The Truth ($1000 – Code Of Ethics)

It’s a stupid game…as is golf, tennis, baseball, basketball, football, etc. But why has the participation of the competitive side of THIS silly game diminished so drastically over the last 30+ years? Why do professional bowling prize funds continue to taper off to practically nothing while other professional sport businesses have sky rocketed? Well, so many of “us” KNOW the answer to that question. Unfortunately that answer seems to have been consistently ignored by ignorant, selfish, unqualified, and/or unknowledgeable folks who have run the organizations, businesses, and associations who control the governing and promoting of this game.

Bowling, like so many other silly games, is a wonderful test of skills. There is nothing I enjoy more than throwing a bowling ball…with creativity, precision, power, control. There is nothing I HATE more than the current state of the sport. It is THE joke of the sporting world. This isn’t just my opinion. Ask around about the current state of bowling, about the Tour, about the level of award scores…..the most common answer I hear, “It’s a joke.” Why? Again, so many of “us” know, but yet, STILL, nothing is being done (with any kind of effectiveness) to save it from its inevitable demise.

There are many that say it is the bowling ball manufacturers’ faults. The balls have gotten too aggressive, they soak up too much oil, create too much friction, flare too much, and hit too hard. If you continually feed a child candy, chances are, they are not going to eat their vegetables. Ball manufacturers make the candy. It is NOT their fault.

There are some that say that it is the bowling alley proprietors fault. They have made league bowling too easy. The scores have gotten too high. Problem? Yes. Fault? No. If you let a dog get away with all its bad habits and behaviors forever, that dog will never run away. But, punish it for bad behavior and reward it for good behavior, you’ll end up with a loyal and well-mannered dog. Spoiling the dog to get it to stay with you is a problem! But, will it “kill” the dog? Probably not – it just makes you a bad dog parent.

I am done holding back. THIS is my opinion:

Ding, ding! Suspend me, I don’t care. I quit caring 3 ½ years ago and now that I am no longer under any contracts and have no reliable income from this sport, I feel it is time to let my friends, family, fans, and followers know EXACTLY how I feel. The fault belongs to the United States Bowling Congress (USBC, formally known as the ABC, WIBC, YABA. They combined due to such drastic declines in membership), the Bowling Proprietors Association of America (BPAA), and the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA), collectively. They have not done their “jobs” to GOVERN this silly game. Sure, there have been futile efforts to promote “tougher” more competitive avenues of playing, but never a full fledged effort to GOVERN!

Let’s start with the objective of the game, to knock the PINS down. What has the USBC done to govern the pin? Technology has advanced tremendously in ALL sports and the respective governing bodies have made modifications in the specs and allowances of the playing field. What has changed about the PIN? I will tell you. It has been made to be knocked down EASIER! Look at all of the advertisements for newer pins. Higher scoring is almost ALWAYS the focus. And the USBC CONTINUES to put their “USBC Approved” stamp on them. WHY?! Ignorant, selfish, unqualified, and/or unknowledgeable folks. It is THEIR fault.

Let’s move on to the pin decks, the surface that those pins stand on. What has been done to govern the fact that these surfaces have been made
(and advertised) to help the pin fall down easier, to make them bounce more, travel further and faster? The USBC continues to inspect these new “higher scoring” pin decks and continues to approve them without effectively modifying any rules, specs, or limitations. It is THEIR fault.

What about the flat gutter and the kickbacks or side walls? Again, now being made to help the pin bounce more, fly faster, fall down easier. What has been done to modify or update rules, specs, allowances with this modern technology? Whatever has been (if anything at all) hasn’t been the least bit effective…because the scores continue to escalate (which they apparently condone….because not doing anything to change it means it is OK!) all the while participation and sanctioned play continues to decline. This is not a coincidence. It’s called correlation! And this is NOT OK. It is THEIR fault.

Pheew, deep breath. Now let’s think about the playing field for the previous 60 feet, the lane surface itself and the oil applied to these newer surfaces. Again, redundant as it may sound, these too are promoted as “higher scoring.” Here is where there has been much “attention.” There have been efforts (futile and ineffective means of maintaining so-called integrity) to educate people, give bowlers opportunities to compete on a ‘measured’ (hardly ‘governed’) playing field, and attempts to control scoring pace. These efforts have been, for the most part, failures, as Joe Bowlers have been spoiled so badly with the easiness over the past 3+ decades. Very few of those average Joe Bowlers are interested in being punished in these environments…(i.e. USBC sport compliant conditions, PBA oil patterns) and I say punished with a giggle. It’s hardly punishment, as the scoring pace of these environments matched those of the “easy league conditions” which prevailed a few decades ago.

