Web Special / June 28, 2005

The Credible and the Incredible

"Bowling is suffering from a lack of credibility in the scoring environment," says Jeff Henry, USBC director of sport. "Advancements in technology together with the artificial assist allowed by lane dressing specifications have led to an environment which minimizes the influence of player ability and skill development."

The United States Bowling Congress recently issued a news release stating USBC's concern with the degree of influence technology is having over player skills as the primary factor for success in bowling at all levels. This includes the lanes, lane conditions, bowling balls, and pins. Through improved set standards, following ongoing research by the USBC Specifications Team, the USBC will ensure the future of bowling does not suffer from the lack of sporting credibility.

As a bowling purist, these statements are music to my ears. Phony scores, extremely inflated averages, and record-shattering 300 games, 800 and yes, even 900 series, have not only destroyed credibility for bowling, they have actually made a mockery of the sport.

The affirmations by USBC have justified accusations, revelations, and criticisms that I have written about for the past 15 years regarding the deterioration of the "sport." I have been accused of "living in the past," not only by my usual detractors, but even by my adopted brother and best friend, Dick Evans, one of the most dedicated and prolific bowling writers in the history of the game.

I shall reserve any further comments on this subject pending the current discussions between USBC and bowling manufacturers at Bowl Expo in Orlando.

In the meantime, let's define the word "credibility." According to J.J. Rodale's Synonym Finder, credibility is defined as thus: reliability, believability, trustworthiness, integrity, faith, assurance, dependability, and constancy. Sounds pretty reasonable to me. In a word, it basically means honesty.

Are we to believe present-day bowlers have suddenly become 15 to 50 pins better than bowlers of the past? And, in view of all the 300s, 800s, and 900s currently being posted, are we expected to believe many of today's players are comparable, perhaps superior, to the immortals of the game many whom have performed their way into City, State, and ABC or WIBC Halls of Fame? No way, Jose!

Credibility, you say? For example, witness the following record setting performances during the past season:

The USBC lists other records for the 2004-05 season too numerous to mention, but I'm sure you get the idea. I mean no disrespect for the individuals posting these scores, but let's face it: We're not talking Patrick Allen, Walter Ray Williams, Chris Barnes, Norm Duke, Carolyn-Dorin Ballard, or any other world-class performer. The aforementioned are recreational bowlers and are merely products of the environment. However, not to be overlooked, it seems rather odd that three of these records were set in Decatur, Ill.

Are we going to really see credibility in bowling? The recreational bowler deserves the recognition and pride in the scores that they achieve. Unfortunately, the Professional/Sport bowler's achievements are muddled in the controversy related to the various conditions and equipment that diminish the focus on their skill. From my point of view, it is reasonable to assume that a clearly defined definition of the recreational and the Sport standards would result in an honest respect of the differences between the "sport" and the "recreation" and at the same time, bring the acknowledgment deserved by both.

Stay tuned.