Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Is Jason Belmonte Better Than Don Carter?

Who was better? Babe Ruth or Barry Bonds? Oscar Robertson or Michael Jordan? Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods?

People have endlessly discussed and debated these comparisons in all kinds of sports, bowling included. Who was better? Don Carter or Earl Anthony or Walter Ray Williams Jr.? Carmen Salvino or Mark Roth or Jason Belmonte?

What's more, last week's GEICO Mark Roth Plastic Ball Championship has many wondering more than ever how yesterday's greats would have performed on today's conditions with today's equipment, and today's greats on yesterday's conditions with yesterday's equipment. How would Don Carter in his prime have fared on synthetic lanes rolling reactive resin over modern PBA oil patterns? Conversely, how would Jason Belmonte today fare throwing hard rubber on old wooden lanes coated with lacquer? And what would the answers, if we even could know them, tell us about who from different bowling eras was or is "better"?

I've been following a fascinating discussion in pbaforum.com of this very topic. Some say today's bowlers are better because they're generally stronger and in better shape, have undergone more rigorous and systematic training, know more about biomechanics and bowling physics, can generate and control more power, and so on. Others maintain that if you equate bowling greatness with bowling skill, and evaluate bowling skill primarily in terms of accuracy and ability to repeat shots, convert spares, control ball speeds, and alter releases, yesterday's stars had it, with some possible exceptions, over today's stars with the latters' racks of high tech bowling balls and armies of ball reps following them around, charting their ball reactions, and shoving the right equipment in their hands for the moment.

Here are some of the more interesting if not insightful excerpts from the PBA forum discussion:

I believe that...just as we would expect the older era bowlers to adapt to modern times...you should also expect that if Belmo went back in time, he would adapt his game to lacquer and the equipment of the day as well.

Better, in some ways yes, and others no, let's just say they are diffrent. There is always going to be a few greats who's games can be played no matter what is out there and with whatever they need to use, but their are a lot of good players that only made within a few years then fade away as the environment changes.

Yeah, I believe today's best is better than yesterday's best, in the same way an F-18 pilot is better than Charles Lindburgh or Jimmy Johnson is better than Cale Yarborough.

When we have debates like this...I do find it interesting, and it also makes me appreciate someone like WRW all the more...because he developed his game during the days of the LT-48 and Yellow Dot...came strong on the scene with urethane and is still one of the great bowlers of this era of reactive resin and unbalanced weight blocks....and what does WRW have in spades??? ACCURACY!!! I will always argue - even in today's game, the PBA is still about accuracy over RPM and equipment strength. I agree with many of the assessments about leagues and local centers - but the PBA is still a challenge for the most part, and accuracy/repeating shots still wins.

Belmo would certainly hold his own with any bowling ball on any bowling lane with any finish. Dude struck on a crooked lane on the sidewalk in rain on a morning show!

What do you think?

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