Bowling: An Olympic “Sport”?
by James Goulding III
Hello everyone, and a Happy Valentine’s Day to all. Watching the opening ceremonies of the winter Olympics the other night got me thinking again about two of the more heated debates that surround bowling. The first one is, is bowling a game or a sport? This has been debated many times, but I am going to try to go “by the book” so to speak for my definition of bowling later in this blog entry. The second heated discussion about bowling centers around the Olympics, and whether or not bowling should be an Olympic event. I think we first have to come to solid footing on the first question about bowling being a sport or not, before we can even think about the Olympics as it applies to bowling. So, I am going to break this down and hopefully come up with some ideas for people to think about when it comes to bowling, it’s standing in the sports community, and the Olympics, all tied up into a blog post.
SPORT VS. GAME
To delve into this debate, I enlisted the services of Merriam Webster online at www.merriam-webster.com. Here is the definition of game: “activity engaged in for diversion or amusement”. I would say that the argument could certainly be made that bowling most certainly qualifies as a game, at the VERY least. This holds true for open bowling, and league bowling, but how about the serious tournament bowler who is out to win? Let me now give you the definition of a sport: ” physical activity engaged in for pleasure”. The only difference between a sport and a game is that a sport requires “physical” activity, instead of just “activity”. Now, it does not mention what degree of physical activity is required to call something a sport, only that some form of physical activity is required for a game to be called a sport. For example, Monopoly is a game, because it requires no physical activity to play, but water polo is a sport because of the physical activity required to play it. To me, this means that bowling should be called a sport and not a game. D0es bowling require as much physical activity as, say, playing basketball? No, of course not, but it DOES require some form of physical activity to throw a bowling ball, and by definition it should be classified as a sport.
So, now I can get into the Olympic debate. It would make no sense to even try to classify bowling as a possible Olympic event if you couldn’t even classify it as a sport. But, if you go by the strict definition of the term “sport”, bowling does qualify, and now I can make the case for it to be included as an Olympic event.
BOWLING IN THE OLYMPICS
This has been a long debated subject, but to me, up until now bowling should NOT have ever been considered for the Olympics. I know what you’re going to say, I just made the point that bowling is a sport and not a game, so why am I against it being an Olympic event? To be honest, bowling isn’t organized enough to become an Olympic event. Bowling needs three things, in my opinion, to be considered for the Olympics: A unified governing body for bowling, a standardized set of rules covering the sport, and strict guidelines for lane conditions and bowling ball specifications. Let me get into each of those three points separately, as each is vital to getting bowling into the Olympics.
The unified governing body for the sport is key to Olympic consideration. If bowling wants to be taken seriously, then there should be one entity that makes up all the rules, regulations, and awards programs for bowling, so that no matter what continent you bowl on, you can rest assured that you are on a level playing field with someone who may be bowling halfway across the world from you. This governing body, which I would like to see called the International Bowling Federation, or IBF, can pool together all the different ways the sport of bowling is played in different countries, and come up with guidelines that everyone has to follow. Now, I would also like to see continental control through smaller sibling organizations to the parent organization, which is the IBF. There could be the following groups that make sure rules are followed on a more localized level, and report back to the IBF:
North American Bowling Congress (NABC)
Central American Bowling Congress (CABC)
South American Bowling Congress (SABC)
African Nations Bowling Congress (ANBC )
European Bowling Congress (EBC)
Asian Bowling Congress (ABC)
Australian Regional Bowling Congress (ARBC)
Middle Eastern Bowling Congress (MEBC)
These subsidiaries of the parent IBF would be able to more easily distribute awards, and make sure rules are followed in each region. You will still have your local associations like you have now, but there would be more strict international guidelines to follow so that if a bowler moves to the United States from Iraq, that person knows they are still bowling under the same rules and regulations they bowled in back in Iraq. This would be a BIG step forward for bowling as an Olympic sport, as it shows unity and consistency for the sport worldwide, which is key for ALL Olympic sports.
Now that I have covered the governing body, and the need for standardized rules for the sport of bowling, I will show where lane and bowling equipment specifications are the final key to the Olympic puzzle for bowling. One problem facing bowling throughout the years is that you can bowl in one bowling center, and then move to the next bowling center, and the lane conditions are COMPLETELY different. Sometimes it is like night and day. Opponents of Olympic bowling sight this as THE reason bowling will never be an Olympic sport. It is just too hard to regulate lane conditions. Maybe so, but there has never been an international body like the IBF that I suggested to oversee the sport of bowling and make sure the local center comply with international guidelines to keep their sanctioned status. The IBF could expand upon the red, white, and blue oil condition program that the current USBC is trying to implement. Basically this program has three oil pattern going from easier to more difficult. The first oil pattern would be used for your recreational bowling, and the second oil pattern would cover all sanctioned league bowling. The third oil pattern would be for tournament bowling, and would be used everywhere there is sanctioned tournament bowling. This would show the Olympic community that no matter where you bowl, depending upon what type of bowling you are doing (recreational, league, or tournament), you would always be bowling on the exact same lane conditions as a person doing the same thing on the other side of the planet. The local and continental associations would be responsible for compliance with the lane condition regulations, and report back to the IBF for final sanctioning of bowling centers, leagues, and tournaments. If you want to learn more about the current red, white, and blue lane condition program by the USBC, go to www.bowl.com and type in “red, white, and blue” under search, it is very good info, and a good step forward for the sport of bowling.
Lastly, bowling ball specifications and lane inspections would have to fall under a “one size fits all” definition for bowling to be considered an Olympic event. You can’t have one country allow different ending bowling ball statics, ball hardness, or lane length and width (for example) from another country. The IBF would have to come up with a blueprint for EVERY country that sanctions with the IBF to follow, or else they lose their sanctioning status. This is no different than what we do now in the United States with the USBC and their equipment specifications, it would just be amped up on a global scale to cover ALL countries and ALL bowlers who sanction. If this can get done, there would be no other reason to exclude bowling as an Olympic sport. Bowling would have a unified governing body, standardized rules for EVERYONE who sanctions, and strict equipment and lane specifications for every sanctioned bowling center to follow. I have felt that, up to now, bowling should not have been considered for the Olympics. But, if the sport wants that kind of status, I think the guidelines I have outlined could be done so that bowling is on par with other international sports. Bowling is the #1 participation sport in the world, it is time we get it recognized for the great sport that it truly is, and get bowling in the Olympics! Thank you for reading, as always the opinions expressed in this blog are my own, and in no way reflect the opinions of the MSUSBC or any of its members. Please feel free to comment on anything you read in the blog, and I will make sure I get back to you ASAP, thank you.
-James Goulding III