John Parks first bowled in a league when he was in the eighth grade, but he participated more in football and baseball while attending Falls Church High School. It was after graduating from there that he became more serious about bowling, joining a league at Bowl America Falls Church, in which his parents competedóand heís been bowling ever since.
He has a half-dozen perfect games to his credit, and he recently scored a career-high 822 series at Bowl America Shirley. He also is the answer to the trivia question, Who won the all events title in the 1993 BOWL Magazine Tournament?
Since 1994, Parks has served as the director of Tournament Concepts, a club which features a variety of formats, most of which involve scratch competition. Following a recent ladies handicap event at AMF Alexandria, Parks spoke with Editor Bob Cosgrove about his tournament club and other topics.
Tournament Concepts: How did that concept come into your mind?
We started with me, Chuck Rupertus, and Rodney Cahow. Paul Friend also sat down with us to discuss rules. He helped us start different stuff for the tournament.
We wanted to see a club format that did different things. The formats we do are stuff I like that we donít see very oftenófun type of formats that people like to bowl in.
I know the Masters was doing theirs, and it was basically the same format all the time. By doing the same formats all the time, people get tired of them.
Itís like when some of the centers run tournaments in their houses, people get tired of going to the same house tournament all the time.
Thatís why we wanted to do things differently and go to different centers in different areas.
What else did you plan to do differently?
The way we run the tournamentsóChuck is with the computers, and thereís no one else doing it that way. He designed the program. We use the barcode reader to get the scores, and thatís one reason why we can update things faster than anyone else Iíve seen as far as tournaments go. And that was another reasonóthe technology we use.
Are scratch bowlers more trouble to deal with than the handicap bowlers?
Not for me. Iíve mostly dealt with scratch bowlers, and Iíve been a scratch bowler for a long time, too. We did a couple of handicap tournaments that really didnít do anything, and you get some who will complain, but itís not that bad.
I have learned by being a tournament director that I donít try to complain about things when I bowl in tournaments.
When weíve had formats they donít like, we wonít do them again, but there are some that generally draw more bowlers than others do.
A lot of people have complimented us on our technology, and I always direct that towards Chuck because thatís been his deal. They like the way we do it. They know we do it honestly, and we do it right. They know itís going to be done correctly every time weíre there.
Everyoneís not going to agree with every decision we makeóyou canít please everybody. We try to, but you canít please everybody.
What kind of help do you get from the centers?
Certain centers will let you put down different lane shots; some centers wonít. It just depends, I guess, basically on the manager you have.
There are some centers in the area that wonít promote tournaments unless they are their tournaments. I donít agree with this because itís the sport of bowling, period, and you try to promote it whether Iím doing it or someone else is doing itóyouíre promoting the sport of bowling!
But most of the centers around here will help you, and theyíll do whatever you ask them to do. We donít ask that much from them, mainly lanes. Hopefully, theyíll have a clean center. We donít go to centers that we donít feel do a good job as far as wanting us in there.
Is there anything else that centers could do to help you as a tournament director?
Centers could promote tournaments better to get more house bowlers. Some of the employees need to be more informed.
A lot of times we hear from people who called a center, and the people there knew nothing about our event. Mostly the managers are the ones who know about it, but some of the people working for them donít know what is going on.
What effect did last yearís folding of the Masters have on Tournament Concepts?
I think the Masters had certain people following it, and we had a certain amount following us. Both tournaments had about 30 or 40 guys who would go to all of them.
We stayed pretty steady throughout the last year. Our entries went up at the end of last year after they folded in July. There were some bowlers who were bowling [the Masters] that are not out. They just didnít want to come out and bowl our tournaments, and I donít know why. But most of the guys who bowled the Masters have come out and bowled one, twice, or three times.
Thereís not a lot of competition out there, but there are other tournaments that people do choose to bowl in, whatever their reasons.
Do you prefer high- or low-scoring events?
I would rather see low-scoring events, but you have to have variety. You have to have tournaments where you give íem lights out, and you also have to have tournaments that are low-scoring.
For instance, we just had a tournament at Bolling Air Force BaseóPotomac Lanesóand out of 50 guys, we only had two people who were "plus." And I only had one complaint about lane conditions.
In general, most scratch bowlers would rather to see lower-scoring conditions. Lower scores can keep everybody in the thick of things during a tournament. As long as you can make your spares, youíre going to stay up there.
Is there one format that the bowlers seem to like over all the others?
The one that most of the people like as far as what Iíve seen is the Shooters Scratch Marathon, which has the eight-game format and top five stepladder. That seems to be the one people will follow the most.
When we get to the 12-gamer, we donít get that many bowlers because people donít think they can bowl that many games.
The eight games and top five are kind of a mid-range between the shorter tournaments and the longer ones.
Whatís the toughest part of being a tournament director?
Trying to make decisions as far as when lanes break down or approaches get sticky, and youíve got to move people because some people donít like to be moved. Things that are out of my control are the hardest things. I have to do something, and some people are not going to be happy and some people will.
Have you ever been so frustrated by a situation that you no longer wanted to be a tournament director?
Chuck, Herman [Lee Jr.], and I get frustrated because some times you donít get a good turnout when thereís nothing else going on, and the bowlers simply donít come out that weekend. We run a lot of tournaments, and there are a lot of tournaments out there.