 

Back to the tool to knock the pins down, the balls. It’s not the manufacturers fault. Yes, they soak up too much oil, create too much friction, and flare too much, resulting in the oil companies desperately trying to make thicker oils that will change less….also resulting in lane men forced to place more oil on the lane. Back in the 60’s and 70’s, a thimble full of oil would sufficiently oil a PAIR of lanes for SEVERAL DAYS. Currently, a test tube full only lasts a few HOURS on a SINGLE lane. Truth is, put whatever “pattern” you want out there, but by the end of practice, good players will destroy the integrity of that “pattern” and “groove it” to their liking. This is out of control, and why? Because the USBC and PBA have not done enough to limit what the manufacturers can and can’t do! These high-tech bowling balls have been a major contributing factor in destroying the integrity of the scoring pace as well as what the game SHOULD be about. But these balls are USBC and PBA approved…so once again, it is THEIR fault!

 

Before I move on, WHY is the Masters scheduled to take place in…..FEBRUARY…… IN GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN?!?!? REALLY?!?!? WHO wants to go to the TUNDRA in the prime of its coldest, snowiest season?! There are not too many of us making a decent living throwing a bowling ball. Hence, the reason many of us have other jobs. WHY would these kind of folks want to use vacation time to go to GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN in FEBRUARY?! Personally, I just don’t think I love it that much anymore. Sorry.

Now on to the BPAA. I will repeat, it is NOT the proprietors fault. They run a business. They provide a playing field that promotes what the average Joe Bowler wants. They are in the business to make money, not save the game. And the BPAA has not done its part to control this outlandish scoring pace either. Shame on them for not. As a matter of fact if I’m not mistaken, they INSISTED on ALLOWING the lanes to be made easier (sometime in the 80s?). Shame on them and shame on them for destroying the best, most prestigious event in the world, The U.S. Open, an event that was the most demanding and enduring of them all. This is, or once was, the ONLY tournament that I feel adds any validity to a professionals resume’. The rest are kind of just tallies. The US Open always seems to get its own line.

These two organizations as a whole have not been who they should be. They have not done what they should do. The USBC should be focusing on governing the sport and the BPAA should be focusing on membership. Neither of them should be doing each others jobs, but they should be working together, doing what’s best for the game, GOVERNING and PROMOTING! I believe there could be some light at the end of the tunnel. The newer people in charge of these organizations COULD be the ones to make a difference. Let’s hope it’s not too late.

Ahhh, now to the final organization that I would like to “call out,” the PBA. PBA Titles used to mean something to me. 12 game sprints do not deserve the title of PBA Tour Champion. International Events that attract often less than 10 of the worlds best do not deserve the title of PBA Tour Champion. Erie’s Times News Open (a strictly local tournament) holds more prestige to me, as well as the locals, than any “regular PBA Tour event.” We actually bowl MORE than a handful of games! To be honest, I hate the scoring pace of that tournament too, but since OUR locals have been so spoiled over the years, they could not possibly make the tournament conditions difficult. I mean, geez, the people who bowl that tournament just bowl leagues, they are not professionals….why should the most prestigious local event be on anything different than the easy league condition?!?!?!? LOL & SMH (Laugh Out Loud and Shaking My Head)…..back to the PBA Tour. These new formats are a JOKE. The whole Tour is a JOKE. This isn’t just MY opinion, this is the opinion of the majority of the sporting world! Why?!? Its commissioner is another, not just MY opinion, “unqualified” person. He is just a damn journalist. How could a Professional Sport attract sponsorship that is run by a man with such mismatched credentials? I do not dislike Tom Clark, nor do I blame HIM. This is just another example in the long line of bad decisions that have been made by the new (2001) owners of the PBA! The PBA is a business….and it seems that the business model is sculpted around television advertisement. The interests of the players (whom are supposed to be the greatest bowlers in the world) have been neglected, resulting in a very unhappy group of independent contractors who are THE talent of the SHOW. And our fan base has been neglected as well since the Tour only competes in a select few cities that hardly attract an audience. The venues that DO attract great crowds and huge numbers of open field entries are ignored as well. How the HELL could Brunswick Carolier not be the host of a major championship EVERY year on the PBA Tour?!?!?! Bowling is about grass roots and the grass roots are being ignored. The focus is on that damn Sunday show on ESPN. It seems to be the only thing that matters to the business yet the interest in that show continues to decline, paralleled by the declining interest in the businesses supporting it. In the “business world” you have to make decisions. When decisions get made that are consistently detrimental to the stakeholders, people GET FIRED! Presidents, CEO’s and top management as a whole are responsible, fair or not, for the success of their companies….take SOME RESPONSIBILITY owners of the PBA….make some tough decisions. Or, put your business in the hands of people who can and will! Because YOU control MUCH of the sport of Bowling, and Bowling as a sport is dying a slow, miserable death. Fix the game, bring back the “old Tour” and get some people who KNOW “Bowling” AND sports marketing to take control.

