as well as stength of stripper solution that can be used on the lanes. These are things that could be implemented almost immediately, but have seemingly been ingored. Why?
The only reason I can think of is that the USBC is scared to lose bowling centers that wouldn’t want to comply, thus possibly lowering more membership numbers, and hurting the sport. I think it is worth the risk. Numbers have been declining since the late 1980’s, so trying a bold new strategy wouldn’t be a bad idea. Also, the BPAA and USBC are now partners, which will make it harder to change aspects of what bowling centers need to do to change their ways and help the sport, so the honus falls on bowling ball companies to change their product to compensate, since all of the USBC research has focused on limiting what they can produce. I am not saying that all the blame should be shifted to either bowling ball makers, or bowling centers, or even the USBC themselves, but they all need to realize they have done their part to lead the sport down the road where we are today, so they all need to change how they do things to get the sport back on top.
The old saying “it takes two to tango” is very true when you look at what has been done to the sport of bowling over the past 25 years, and looking forward what needs to be done to save the sport for future generations to enjoy. I, for one, am all for doing whatever it takes to bring integrity and ability back to bowling, and I think that if the USBC, BPAA, ball companies, etc. all realize that most bowlers want what is best for the sport, they will try and make the needed changes to make it great again. If this means less honor scores every year, then so be it. If a bowler gets less awards, that seems like a bad thing, but a positive spin would be that those awards mean so much more when you actually get one. I think we can all get on board with that kind of logic. Opinions expressed in this post are solely mine and may not reflect the opinions held by MSUSBC. Thank you for reading, and if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave a message, and I will try and respond ASAP.
-James Goulding III