The Competitve Quandary

It’s general knowledge that competitive bowling in many circles is not taken as seriously as compared to how competition is viewed in other sports. I can’t tell you the number of people that are shocked and amazed that there even is such a thing. In general, people in the Northeast live in a bubble when it comes to bowling. The look of shock and amazement crosses their faces when you mention that in many other places across our great nation, bowling is actually a Varsity sport in High School. Never mind, the jeers my daughter gets when she mentions she bowls NCAA Varsity in College and is on scholarship to do so. Maybe, in part it is the way bowling has marketed itself over recent years as being more of a recreation. Or maybe it has to do with the stereotype that many have of bowling in general…you know the out of shape guys going to the “alley” and slamming down pitchers of Beer while they bowl. Maybe it is those things combined with a host of others too.

In recent years there have been a few decisions made that I don’t think are in the best interest of the sport in general. One point that really bothers me is the notion of professionals bowling in amateur events. It happens in many sports and the biggest example is the Olympic games. But, even in our sport it has now become a standard to see our elite pros as members of Team USA. I know the argument, “all the other countries do it”. Sorry, I just don’t agree with that position, I find it a really weak argument. In my opinion, once an individual makes a choice to become professional at anything they are crossing a line. But, I’m also willing to concede that my statement is definitely up for a philosophical debate. I still maintain that Team USA should be comprised of amateur bowlers. Furthermore, I would like to see that team built from the college ranks and Jr. Team USA from the high school aged bowlers. After all this is the feeder system.

The main point though is that more and more amateurs, I mean good amateurs have increasingly nowhere to go. The USBC is even squeezing the Juniors by lowering their eligibility age perhaps with the hope that they will swell the adult ranks. Here is what all of this brings about. A good amateur has little or no chance of being named to Team USA…that’s a given. So, there may be tournaments for them to bowl in locally and nationally. But, even most of the high profile events have plenty of PBA members bowling in them as well. Good amateurs are usually squeezed out of those tournaments as well. Let’s understand I’m not bashing the USBC, PBA or its members, just trying to make a point.

Next come handicap tournaments…well the handicap system in bowling is broken based on the way it is calculated and with the amount of sandbagging that goes on, if you have an average of 200+ you might as well forget it. Here is an example of how crazy some handicap events get. I just bowled in a tournament and entered with a 219 average based on a local house shot. The tournament used a high percentage for calculating handicap. But, here’s the kicker…they used a PBA pattern! Now, I crossed with a bowler who threw a straight ball and entered with an average just over 160. The pattern has absolutely no impact on his game. He did pretty well averaging around 180 for the day. With his handicap he averaged around 240 per game. I was essentially bowling scratch; if I could average 240 on a PBA pattern, I’d be on tour! The point is, no consideration to adjust my average was allowed. I have an established Sport average (around 190) but the organization running the tournament does not recognize the difference! There was no way for me to compete under those conditions…so much for the handicap system in Bowling! Oh, by the way, an individual with a 120 entering average won the tournament!

Now, one final angle… bowlers leaving the junior ranks, whether they just bowl locally or in a college program are equally at a disadvantage. They may have been somewhat successful as a junior but, now faced with the above. Those coming out of competitive college programs may be better prepared to face the above. But, in either case they are generally in for a shock when they realize that what they had is now gone. Where do they go next?

As you can see this gets pretty frustrating in a hurry especially in the northeast where options are very limited.

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