Saturday, May 1, 2010

Bowling Week in Review--April 24-May 1, 2010

This blogpost kicks off a weekly series in which I'll briefly reflect on some of the key bowling stories of the previous week. I'll try to post each entry by Saturday evening.

On 4/24, I posted about Jodi Woessner's blistering All-Events total of 2330 (258.8 average) at the 2010 USBC Women's Championships. I proceeded to parenthetically ask about "The Great Wall of Texas." In hindsight, I'm not sure I was being fair to Woessner or to the Championships. It seems pretty clear that the conditions in Texas are not as challenging as those in Reno, but does that mean that there has to be a "wall" out there for a very good player to bowl outstanding scores? What's more, how challenging should the lanes be in a major tournament like the Women's or Men's Open? Not only that, but why are there two USBC Opens if the men can only bowl in one and the women can bowl in both? Why don't they just have men's and women's divisions in one grand tournament? Why is one in Reno and the other in El Paso? Finally, why don't they have a scratch division in the Women's Open? I understand that some are refusing to bowl in El Paso this year because there's no scratch division. Not that I'm bowling this year's nationals in Reno, but even if I'd otherwise do it, I darn sure wouldn't do it if there were no scratch division I could bowl in. I wouldn't spend that much money and go to that much trouble to bowl in a tournament where I'd likely be crushed by accomplished sandbaggers. How about you?

On 4/26, Clara Guerrero bowled a 300 at the USBC Queens. What was particularly noteworthy about this is the fact that she claimed it was her first 300 ever. Doesn't it seem impossible that a bowler of her caliber--and I'm talking a former world champion and still one of the finest female bowlers on the planet here--had never bowled 300 before last Monday?

On 4/27, I quoted Tommy Jones as saying that the next great "technological advancement" he'd like to see in bowling is some way of showing the oil pattern on the lanes so that, presumably, the bowlers would have a better idea of what they were dealing with, and the fans could follow along better too. I think this is a great idea, unless you think bowlers aren't challenged so much already that they need to be spared the additional challenge of visualizing the invisible oil patterns they're bowling on. But I wonder if anyone is working on a practical way of showing the oil and if there's even a way it could be done.

On 4/27, I wrote about PBA Xtra Frame's coverage of the PBA Senior Columbus Open and mentioned that Mark Roth was in the booth for a time commenting on the action. As you may recall, his first public appearance after his major stroke last year was at the GEICO Plastic Ball Championship in West Babylon New York, and I wrote then about how wonderful it was to see looking so good and even walking on his own after being so ill such a short time before. Well, I'm happy to report that he looked and sounded even better last Tuesday and even mentioned that he'd been doing some bowling with a 6 lb ball as part of his rehabilitation, and Charlie Tapp, who was in the booth with him, said that he had even seen a video of this. What fantastic news! I remember reading comments on the PBA website wishing Mark well and saying that they looked forward to seeing him back on the lanes someday, but I thought that was just words with no chance of coming true. Now I'm not so sure.

On 4/28, I quoted Hall of Famer Wayne Webb as saying that he moved from California to Ohio because Californians don't appreciate and respect bowling and bowlers nearly as much as people in other parts of the country do. Having lived only in California, I can't make these kinds of comparisons. But I can say that bowling sure seems to have declined a great deal in popularity in Northern California from what it was when I started bowling in the mid 1960's. However, I'm guessing that Wayne is right that bowling's more popular elsewhere than here. Do you think it is? If so, why is it more popular elsewhere? Is it because we have more choices of things to do here in California?

On 4/28, Jason Thomas posted an article on titled Chris Barnes: Good or Great? Many have responded that he's not great because (1) He acts like a jerk too much of the time, and (2) He "chokes" a lot on TV and hasn't won many tournaments. I happen to think he's a great bowler whose personality is seen in a worse light than it deserves to be and whose bowling accomplishments are underrated, and I even quoted no less an authority than Tommy Jones as saying that Barnes is the best best bowler he'll "ever see" and that Barnes even has the potential to be the Tour's Tiger Woods if he can find a way to stop overthinking the game and to live up to his awesome potential. But, as I posted sometime back, some people really seem to hate Chris Barnes for reasons I don't fully understand and will probably never accord him the respect he deserves. One area in which I think he deserves respect besides his bowling is his expertise as a bowling commentator. I've heard him on PBA Xtra Frame and on, and he was the bowling analyst this week for ESPN2's coverage of the Queens, and I thought he was one of the most astute TV analysts I've ever heard in terms of his ability to talk about what's happening with the bowlers and why they're either performing well or struggling and what adjustments they need to make. When you listen to the guy, it's obvious he has a very keen eye and encyclopedic bowling knowledge, and I'm guessing that when he hangs it up on the Tour, he has a great future ahead of him as a bowling coach and possibly TV analyst if there's any more televised bowling by that time.