Let’s take a look at a couple stats provided by bowl.com. I was born in 1976. The ‘76-’77 season produced 1375 – 300 games by sanctioned league competitors. The 2012-2013 season produced 57,635 by CONSIDERABLY LESS (probably 50% or more) sanctioned bowlers. Unfortunately, bowl.com could not/would not provide me with the numbers of sanctioned bowlers for those years. In ‘76-’77 there were 197 – 800 series. In 2012-2013 there were 21,985. To my knowledge, membership reached its peak of just under 10 million around 1980. Last season (2013-2014) that number was approximately 1.7 million. Award scores up, sanctioned participation down. Correlation, not coincidence.

Provided by David McCarthy, Louisville, KY:

Membership in Louisville reached 23,000 in 1963 (men only) . ….. only 11 averaged over 200 none over 205. Last year 4700, with a huge number of women who bought mens’ sanctions. Greater Louisville Bowling Association dates back to 1895 or 1899. In the first 55 years, there were 18 – 300 games. In the first 75 years there were 81 perfect games. In 1973 we had the first year with 10 perfect games. 300s have stayed between 325 to 375 per year for the last 10 years even with declining lineage. We have 4 or 5 in one league in a night. In 1996 we had 193 perfect games and in 2006 we had 332 (and 109 series of 800 or more). On a related note …. we just lost another center this past Sunday. That leaves us with 8 out of 34 (I think) still operating.

From an article written by Tom Clark in 2002: (quote courtesy of Rodger Meaney)

In 1952, Nagy and only 197 others rolled 300 from an ABC membership of 1.6 million bowlers nationwide. By 1980, when bowling reached its pinnacle with 4.8 million ABC league players, 5,373 perfect games were rolled. Last year, despite ABC membership shrinking to 1.7 million bowlers, there was a staggering 42,163 perfect games.

The sport as a whole is on a downward, out of control spiral and no one seems to be addressing the TRUE CAUSE. That cause IS the scoring pace. Look at kids and video games. I have actually heard people use this (as well as smart phones) as an excuse as to why participation is down. My argument to that is simple. Look at the other sports! They’re doing just fine. Sure, some of them are on a slow decline recently but their numbers were SO high they could afford a small loss. Bowling’s numbers peaked 30some years ago and have been on a steady decline since……..SINCE THE SCORES GOT OUT OF CONTROL! Back to the video game thing. When kids master a video game they lose interest. Once you beat Super Mario Brothers, why play? To see how fast you can beat it again? To see if you can beat it on ONE life? To see if you can beat it without ever warping? Well, I can tell you from personal experience, yes, that is what the kids would do…..but I don’t play Super Mario Brothers anymore………get it? You see the scoring in bowling only allows for 300. Once the mean or median score gets too close to that number, people will lose interest. Wellllll, HELLLLLLOOOOOO! Scoring pace up, award scores up, participation down, sponsorship down. It’s just a simple correlation. I am a college drop out. But, this isn’t brain surgery. TAKE IT AWAY! QUIT SPOILING THEM! DON’T RECOGNIZE THAT GAME ANYMORE! START OVER! THERE IS NOTHING LEFT TO SAVE!

Phew, another deep breath.

I will be making a passionate effort in the coming months and possibly, with any kind of remote success, years, to educate people who are interested and who maintain interest, the truths about bowling. I can not deny my love for this silly game. I am smart, talented, versatile, and have a knack for coaching, especially on the fundamental side. I believe that through my moderate but respectful success as a competitor I have developed the ability to instruct and coach proper fundamentals as good as anyone in the world at any level. It requires a basic understanding of physics and knowing how to use the body in such a way to create power, consistency, repeatability, and longevity. These traits are what the game is about and what I believe create the best enjoyment out of it.

My plan is to provide competitive events on a regular basis, i.e. tournaments, short season leagues, sweepers (mini tournaments), organized jackpot games, and a Bowler Of The Year Program, as well as clinics, camps and individual one on one coaching. These events will be headquartered in but not limited to Mike Machuga’s Next Level Pro Shop inside my home center in Erie, Pennsylvania, Rolling Meadow Lanes. We will be competing on a variety of conditions (under MY RULES) with a variety of equipment focusing on helping people understand these playing fields as this is where I feel the previous efforts by the sanctioning bodies have failed. Bowlers have been provided these environments but have not been provided the education.

Who am I kidding, I probably ain’t actually gonna do any of that crap. I’d rather go spend my time at the golf course. Well, maybe I can squeeze it in when it is not golf season….Anyway, wanna learn good fundamentals, hire me. Wanna play bowling the way it SHOULD be played, contact me. Otherwise, peace. I’m out. Hope you enjoyed.

