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.