Saturday, November 7, 2009

USBC: Bowling has lost its credibility

I like to make fun of the USBC. My usual targets are the rulebook and US Bowler magazine. I don't really have anything against the USBC. It's just fun to stick it to the man. I am generally very impressed with the governing body of American bowling. For example, I recently found a nerd's dream book, the Equipment Specifications and Certification Manual, which is filled with all kinds of detailed information about standards of lane, pin, and ball construction. It's a rather remarkable thing. I had no idea to what lengths the USBC had gone to standardize the game. Anyway, while I was perusing, the USBC website, I found an article with this headline: USBC Equipment Specifications and Certifications Committee adopts new bowling ball specification as part of continuing effort to reestablish bowling’s credibility.

While there is clearly some history here to which I am not privy, I found this rather remarkable. Below is a screen shot of the website. You can find it here. I'm curious if they will change it. In effect, this headline says that bowling has lost its credibility, or at least that this is the official opinion of the body that governs it.

In brief, this article has to do with a change to the rules governing bowling ball specifications, specifically the radius of gyration. This change will decrease the amount of action a ball can have or reduce its break. According to
USBC Technical Director Steve Kloempken, “We will continue addressing this issue and investigating possible specification changes until we get back to the point where player skill is as important as, if not more important than, technology in determining success on the lanes.” In other words, bowling ball technology has evolved to the point where scores are not really reflective of skill. Lower skill players can inflate their scores through the use of highly engineered bowling balls. It is somewhat analogous to the use of steroids in baseball, something which has clearly harmed baseball's credibility. Incidentally, the use of steroids is permitted in bowling.

Still, I can't imagine the MLB ever saying that baseball has lost its credibility. Can you imagine the NFL saying that football is no longer credible, or that we need to reestablish its credibility? All sports evolve over time. Rules change. The intent of rule changes is to make the game safer, more standardized, more fair, etc. Think of instant replay in football, baseball, or basketball. Despite delays to the game, incorrect calls can be overturned and the correct outcome is attained. Were these sports not credible prior to instant replay? Of course not. Bad calls were part of the game.

So USBC, I would recommend that you change the wording of this headline. If you feel that some of the juice should be taken out of hi-fi bowling balls, I applaud your efforts to do so. After all, I've always felt that the reason why everybody in league is better than me is their equipment. I bowl as well as a human can possibly bowl, and still only average in the 160's. But when you write headlines, don't say that bowling has lost its credibility. What do you think of this edit?

USBC Equipment Specifications and Certifications Committee adopts new bowling ball specification as part of continuing effort to reduce score inflation

Yeah. I think that sounds a lot better. Don't you?


  1. I knew a guy who was into softball, who showed up at a Navy intramural game with a brand-spankin' new titanium bat that, he proudly croaked, set him back $400. Why, I asked? Because it would drive the ball farther...more homeruns. I remember thinking then, more power to ya, slick.

    If a person can learn to handle the new bowling ball technology, then, again, I say more power to 'em. I have a virtual gravity ball and the debate rages on as to which percentage of potential I use less, gray matter or my slick, state-of-the-art ball. (Indeed, you should watch me bowl sometime... the debate won't be ending anytime soon.)

    BUT. MLB won't allow a metal alloy bat, nor should the USBC allow technology or equipment that might better belong in a different category (i.e. "extreme bowling" or something like that). Personally, I'm waiting for the new pin-seeking ball to hit the shelves. THEN you'll see! I'll beat you all! BWAHHH HA HA HAAA...

  2. As for myself, it is clear that no amount of equipment can help my game. My lousy bowling is all about me. I am on my 3rd bowling ball, and while my scores have improved, I don't think the ball has much to do with it. Even if I had a laser guided ball, I'd still manage to miss single pin spares. Nonetheless, I guess I was just surprised by that headline... "reestablish bowling's credibility"? It seemed like a callous statement.

  3. I just got the new Morich CRAZE - a highly engineered piece of bowling ball equipment and yes, my game improved significantly. But to say that new equipment is analagous to steroid use is absurd. technology moves us forward - thats just how it is. as technology moves forward - players compete at a higher level. whats the problem?

  4. Hey Jason,

    I'm not opposed to advances in bowling ball technology. I'm just reiterating what the USBC said. When someone in the USBC says that bowling technology has advanced to the point where technology is more important than skill in determining score, it sure sounds to me like THEY think there is a problem. They think this problem is so severe as to have harmed bowling's credibility.

    I think the steroid analogy is fair in that without steroids, batting averages and homerun numbers would be reduced. Likewise, if some of action is taken out of bowling balls, scores would be reduced because it would be more difficult to consistently find the pocket. I'm not implying that people with top of the line bowling balls are cheating. If your ball is USBC certified, then you are within the rules.

    Imagine a bowling ball so highly engineered that even if you missed your target by 12", you would still find the pocket. Is this really that different from a player who uses steroids and hits 30 more home runs than they normally would have?


  5. The article makes fine points. Too bad nothing will get better. Now the foxes are running the hen house and the foxes have very little clue about the game.

  6. Is this any different than golf? Casual players driving a golf ball 250 or more yards? Over the past 20 years, my average has gone up 20 pins-200 to 220-and I know it's not because of practice. It's because bowling has become another cash cow-just like golf-and those in charge don't want to halt the gravy train, USBC included. FYI-USBC "dues" continue to go up but bowlers get less each year. The whole thing is a joke.

  7. Or baseball... when guys started hitting homers like crazy, everybody on the inside knew what was going on, but they just turned a blind eye to it. After all, ticket sales were through roof.

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