 

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Break A Leg

Break A Leg

It was just a Sunday afternoon at the park with Amy and our 3 kids (the dogs), 2 ½ days prior to departure for the PBA World Series of Bowling, and just 5 days before competition, when, against the keen and caring wishes of my beautiful, wonderful, and amazing, etc….. fiancé , I, invincible as I believe to be, decided to climb a fence.  ???   Because Dominick, the 8 year old Golden Retriever, was insisting on sniffing an area on the other side.  I had to know what was there.  ???  I just DID, OKAY!  Verbatim: “Do you really think you should be doing that before you have to bowl in a few days?  Wrists, ankles???!!!?!?!” Not 3 seconds after those words of wisdom, I landed  awkwardly on the other side and sprained my ankle.

Although getting through the airports was a bit rough, and after countless ice downs, baths of Epsom salt, and doses of ibuprofen,  I grinded through the World Series and look at this ‘mental brain fart’ as a little blessing in disguise.   One thing that is almost certain, is that the South Point Bowling Center  is going to have slippery approaches.  And those approaches get dirty, and then they get even more slippery, and they get inconsistent, and then I get pissed, and then I start whining, and then I start bowling bad cause I’m pissed, and ARGH it makes me MAD!  Sorry to Tom Clark, John Weber, and Kirk von Krueger, and whomever else who I forced to listen to my complaint.  But the fact of the matter is, this is an issue that many bowling venues should take into consideration.  It doesn’t take much time nor effort to keep the playing field clean, safe, consistent, and fair.  But, back to the ‘blessing,’ it forced me to focus more effectively, I think,  on better shot making and better awareness of what was going on around me.  Through the conscious effort of not getting more hurt, I looked at the leader board LESS and focused MORE on playing the lane to the best of my abilities and making ‘good shots.’ ’Good shots’ also happen to be ones that didn’t hurt.  Ones that hurt, were the ones where my slide would stick slightly and also the ones where my first two steps were, for lack of detailed explanation, not quite right.

Once again, my girl the Diva, was the weapon of choice for the week.  I also used the Brutal Nightmare a good portion of the time.  There seemed to be much less friction in the front of the lane than past events at South Point.  I heard that the PBA used Brunswick A22 oil and that this, along with some adjustments to the patterns, helped the heads hold up much better than before. It sure was noticeable and it was great to see the patterns play much different due to the drastic changes in their lengths.   When the fronts finally did get bad, I got to use The Dude for a few games.  This thing is AWESOME.  It flies through the chopped up and depleted fronts and maintains axis rotation amazingly well, annnnnd, IT’S BLACK!……with a hint of purple…. For the folks who get lost in bowling terminology and slang, it skids through dirt (goes long) and changes direction violently (snaps hard) to perfection, AND it HITS!  And it’s black!….with a hint of purple.  I will give some general details of the layouts on the balls I used at the end of this blog.

For those who may not know, I have switched back to 16 pounds.  This was a long and well thought out decision and I have noticed significant differences.  Stay tuned, I’ll explain later.

In short summary, it was ………. ehhhhhh…… a decent week.  Each round, with the exception of the finals on Chameleon (which was extra tough on the ankle), felt like I was just one “Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda” away from a GREAT round.  My finishing Places didn’t reward me as much as I felt was a quality week. I just didn’t finish the job off.  But, the “Fire” is back and I’m ready to….. Tonight We Bowl.

Balls of the Week:

Listed in order of estimated use for the entire WSOB

Diva – Pin Down 4 ¼  from axis, no x-hole, approximately 60 degree mass

I used this one, as usual, most often.  It seemed to be close, and sometimes perfect, on just about every condition we saw.  I can manipulate this ball, matched with this layout, very easily.  It always seems to read the right parts of the lane no matter what the environment.

Brutal Nightmare – Pin Up 5 ¾ from axis, no hole, approximately 70 degree mass

Another one of my favorites, this one worked well as the patterns got longer and the fronts were still slick.  I used it for the majority of all match play rounds in the World Championship.

Dude – Pin Up 4 ¾ from axis, approximately 45 degree mass, x-hole very small 2 ½ down v.a.l. from p.a.p.

We’ve had a little gap, between the Divas and Marauders, and the Misfits. That gap has been filled! This one allowed me to scoot it and get it back, from further down lane, and way further right than any other ball imaginable. Don’t wait, get one or be sorry.  You are going to see this ball A LOT.  And it is going to be doing tricks all around you.

Dude – Pin under bridge 5 ¼ from axis, no x-hole, approximately 65 degree mass

This one was the perfect compliment to the previous.  It is slightly longer in length (also due to a smoother surface texture) and slightly more even arcing than the Pin Up 4 ¾.