I understand where people have family matters or they donít have the moneyóI understand all that. Iím not the person to say that I expect you to be there every week. But there are plenty of bowlers in this area to be able to support a scratch tournamentó60, 70, 80 guysóevery two weeks.
How many bowlers are part of Tournament Concepts?
Last year, we had about 350 members. This year, we're at about 205, I believe. But we do have bowlers who pay a non-member fee all the time.
Thatís one of the things we get frustrated about: We donít know why people donít come out because there are a lot of bowlers here.
Are you satisfied with the progress of Tournament Concepts in the past four years?
Weíre satisfied as far as progressing through í94-í95 and í96-í97. In 1998, weíve slacked off a little bit. Weíre still getting around 40 all the time, but it has slacked off and we donít know the reason why.
I know some of the guys are taking time off. Some guys buy houses, and they donít come back out for a while. Familiesóweíre talking about young guys who get married and start families, and that takes a toll, too.
Weíre satisfied because weíve progressed every year. In 1998, March and April were a little slow, but other than that, weíre doing fine.
Are there any major changes planned for Tournament Concepts?
Not really. When we first started, we eventually wanted to branch out to different areas, but itís kind of hard to do because when we go to areas like Pennsylvania, people donít know who we are. People are a lot less likely to trust you if they donít know you.
We do tournaments in Richmond, and weíve had a good following there, but from talking to guys down there, thereís just not enough scratch bowlers to have tournaments down there all the timeóor theyíre either afraid to come out and play against the guys who are there.
Do many Richmond bowlers compete in this area?
We get a lot of Richmond bowlers, such as Kip Roberts, Trip Roberts, Paul Zevgolis, and Earl Herndon. There's probably about 15 to 20 of them that come up hereósporadicallyóbut they do come up. It just depends on what's going on down there because of a lot of them bowl Team Challenges, too. Most of them come when we're in Virginia.
Which bowlers have impressed you the most?
Rich Wolfe, of course. I think heís the best bowler in the area. Tony Waltonís done well.
There are not a lot of "up and comers" out there. Most of the ones now bowling already have arrived on the scene and have done well.
Other guys I can think of include Chris Johnson, Lee Vanderhoef of Baltimore, and Trip Roberts of Richmond.
I really donít want to say a bunch of names because Iíll forget a lot of people!
Do you think it important that bowling becomes an Olympic sport?
It couldn't hurt. I think it would be good for the sport of bowling, yes. That way, you're getting more national exposure. Plus, it will get on TV, probably. In this area, I can't find bowling even when it's on TV. As far as it getting bowling recognized as a sport, it would help, instead of somebody saying that it's just a recreation.
How do you see Tournament Concepts five years from now?
Iíd like us to be bigger and to have made a difference in bowling as far as scratch bowling and promoting it. Iíd like to see more ladies come out and bowl in the ladies tournaments
Any final thoughts?
I wish all the centers in the area could work together and promote bowling and not be so narrow-minded. As I said, there are some centers in the area that will promote anything; they donít discriminate just because itís someone elseís tournament or flyers or whatever.
This area needs to come together as one, as a whole, instead of one person going one way, another person going another way. Theyíre just fighting each other, and bowlingís not going to get better until they come together.
Other occupation: Painter Ö owner of All-American Painting for five years. "Iíve been doing drywall and painting since I was out of high school."
Personal vehicle: Chevy Van
Favorite cereal: Frosted Mini-Wheats
Fast-food joint: Burger King
TV shows: "NYPD Blue," "Brooklyn South," "Cops," "Americaís Most Wanted"
Movie: Titanic, Raiders of the Lost Ark and the Star Wars series
Actor: Jack Nicholson, Tom Cruise, Wesley Snipes, Arnoldó"I like action sort of stuff."
Actresses: No favorite
Favorite pro: Pete Weber. I like his fiery attitude and his competitiveness. A lot of people say bad things about him, and I can understand where theyíre coming from, but the way he goes about it and the way he competes, I like that.
Parker BohnóI like Parker Bohn. I donít like Walter Ray [Williams Jr.]. If somebody wins a lot, people donít like to see him win all the timeóthat could be one reason. I donít like his style of bowling; he looks awkward when he bowls, but he gets the job done. I like Norm Duke, too.
Most interesting local bowler: I like talking to Rich Wolfe because heís been out on the PBA Tour and can tell you about that and the different cities heís gone to. That was something I wanted to do when I was younger, go out nationally, but itís not very feasible now.
I talk to Jimmy Lewis a lot because he knows a lot about bowling. If I need advice on lane conditions sometimes, I talk to him because heís played on probably everything thatís out there, and he keeps up with whatís going on down south.
Bowling goal: I have my six 300s, and I had an 800ó822 at Bowl America Shirley just recently. I havenít been bowling PBA regionals, and I wouldnít mid going out and doing that. I have made finals, but I wouldnít mind making stepladders or even winning one. I need to be more competitive. I usually can cash pretty much when I go somewhere, but I need to be more consistent in getting higher up in the standings
Living person Iíd like to meet: One of the U.S. presidents
Historical figure Iíd like to meet: Elvis Presley
Greatest fear: Not being able to bowl anymore.
Motto: "Take it one day at a time."