Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Make the Pros Bowl With Plastic

I love the PBA plastic ball championships. And, if the truth be told, I wish there were more of them. I hate how having the right ball in one's hands seems to have become more important than throwing the ball with the right speed along the right line with the right kind of roll, and how the touring, ball staff member pros with their armies of ball reps and unlimited access to equipment seem to have such an unfair advantage over their less privileged brethren.

In fact, I'd be delighted if all elite tournaments limited the players to the same cheap plastic balls and, better still, permitted no modifications to the simple pancake layouts and ball surfaces so that the player himself decided his own fate instead of the ball in his hands. The oil patterns could vary from tournament to tournament, but the balls would remain the same.

Yes, I suppose the ball manufacturers could continue to sell balls to the general public in order for them and their pro shop retailers to remain in business, and the public could continue to exhaust their bank accounts to shoot their ridiculous scores on "bumper lane" house conditions with the newest high tech balls that hook like crazy right out of the box and blast the pins to smithereens until they absorb so much oil after a few games that they lose their punch and it's time to buy another ball. But the pros would soar above this insanity.

Of course, the cat is too far and long out of the bag for this to ever happen. Forevermore, elite bowlers will have to focus more and more on ball physics (or have the right people in their "stable" to do the focusing for them) and less and less on technique, and I think PBA bowling will likely suffer from it until it, perhaps, eventually dies. And guys like me who can't afford the newest, freshest equipment and who aren't ball physicists might as well forget about competing in scratch tournaments at any level.

I think I'll watch a video of a time when men were men who bowled 100-game tournaments and bowlers didn't have to carry a truckload of balls and ball reps around with them to excel.


  1. Look at how the elite often have to play the burn at events. Loft the gutter cap to land the ball on 7th arrow so they can still throw big revs with the most aggressive covers. Granted - that takes a tremendous amount of skill - but it also is much like a trick shot. Do pro golfers play on courses where every tee shot calls for a 50 yard hook around trees?

  2. Steve, I agree that even though what those fireballing young guys can do with their "trick shot" lofts is impressive in its way, not every strike shot should have to be thrown 20 mph+ at 500+ rpms with 10+ ft of loft from the extreme left by 25-year-old men in order to be competitive on tour. And it seems to me that there must be ways to make finesse more and technology less important than they are now, and that these ways should be implemented ASAP.

  3. 20 years ago, when I was 20 years old I used to bowl a lot. Back then I used a rubber ball.

    I never really thought about what the ball was made of, or its reaction to the lane, or oil, or hook ratio, RG Diff or anything like that. I just threw it down the lane and made adjustments in trajectory until I was hitting what I wanted.

    I was in time able to always bowl between 160 and 200.

    Move forward to the present. 21st century tech.

    I got totally into the science of balls and got a Nano and then a Vibe, tried different drilling patterns, grips, roll patterns etc.

    The result has been a year on a total emotional roller coaster ride!

    My scores now vary between 100 and 220!

    It is like a crap shoot, I never know what I am going to get out there.

    No matter how well and consistently I throw my shots there is no guarantee what the same ball is going to do on the same lane or a different lane.

    I kept telling my friends, “20 years ago I don’t remember it being this hard.”

    Finally I was ready to give up this game in disgust and failure. It was simply not worth it.

    Out of frustration and in pure spite I started bowling only with my pink White Dot. After all, if I was going to get wild scores anyway then why even try?

    Well big surprise, my scores tightened up. I became more consistent and my average began to rise.

    I was hitting the pocket more times than not and when I wasn’t perfect on the pocket I got easy spares rather than the weird impossible stuff I was getting with the reactive balls.

    I began to have fun again. I feel I can now move forward. I can work towards perfecting my art.

    I echo Steve’s comments and add: Have players really gotten better? Would Kelly Kulick have still beat Chris Barnes if they were both using the same rubber ball? Or would she have beaten him more easily because she is the better bowler?

    Will we ever know?

    I watch a lot of old videos of tournaments from the 50’s and 60’s where they used those rubber balls and those guys were getting a lot of strikes without flashy big hooks.
    Think of Billy Hardwick and that slow full roller rubber ball and what he did with it.
    I do wonder…