Diva – Pin Up 4 ½ from axis, approximately 45 degree mass, x-hole 7/8 x 3, 2 ½ down v.a.l. from p.a.p.

I only used her for a couple to a few games, but she complimented the Pin Down 4 ¼ very well.  She gave me just a little more length and a little sharper move down lane and fit right between the Pin Down Diva and the Pin Up strong Dude.

Brutal Nightmare – Pin Under bridge, no x-hole, mass 1” past v.a.l.

I drilled this one at the tournament for the fresh of the World Championship.  It gave me an earlier and overall stronger motion than the Pin Up 5 ¾ but I never got it to feel quite right, so I didn’t use it as much as I could and maybe should have.

Based on the descriptions provided above it is probably clear to you, the reader, that I could easily talk all day about these balls, their layouts, and putting them to use on the right conditions/environments.   At my Pro Shop we gather as much of this information as possible i.e. axis point, ball speed, rev rate, axis tilt, axis rotation…, and assure our customer that they are making the right choice when purchasing ANY bowling ball or other bowling need. So, stop in and see me or my staff in the Shop located inside the newly renovated Rolling Meadow Lanes or email us at proshop@machugabowling.com and ask how we can take your game to The Next Level.

Lastly, I must not forget to mention, the Moral of This Blog: Amy was right and I should listen to her more often.  I’ma gettin’ old and shouldn’t be doing such risky things to my body.  She’s right some other times too…..

P.S. She picked out her dress! I think it’s pricier than the ring! ;)  love ya babe!

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Meet The Press

As a benefit to switching to 16 pounds, I get an opportunity to strategically build a complete, competitive arsenal from scratch.  I understand that most of you out there do not have the luxury of traveling around with 26 bowling balls in your vehicle, so I have built my arsenal with exactly that in mind.  My goal was to build the simplest, but most versatile and complete arsenal that I, Mike Machuga, professional bowler, DV8 national staff player, and owner of Next Level Pro Shop, would take in to battle.

The first ball was more of a test for 16 pounds.  I had a Hell Raiser Revenge lying around the pro shop and decided it was time to give 16 a shot.  I used my typical favorite asymmetric layout with the pin above the fingers on the grip line and the mass bias swung to the right about 30 degrees.  I like to use a large extra hole on my axis with this layout.  After only a few games, I was convinced I was making the right move.  Now, it’s time to rebuild a Damn Good arsenal.

Ball #2 was an easy choice, a ball and I layout I know very well.  It is a Diva with the pin up in a strong position (4 ½ from my axis) with a strong extra hole (2 ½ inches down my v.a.l. from my axis).  This ball, with this layout, seems to work any and every where.  It gives me good length and strong backend on a variety of conditions and I can manipulate this ball well from a lot of different angles.

The 3rd ball I wanted to add was for the heaviest of oil.  It is the Endless Nightmare.  This is the base of the strong side of the arsenal.  I put the pin underneath the bridge for a little earlier and smoother motion.  The mass bias is swung to the right about 30 degrees.   I don’t think any lane man could put out too much oil for this ball.  She goes, she goes hard, and she keeps going.

Ball #4 was to take care of the other side of the spectrum.  I needed to have something for medium to dry conditions.  The Marauder Mutiny tackles this environment very well for me.  The pin is up above the fingers, on the grip line, with a c.g. swung just a little to the right.  The layout compliments the ball’s intended motion giving me a very clean pass through the heads and a controlled motion on the backends.

Ball #5.  I needed my “transition” ball.  It is a Brutal Nightmare with the pin way up above the middle finger, with a strong mass bias just right of the thumb hole.  This ball compliments my monster Endless Nightmare by giving me a little more length with some serious get up in the backend.  Beware of solid 9’s, this one corners hard!

Ball #6.  A compliment to my Bad A$$ B!+@#!  This is another Diva with the pin pretty low and strong about an inch right and above my center of grip.  When the condition calls for my girls, I like to have a few combinations.  This one grabs the mid lane slightly more than the pin up (Ball #2) and is overall a little stronger.  Diva is my favorite and most versatile ball in the DV8 line.

And that’s how you build a Damn Good 6 ball tournament arsenal. Tonight We Bowl!

 

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The Million Dollar Game…

After tossing around numerous topics to blog about after this years’ US Open I finally committed to answering a question which I have been asked repeatedly throughout the years. And so many times I’ve gotten the response of, “If I had your game, I’d have 15 titles” before I even have a chance to answer the question – question being, “How does someone with your swing, timing, versatility, and knowledge not win more?” I am humbly taking the time to answer that question.

