Friday, March 19, 2010

The Problem With Single Elimination PBA Matches

I wrote yesterday about how much I dislike this week's single-elimination match play format at the Go RVing Championship. I tried leaving a comment about this on Jef's Bowling Blog article about the early disappearance yesterday of Chris Barnes and Walter Ray Williams, but, for some reason, it never appeared. So I'll post it here as a concise reiteration of what I wrote yesterday. Do you agree or disagree with my point?

I've come to the conclusion that seeds and predictions in bowling are largely meaningless, especially when you're talking about professional caliber bowlers. At that rarefied level, pretty much anyone can beat anyone else at a given time.

This is even more true in single-elimination bracket matches like we see this week. I despise that format because I think it negates a key element of what makes great bowlers great--their ability to rebound from bad starts by making the right adjustments.

Barnes never had that chance yesterday because he ran into a guy who'd already fine-tuned his game to the dual pattern during the TQR and came right out of the chute with an 800 series for the last three games of the match. Poor Chris didn't have a chance, and the format prevents him, unlike the double-elimination format in the Masters, from getting a second chance, unless you count his "Chris Barnes Challenge" match against Aguiar tomorrow night.

I hope Barnes kicks butt tomorrow, and I also hope that the PBA abandons a format that eliminates some of its best players from a tournament before they've even had a chance to warm up.


  1. I think your argument sounds reasonable. But, I must admit that I have very little experience with the matter and do not know what the "best" solution might be. I don't know all of the problems they were trying to solve by going to this format.

    Along the same line is the one ball tie-breaker. To me, that is a patently absurd method of determining a champion. A coin flip would be just as valid. Seems to me that total pinfall counts would be a much better method of tie-breaking than a 1 ball rolloff.....

    In general, I don't like leaving anonymous comments, but your listing doesn't leave me much choice. I don't have a web site, so no URL. I've posted a couple of comments on your site without a signature. I'll sign this one.


  2. Kerry, I greatly appreciate all of your comments, both signed and unsigned.

    I think the PBA went to the single-elimination format just to shake things up a little and try something new that made matches more exciting because so much rested on each one. But I'm delighted that they've largely abandoned this now and have now mostly returned to the older format of round-robin match play that allows the proverbial cream to rise more often to the top where they belong.

    I share you disdain for the one ball, sudden death rolloff, although I'm not sure what should or reasonably could take its place in a time-pressed televised match. Back in the day, they used to at least bowl two frames--the ninth and tenth--over again and take the total pinfall for that, and I think this would be a reasonable solution.

    Thanks again for all your thoughtful comments, Kerry. Whether you bowl any high level senior tournaments or not, I wish you all the best with your return to bowling after a long hiatus. Even though I've largely given up on trying to bowl competitively, I still love the game and hope to keep doing it, like Carmen Salvino, at whatever level I can for as long as possible.

  3. The elimination issue is complicated beyond my level of expertise. I simply don't know enough about the problems involved, to make a viable comment for an alternative format. All I know is that it doesn't seem fair that the #1 seed "wins" the tournament all week, but can easily lose it in the last game. It makes me unhappy when a guy "wins" on Sunday, by getting the lucky breaks or hitting a couple Brooklyn strikes.

    What? The guy can't even hit the pocket at all, on a couple of shots, and he wins? Well, sure, the object of the game is to knock down more pins than your opponent. There are no provisions for penalizing poor bowling shots. Maybe there should be. Maybe there should be a judge that can nullify a Brooklyn strike and change the score from a strike to a spare or even a 9 pin count. I don't know the answer, really. I do know that I saw a couple of matches that were decided by Brooklyn strikes and the best bowler lost the title. Made me very unhappy with the result and damped my enthusiasm for watching the game.

    The 1 ball rolloff makes me angry. I really like watching Belmonte. He's a class act and a very good bowler. I was very unhappy when he lost the title to an amateur, in a 1 ball rolloff.

    As to the senior tournaments, I just don't see the point in making the attempt. I'm very competitive by nature, but I think the playing field should be level. From where I sit, it is looking pretty slanted.


  4. I agree that it doesn't seem fair that the number #1 seed can lose the title by being out-bowled or even out-lucked in one game. Yet, I'm not sure there's a viable solution. In the old "Championship Bowling" days, they had three game series matches on TV, but I don't think that would work today. I don't have too many quibbles with the stepladder final format they use most of the time today. The number #1 seed is at least guaranteed no worse than second place by virtue of his performance earlier in the week, and that's not too bad.

    I agree with you about Belmonte's loss to Ziesig in the Plastic Ball Championship last year. That incredibly solid 7 pin was just about the worst break I've ever seen. However, I had mixed feelings about that match. Ziesig, a former touring pro, bowled pretty darn well too and was a class act the whole way. But, darn, I love to watch Belmonte and see him win!