On 4/28, Kelly Kulick won her second USBC Queens title. She's had an amazing year, and I couldn't be happier for her. I'm so impressed by her game and her character every time I see her, and I hope she wins the U.S. Open next week. I don't think there's much doubt that she's the best female bowler in the world, and if she wins next week, any doubts that may have lingered should be dispelled. As I commented on the PBA website: "Kelly Kulick is a bowling force of nature. She's so focused and determined and has such a marvelous physical as well as mental game. And when she gets into that mode where things start to click and she maybe gets a break or two the way she did with Bellinder's pocket 7-10, there ain't nothin' gonna stop her. Hurricane Kelly is now headed for Texas, and her opponents better batten down their hatches." And so they had. By the way, you can watch all of the USBC Queens finals here.

Some of Kelly's opponents will be coming from other parts of the world. Among the most noteworthy is Malaysia's former world champion Shalin Zulkifli who led the U.S. Open field for a time in qualifying and made the TV finals last year, finishing fourth. It's a pity the entire Malaysian women's team won't be coming. Malaysia has an incredibly effective training program that produces some real powerhouse teams and individual bowlers on both the women's and men's sides. But Shalin told me that she will be Malaysia's only representative in this year's Open.

On 4/30, Donnie Layman posted Will anyone ever surpass Walter Ray's career accomplishments? Someone commented:

Unfortunately, I fear that the real question is not whether anyone (now bowling or in the future) can surpass Walter Ray's truly amazing accomplishment, but rather whether the PBA itself will exist long enough to enable this to happen. Given the current conditions it is virtually impossible for all but a handful of the top bowlers to earn a decent living on the tour. Last year but four bowlers earned in excess of $100,000 and only 11 over $70,000. Yes, some do earn some from sponsors, but the amount isn't that great.

There is more than a little talk about the strong prospect of a cutback in both the number of stops and the overall purse (See Machuga's comments, for example). If the latter happens it would obviously be the death of the tour.

"Year after year the PBA desperately attempts to make themselves more relevant to both young bowlers and your audience by coming up with what they think are fanciful and creative changes to the tried-and-true tournament formats. More often then not, however, these prove to be silly flops and frequently wind up disrespecting the the bowlers themselves.

Not until they can extract some real financial commitments from their sponsors (Brunswick's stock, by the way, was up over 20% this morning) and make it a REAL professional sport in terms of purse, then and only then will they be able to lift it from its embarrassingly marginal existence and thereby allow us to legitimately debate the question posed in the above post."

I agree. Furthermore, I think that even if the Tour stays around, power players like TJ are likely to wear out before they can amass such an amazing record as Walter Ray's.

I see that this year's GEICO Team Shootout will consist of great teams representing the Big Four bowling ball manufacturers--Ebonite, Storm, Brunswick, and Global 900. I guess I'm grateful to these companies for helping to get this entertaining event on the air. But, on the other hand, it seems to me that ball manufacturers have taken the sport in a direction I hate to see it go and that the Shootout is only going to reinforce this trend. How do you feel about this?

Jeff's Bowling Blog recently posted an article about how Michigan's new law banning indoor smoking in most public establishments, including bowling centers, goes into effect today, May 1. He wrote that "this will be one of the best days of my life." I commented:

"Smoking was banned in California establishments years ago, and I guess I kind of took it for granted that it was all over the country. It never even occurred to me that people in other parts of our great nation were still having to endure the smoky torments that I did for longer than I care to remember just because I loved bowling more than I hated the awful smoke that made me sneeze, my nose run, my eyes water, and my hair and skin reek of cursed tobacco.

I’m absolutely delighted that you and countless other people in Michigan who love to bowl will now be spared this abomination. It’s just too bad that people are so damned selfish that they’ll keep on smoking and befouling the indoor air in public places until a law is passed against it."

Obviously I feel very strongly about this. How do you feel about Michigan's new anti-smoking law? And what about your state? Is smoking allowed in your bowling center? If so, how do you as a smoker or non-smoker feel about it?

That's it for my review of the previous week's bowling news. I should have another review for you next Saturday. And, in the meantime, I'll be continuing with my almost daily bowling bytes, quotes, videos, and other postings.


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