We’ve all heard the coined phrase ‘jack of all trades and master of none’. It is my bowling religion TO BE a master of being a jack of all trades. The ‘master of none’ part has been the one missing piece. But, from the wisdom of Norm Duke, I believe that I do not have an A-game, I do not have a B-game, nor a one, two, or a three. What I have is the ability to play the game of bowling, and in my opinion if you’re going to play that game well, then you must be a jack of all trades. I hear so often in my teachings, exhibitions, coaching and in my own pro shop “I like to play that Walter Ray Williams, Jr. line….I just like to throw it up that second arrow with a little bit of hook on the end”. This person does not understand the game of bowling. It is not darts. It changes. Bowling is always played in a conditional environment and one must adapt to those conditions if they want to be successful. So many of my customers would rather bitch and complain than adapt. They’re not “playing” bowling. They’re throwing a bowling ball and waiting for the condition to adapt to them. That’s not me.

I also believe that being versatile is not solely about being able to play each arrow on the lane. To me it’s about being able to perform any desired combination of throwing a bowling ball. To be able to control axis rotation, axis tilt, ball speed, rev-rate, trajectory, launch angle, and loft (etc.?) is an art of which I’ve spent my entire career dedicated to masterfully personalizing. And matching one of those combinations to a condition placed in front of you is what we would like to think of as an equation that can be solved, but in reality it is just an estimation. There is always a way to play the lane in a manner which increases margin for error and carry percentage. I always want to have those working in my favor. If Wes Malott is throwing it over the gutter caps and covering 35 boards, I’m not going to watch him beat me. And if Norm Duke and Walter Ray Williams, Jr. are lapping the field playing right of the first arrow, I’m certainly not going to continue playing the part of the lane in which I feel I have no room to miss. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. And if you want to win, you have to beat THEM.

The moral of the story is the Boyz on Tour have gotten so good at their A-1 games and there are so many of them that it is very difficult to excel in their realm. I can compete on all ends of the spectrum and everywhere in between but I’ve not yet mastered those various points across the spectrum to beat the best in the world from any part of them. One still has to repeat a desired delivery and the toughest part of being as versatile as I am, is managing ALL of those ways to hurl it down there at those stationary objects. It gets even more difficult to master when we only bowl competitively at a top level every couple of months, as compared to the old tour when we competed in one tournament a week and then moved on to another city and repeated the process for approximately 20 out of 24 consecutive weeks. Still, everyone needs to find a way to compete when they can’t find the right combinations. I have to admit that over the years when I’ve been unable to find the right combination I have done a piss-poor job at grinding it out and staying in contention with the new formats of the tour. I learn every time I fail. But what I have done is develop a physical game which I believe can never be shut out. Sometimes I take too big of a swing for the fence.

Does that answer the question?

So about this years’ US Open… It was different, and I didn’t like it. And that’s all I have to say about that.

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Out of Focus

As I reflect back on a less than satisfactory performance at the PBA Summer Swing, I prod inside my soul for what drives me, what inspires me, what do I love about competing, where does that competitive fire come from and why does it turn on and off like a light switch?
When competing against the best players in the world (minus a few of them from these tournaments), one has to be at the top of their game, more so mentally than physically. It’s a complex and confusing equation that often times has no defined or correct answer, figuring out what angles, location, speed, tilt, rotation, cover stock, weight block, lay-out, etc. that will work to a player’s advantage and also play to his strengths. For some, the answer is provided, often times by chance that the environment just happens to be matched up to that player’s strengths. But for the best in the world, their job is to figure out how to get the job done. At the PBA Summer Swing, I, Michael Machuga (PROFESSIONAL Bowler), failed to do my job.
I make no excuses. I am physically gifted enough. I am smart enough. But I was NOT mentally tough enough. The conditions were not difficult to figure out. The attack plans were simple, tricky yes, but overall, fairly easy to see the general idea. I knew what I had to do to get the ball to the pocket and had a pretty good understanding of the carry, even with the asymmetry of the pin spotting. But why did I continue to bowl games 20-30 pins less than the par in relation to the scoring pace? Mathematically, it was easy to figure out! One too many opens per game is 12-35 pins off the tally, one marginal shot between good ones is 20, one missed spare is 11 or 12….easy to calculate and add up all the negatives to a result of MC (Missed Cut).
So what was the missing part of the equation? I find the answer on the golf course. My golf game is a mirror image of my bowling game. Obviously, not at the same competitive level! My golf swing is fairly simple and versatile. I am able to hit any shot that is needed, whether it be high, low, left to right, right to left, etc. But my scores are blemished by my mistakes. Obvious as it may seem, this is where the strokes (pins) add up. A mediocre tee shot has a CHANCE at Birdie if it is the PROPER miss. As in Bowling, a mediocre shot has a chance to hit the pocket, and at worse, leave a makeable spare. My mistakes at the Summer Swing were exactly like my mistakes in a bad round of golf. When trying to play a low draw with trouble down the right side, the inexcusable miss is a blocked high fade. When dealing with a flat pattern with sharp backends, the trouble is up front and the inexcusable miss is grabbed and left of target. In both cases, a likely bogey or split is the result. Surely, one can hit a great recovery, make a putt for a par, or, make a tough split resulting in a spare. On the score card it looks like no harm, no foul, but in the overall big picture of things, these mistakes will inevitably be the demise of your day. I could feel, at the Summer Swing, what mistakes could be rewarded and which mistakes WOULD be penalized. Mind and body were not on the same page. I repeatedly, like golf, continued to make shots that would inevitably be penalized, and I knew that result upon impact/release.
So, why could I not make myself stop the “penalized” release? I continue to prod my soul with that question. How could a seasoned veteran/Champion repeatedly make such juvenile mistakes? Was it lack of preparation? No. Bad technique? No, although, possibly the wrong thoughts on the approach. Bad equipment? NO WAY. Lack of motivation to stay focused?…..hrrrrmmmmmm……and the prodding goes deeper…..
There will be some serious soul searching on a couple of long flights to and from Italy for the Brunswick Italia Challenge. And there will certainly be a more focused and motivated Michael Machuga prepared to win a Green Jacket at the BPAA U.S. Open in Columbus, Ohio the 3rd week of July. This I promise you.

