Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Better Bowling Through Alcohol?

"It is no wonder that a bowler who uses alcohol and bowls on an easy house shot averages 200 and yet gets completely destroyed at the USBC Championships."
--Mark Gurule and Paul Butcher, Bowling This Month (March 2010)

As you may know and as I mentioned in a previous entry, you can drink alcoholic beverages down on the lanes this year at the USBC Open. I wrote that I don't like this new rule at all. I think it could lead to slippery or sticky approaches and cause some bowlers to misbehave in ways that undermine the dignity and integrity of this revered tournament.

However, some may drink alcohol at the tournament because they believe that it will loosen them up and enable them to bowl better. There's an article in the March issue of Bowling This Month that addresses the common observation that some people actually score better after they've "had a couple." Perhaps we've even done it ourselves on occasion.

The article lists several reasons why this might happen:

1. Alcohol may soothe one's anxieties or "nerves" and relax one's hand and body.

2. Alcohol may cause "alcohol myopia"--i.e., keep one "in the moment" and narrowly focused on the bowling task at hand instead of allowing extraneous perceptions and thoughts to cause distraction.

3. Alcohol may spur people to socialize more instead of sitting and brooding on their mistakes and overanalyzing their games.

4. Alcohol may reduce or eliminate deleterious fear of failure.

5. Alcohol may increase one's feeling of "well being."

Indeed, at first glance, these modifications seem part of what one sports psychologist calls an "Ideal Performance State," and this, in turn, might tempt some of us to drink alcohol during bowling competition. However, the article gives us ample reason to reconsider this idea.

The article points out that we generally see scores improve under the influence of alcohol only on easy house conditions that allow wide margins of error and require few adjustments and not on more challenging "sport" or PBA oil patterns, and that we never see professional bowlers sipping beer or wine while vying for regional or national PBA titles. This is because alcohol, despite the potentially positive effects listed above, demonstrably reduces the "precision, equilibrium, hand-eye coordination, judgment, ability to process information, focus, stamina, strength, power, and speed necessary to perform at one's best in bowling or any sport."

The article ends on this sobering note:

"In conclusion, use of alcohol while bowling may improve performance for some on a typical house shot over a few games. But drugs and alcohol have no place for bowlers who hope to be competitive in a variety of environments and situations...It is critical to note that athletes can achieve all "Ideal Performance State" characteristics without drinking and are much better off doing so sober."

So, before you crack a cold one at the nationals in Reno this year, you might want to give it some serious second thoughts if you wish to bowl your very best. And why travel all that distance and spend all that money to do anything less?

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