Enough is Enough


The great sport of bowling needs help, now. Enough is enough.


Yogi Berra has never received proper recognition for the unbridled logic rooted in his ‘Yogi-isms’. Humor aside, deeper meanings abound. Factor the state of today’s bowling into Yogi’s commentary: “This is like de ja vu all over again”; “You can observe a lot just by watching”; “You got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, otherwise you might end up somewhere else”; “If you can’t imitate him, don’t copy him”. Consider a personal favorite: “Enough is enough”.

The great sport of bowling needs help, now. Enough is enough.

Name a recreation suffering more misunderstandings than does bowling. It is hard to do. Name a recognized competitive activity inflicted with a worse image than bowling. Even harder to do. Name any activity viewed with less regard as a sport than bowling.  Hardest to do. Enough is enough!

Bowling: the sport of the great unwashed. Bowling, Pizza, and Beer/Moe, Larry and Curly: born to be together. Bowling: the sport where you gain weight while competing. Bowling: where the shoes look borrowed from Barnum and Bailey, plus the sizes are advertised, making bowling just right for that special date.  Enough is enough!

Bowling in the Olympics? “Absolutely,” say the pundits, “right after poker, full contact checkers and hot dog eating, ha, ha, ha ha”. Considering what ESPN periodically telecasts, don’t bet much against that possibility. Enough is enough!

Metaphysical experts advocate “what others think of me is none of my business”. The bowling industry seemingly disagrees. Instead, decades have passed with trying/failing to satisfy all customers: some who never get close to shooting 200; some who expect to average 230 or will threaten to move to a center across town; some who not only  demanded a smoke-free environment but also want one alcohol free; others wanting cocktail waitresses frequenting the settee area. Those in the business of bowling react with palms-up and voicing “what do I do now?”. Enough is enough.

Interest in any sport leads to increased participation in that sport as competition/ recreation. When the PBA thrived, so did league play. Competitive-minded league players entered tournaments. Preparation for tournament play meant more open play for practice. Recreational bowlers cannot by themselves save bowling as a business. Reemphasizing competitive bowling can be the sport’s savior if action is taken now, through thought, word and deed. Enough is enough!

 ‘Yogi-isms’ for bowling are ‘tru-isms’. “De ja vu all over again” correlates the ever-present burden placed on league/tournament bowlers to be competitive with the ever-increasing cost of updating equipment. “You can observe a lot just by watching” is reversed in bowling. Those aspiring to success in other sports watch the best compete and try to emulate their style. The aspiring bowler wants to know what ball the best are using, and what the drilling pattern is. “You got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, otherwise you might end up somewhere else” apparently misses the bowling industry. Rock-N-Bowl has been great, but has long since proven to be faddish, still profitable for some, although very difficult to be relied upon to assure long-term solvency for proprietors. “If you can’t imitate him, don’t copy him” means don’t try what you can’t do. Twenty years after the advent of resins balls, bowlers with high ball speed and high revolutions dominate. Pre-resin, accuracy and finesse were required. If Happy Gilmore types don’t win golf’s Master’s maybe they should try bowling.

To help rekindle bowling’s respect in the world of sports, simplification is needed. Simplify the procedures toward becoming fundamentally sound. Simplify lane maintenance parameters. Simplify the equipment needs to become a successful player.

Four elements make up bowling’s scoring environment: pins, lanes, balls, and the player. Each needs adjustment.

Pins: Decades ago, two voids were included in the lower half of each pin, ostensibly lowering the center of gravity, limiting the resiliency to falling, with the apparent goal of increasing scoring. Now pins fall too easily. Gravitational centers need raising.

Lanes: Although bowling industry data shows the number of games per-lane, per-day is unfortunately low, today’s lanes suffer more wear than in anytime in bowling’s history. Resurfacing is expensive, for wood lanes or synthetic lanes. To help proprietors, no ball’s coefficient of friction should exceed what can be generated via a 4,000 grit surface.

Balls: Imbalance, whether resulting from weight-block configuration or drilled holes, needs stricter limitations. The center-line of a player’s grip should not exceed one inch from the ball’s center of gravity. No holes should be for other than gripping purposes. Total differential should be capped at 0.01. Balls should be symmetrically cored.

Player: All sports requiring the hitting, kicking or throwing of a ball share a commonality of physical fundamental skills to assure competitive success: rhythm, balance, timing, leverage, and accuracy. Skilled teachers in individual sports need not see where the ball goes to identify talent, except bowling teachers. This phenomenon of bowling is a curse, not a Blessing. Bowlers need first to be taught management of the physical “trade” (walk straight, swing straight, follow-through straight) before graduating to implementation of the “tricks of the trade” if bowling is ever to stand alongside respected sports.

Many specific years earmark competitive bowling’s decline. 1957: voids in the pins. 1967: first automatic scoring system. 1974: soaked bowling balls. 1978: first patent for synthetic lanes requiring applications of oil. 1981: urethane balls. 1992: the Excalibur. 1997: ended 35 years of the PBA Tour on ABC. Any of these alone can’t extinguish competitive bowling, but together,,,,,?

Still, a gloom and doom outlook for bowling’s future as a sport is at least pre-mature, hopefully totally unnecessary. Junior Gold participant numbers are encouraging. Those young players are the future. Now is the time to nurture their interest. It is not too late.

One last Yogi-ism: “it ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings”. Events from 1957, 1967, 1974, 1978, 1981, 1992, 1997, are not solely responsible for today’s unfortunate state of competitive bowling, but they do need remembering if repeating is to be avoided. May the 2012/13 be a big year for improving bowling in image and viability as a sport, and may the fat lady have laryngitis.