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“MY TURN”

After a long, lonely drive home from New Jersey, I have had plenty of time to relax and reflect on a solid, yet disappointing week at the Masters. There has been much talk on social media about some “situations” that occurred during the tournament. The ones that involve me are related to my match with Jason Belmonte. Here are the facts as I remember them:
Jason needed a double in the 10th frame of the 3rd game to shut me out. He failed to do so giving me the opportunity to throw a double to win the match. As most people know, I tend to take a little more time in pressure situations to gather myself before making the shot. Throughout my pre-shot routine, Jason was talking to himself, loud enough for me to hear him, as the approach is only just a few feet away. It seemed like he was done, so I attempted to get on the approach when he started again. I looked back at him to try to give him an idea that I could hear it, and he continued….. Finally, I had had enough, so I asked him, sternly, “Are you done yet?! Cuz it’s MY turn now.” He then scampered away seemingly very irritated, while mumbling something about how he can’t even use a pencil to write the scores down, and he was just “adding up the scores” (that were clearly visible on the scoring monitor above.) I had to shake-off his temper tantrum so I could actually make my first shot in the 10th. I aced that one and after getting a little jacked up, I took a little more time, again, to calm myself down and prepare for the next one to win the match. Things didn’t feel quite right and I could hear some of the construction going on for the TV set next to us, so I stepped away and started over. At this point, you could hear an ant’s footsteps in the bowling center. As I got into my approach, I was distracted by someone coughing, so I balked and had to restart, again…..Unfortunately, I was not successful, went high and left the 6-10 to let Jason win.
I have since been told that the person who coughed was a young girl that was attending her first PBA event and feels terrible about it happening. She is scared to come back to another event. I have been contacted by a person that knows her, and I plan on doing something special for her, as we (bowling in general) need to keep every fan that we have.
Shortly after the match, Jason approached me outside the locker room and asked me to go for a walk with him. We went outside and he began explaining how irate he was that he continues to put himself in those situations. After a couple minutes of listening to his rant, I asked him, “Belmo, is this an attempt at an apology?” He replied that it was and continued rambling, blah blah blah, so I told him, “Apology accepted. Good match,” shook his hand and walked away. End of story. But, in his feeble attempt at an apology, never once did he use the words “I’m sorry.” Instead, he said things like he’s so irate that he puts himself in these situations… as if this were all about him….so, if he was sorry about anything, it sure sounded to me like he was sorry only that he found himself in another version of “Bottlegate”.
Unintentional as he makes it sound, I cannot ignore the fact that this has happened in many different ways to opponents of his in the past. Crinkling water bottles, rocking in squeaky chairs, and talking behind your opponent (to no one) are not things that a professional should be doing while their opponent has a chance to perform to beat him. There is no defense in bowling and a true professional does all they can to AVOID such situations.

