Sunday, November 29, 2009

Attn: Professional Bowlers Association

I have been watching the PBA on ESPN lately. I must admit that it has become a lot more interesting now that I relate much better to the trials and tribulations of professional bowlers. This ability to relate has come with experience, a better understanding of pin action, lane conditions, technology, etc. In light of bowling's incessant search for legitimacy in the world of sport, clearly the ability to personally relate to something is key to success. Most people simply can't relate at this level because these are subtleties. Everybody can relate to a linebacker plowing over a receiver or a baseball flying over the center field wall, even though they have never done these things themselves. It's much more difficult to understand why a ball one inch from the pocket doesn't result in a strike if you are not a regular bowler.

A couple of nights ago, I was reading my US Bowler mag and read a quote by Norm Duke. The story was about his Best Bowler ESPY, and he said, "The ESPY's is a chance for bowling to reside alongside all the other sports. Whether you believe baseball, basketball, and football are the top tier sports, for a week we're all the same." This sentiment seems to be expressed over and over again by bowlers and bowling organizations. You are looking for an audience. You are looking for acceptance in the world of sport. You are looking to grow the sport.

Well, this morning, I had an interesting idea. I was watching Shannon Pluhowsky bowl. Damn, can she roll a sphere. I realized that bowling has an opportunity that is not available to most other sports. Women can compete with men. There may not perfect parity, and certainly men throw a lot harder than women, but if you took the best 20 women in the world and had them compete with the top 20 men, I would guess that a woman would come out on top from time to time. I have no idea how often this would happen. I couldn't even find women's stats on the PBA website.

That said, I think that having separate tours for women and men is a good thing. The best reason is that it doubles the number of professional bowlers, but here's what I would suggest. You should have one event annually where gender is irrelevant. You want people to care? People still may not be able to relate to the subtleties of bowling, but they could easily relate to this. How many women in the world have been subject to sexism? How many women feel like they are trying to succeed in a world or career dominated by men? These issues are exacerbated in sport where basic biological and physical characteristics of the sexes give men a distinct advantage. But in bowling as in life, women can compete with men, and they can compete well.

I am not talking about a token appearance of Michelle Wie in a golf tournament, which by the way always draws a lot of interest. I am not talking about the circus like atmosphere of Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs. I am talking straight up head to head competition between athletes on a level playing field. Why not? There is no better sport in which this could be done. And why shouldn't it be done?


  1. Hey. I JUST read this and was almost knocked unconscious by a BFO. Men and women bowl against each other in league, soooooooo...

    Okay, then. Nevermind. Next post...

    (Blinding Flash of the Obvious)

  2. There is a women's league right before ours on the other side of the lane. Because sex based differences in sporting ability have been engrained in my head since childhood, I continue to be impressed at how well women bowl. But why should I be? They bowl really really well. If I was in that league, I wouldn't be in the 50% percentile of bowlers. From what I can tell, they regularly roll in the 180's to 250's.

  3. I am pretty sure there is at least one tournament that there is some kind of male vs female format (I remember seeing it on TV not too long ago) but I couldn't find the name of it. Apparently the PBA is inviting a womens champion to bowl in their Tournament of Champions this year (January?). Also, check out Liz Johnson's bio on Wikipedia. She has bowled in men's tournaments in the past and won one.
    You raise a good point. Most of the women in our league have better averages than mine.

  4. You are correct about liz johnson. Her bio says she was the first woman to qualify for a "standard PBA event." I wonder what it takes to do so.

  5. You've been talking to your mother again I see?

    I would note that Women and men are equals in Wii bowling.

    Also, I'm still waiting for the duckpin/candlepin posts. Duckpin/Candlepin balls are less random and clumsy than a big ol' 10-pin ball. They were more elegant weapons for a more civilized age.

    Next time you're in VA, we're going Duckpinning.

  6. Good to have you here, bro. Nice star wars reference. Coincidentally, I'm watching it right now. I assume you have sen this, my only duckpins post. You are featured in it as well.


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