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PREPARATION

I got the idea for this blog from a Facebook post where I was soliciting input on topics….Thanks to Jeff Piroozshad for the question. I’m going to call this one “Preparation”. Basically, the question asked was what do pros take away from a practice session on tour, how does the practice session influence the ‘game plan’ for the next days’ squad, etc.
Prior to walking into the Bowl for a Tournament Practice Session on Tour, I reflect on previous experiences and try to remember what kinds of things seem to work consistently in that venue. I really don’t pay much attention to the so called “Oil Pattern” as the traits of the bowling center seem to ALWAYS prevail. Such characteristics could be: faster or slower ball speeds, hard or soft hands, asymmetric or symmetric weight blocks, certain company’s cover stocks, axis tilt and/or rotations, etc…. I then arrange a diverse arsenal based on that reflection, typically 6-10 balls. Usually, inside of 15 shots, I can eliminate the majority of my entire arsenal, which could be in excess of 25 balls at times. By this time, it is, hopefully, very clear what the general attack plan will be, what covers will work best, what layouts (pin up, pin down, strong or weak), what hand positions and releases I will be using, what surfaces will match up, etc.
The next half hour or so involves discussing (with ball reps, other players, etc.) what the expected scoring pace will be, the types of bowlers who will likely bowl well under the conditions, and any other information we can share with each other. As “we” figure out what equipment I will be using, we take another review of the arsenal to determine if anything is missing that would be needed for the next day (or at some point during the tournament week).
The last portion of the practice session is usually spent bouncing around pair to pair, paying attention to anything and everything that could provide insightful advantage throughout the tournament. These things could be noticing how pins bounce out of the pit, goofy racks, approach texture across the center, watching transition, etc.
Following practice, if need be, I head to the truck to meet with ball reps and finalize ball choices and layouts, fill out a spec sheet, and head to the hotel for dinner with Norm. The first question at dinner typically is “how’d ya play ‘em”…….it’s a coin flip on who asks who first. Tournament talk over dinner is usually limited to 8 to 15 minutes, though ‘other bowling business’ talk could go on a little longer. After dinner we negotiate departure time which often ends up being a very odd number (i.e., 7:27AM, at the car). Part ways with Norm at the hotel, get to the room, a quick good night phone call to my fiancé, and hit the hay. 7:27AM at the car comes mighty early for a guy who is used to howling at the moon…..
In the morning it usually takes me about three minutes per ball of workout time and an additional five or so apiece to tape them up. Once practice starts the ball reps mingle among the players, adjusting surfaces and discussing game plans. Throughout the practice session I focus on “clearing the mechanism”….because it is here that the mental preparation must take over…I’m convincing myself that I am prepared for this, and relying on my preparation…being my own cheerleader so to speak, and realizing there is no more prep work, now we go to battle. Practice ends with the customary pat on the ass from Chuck on the Truck, and from there….only one thing left to say…..DV8 Tonight We Bowl.
P.S. Follow along at www.pba.com and www.xtraframe.tv
Next Up….The Masters!

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50th Times News Open

I’ve got turning in my belly, random shots of adrenaline shooting through my body, nervous jitters, visualizations and fantasies of winning this thing all day long today. For what? It’s just a little local tournament? NO! This is the Times News Open. This is a tournament that the local bowlers get excited about each and every year. And it’s the 50th one! I do not know of any other of its kind. 5 days of bowling in 5 different bowling centers, over 240 entries, 16 man Round Robin Finals with a 2 game Position Round, $2500 First Place Prize with just a $75 entry fee. I love this tournament!

Unfortunately, due to scheduling conflicts, I have not been able to bowl this event since 1999. But this year, I wasn’t letting anything get in my way. I have won it once, in 1997, and I am determined to win it again. Tomorrow starts the Round Robin match play finals at Eastland Bowl and Sunday is at my home center, Rolling Meadow Lanes. I could not ask for anything more as these are my 2 favorite centers in the area. It will be a tall task indeed to win this thing. The field is strong to say the least:
Ron Palombi Jr, 6 time PBA Tour Champion and 2 time Major winner including a US Open, is looking good.
Mike Shady, PBA Tour Champion, also looks in mid-season form.
Lee Eighmy Jr, 5 time Times News Open Champ, is always a threat.
Cory Bithell is a striking mad man.
TJ Mitchell seems to be good at any sport he plays, and is the Qualifying Champion.
Rod Silman is bowling spectacular.
David Warren has been a competitor of mine since we were children, and I am sure would love to kick my ass.
And the rest of the field had to average over 223 to get there, so they obviously know what they are doing.

Being in the finals, surrounded by this group of such talented people, there aren’t many “right” words to describe the feeling….I am very excited to say the least.

So, tonight, I will have a highly anticipated Meatloaf dinner, cuddle on the couch with my beautiful fiance’ and switch the T.V. back and forth between Dateline and 20/20, enjoy our 3 dogs, and get a good nights rest for what is sure to be an exciting weekend of what I love to do most, Bowling. And so…the only other thing left to say is…DV8! This weekend, We Bowl.

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General

I will be using this mainly during PBA tournaments, focusing on the majors. But, I will also be writing random articles. Stay tuned! The truth shall be revealed!

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