High scoring beats low scoring when it comes to bowling publicity By Dick Evans

    10/02/09

    Column

    If technology has changed the world of bowling so drastically in the past 50 years, why shouldn't averages during the 2009-10 season be 30 pins higher than in 1960? Fred Borden reviews the improvements and explains why he estimates that averages for skilled players should be much higher.
    It is amazing to consider how technology has changed the world since the early 1960s when only highly skilled bowlers could average 200.

    Consider a few of the ways the world has changed in the past 50 years.

    The printing world has gone from hot to cold type and from typewriters to computers.

    TV has gone from depending on rabbit ears for erratic reception to cable wires for great reception.

    Telephones have gone from the old dial phones at home or in the office to cell phones that you carry in your purse or in a pocket.

    Western Union has been replaced by the Internet.

    Prop planes for the traveling public have been replaced by jets that fly almost twice as fast.

    Satellites circling above the earth have replaced ships at sea on reporting approaching hurricanes.

    Basketball has added the three point shot and the shot clock in hopes of producing higher scoring and closer games.

    Tennis has allowed larger racquets so instead of only one man being able to hit a serve 100 miles per hour, it is now common for 10 to 20 women players to be able to smash 110 mph serves.

    Before the new line of golf drivers was introduced, only one or two power pros could hit 300 yard drives and now more than 20 can surpass 300 yards on a regular basis.

    After track officials decided to allow pole vaulters to change from the old bamboo poles to fiberglass poles, the record height steadily climbed from 16 feet to almost 20 feet and the record has been broken by almost 60 pole vaulters.

    It baffles me why some people in bowling are opposed to higher scoring when virtually every thing in life and the world has changed so drastically in the past 50 years.

    Every sport I know understands that if athletes are not improving then the sport is going backwards and could be headed for oblivion. I think the sport of bowling would be the laughing stock of the sports world if today's modern technology had not made it possible for today's skilled bowlers to be 20 times better than the elite bowlers in 1960.

    So, in 2004, I decided to test my belief by asking probably the world's greatest expert to compare the technological advances made in bowling over the past 50 years and how they should impact averages in his estimation.

    I believe that Fred Borden (right) is the foremost authority on all aspects of bowling because of his extraordinary history as a coach/proprietor/author/bowler and his expertise when it comes to today's modern bowling balls since he also has been involved in the manufacturing end of high-tech balls.

    I asked him to consider all facets about how bowling has improved since the 1960s and to figure out how much each aspect of the many technological improvements should improve the average of a highly skilled league bowling.

    Here are his answers:

    BOWLING BALLS: "The balls are much better– probably the biggest improvement in our sport. It is much like golf clubs, golf balls, tennis racquets progress. It is free enterprise doing what it does best.
    "Modern bowling balls should add 10 pins to a good bowler's average."

    BOWLING LANES: "The bowling lanes, because of oil staying on top of the smooth surface, is a vast improvement over the old wood lanes with lacquer finish that was in constant flux all year. Add another five to eight pins to today's bowler average."

    LANE MACHINES: "The new lane machines not only oil but also clean strip the lanes every day. In the 60s and 70s. we stripped very seldom. Therefore we had skid on the front, rotation in the mids and roll on the back, or the last 15 feet every day we played. This is one of the biggest changes in our sport and should add six pins to an average."

    BOWLING SHOES: "The modern bowling shoes do not make you a high average bowler, but enable you to bowl your highest at each and every center or on any approach you play on. A good smooth slide and proper balance is what allows a bowler to play their best."

    BALL KNOWLEGE/DRILLING TECHNIQUES: "The changes in bowling ball knowledge is a great advantage for those who know how to read the lanes and understand the different layouts and coverstock of equipment. This is a small percentage but can be a huge advantage over someone who has not studied modern technology. Add eight pins if knowledgeable."

    BOWLING PINS: "The pins are definitely more active with the plastic covers and the match up to the bowling balls and 5,6,7 degree of angle of entry to the pocket makes for a higher strike percentage and should be worth four pins.

    COACHING: "Coaching has improved at the collegiate level and at the local level, but only to those who seek help. There are too many who bowl that never received any coaching. Therefore, it has helped a small percentage, but could help all that receive coaching."

    He gave no point total for coaching since he feels only a small percentage of bowlers seek professional coaching help.

    But Fred Borden did end his remarks by saying that today's modern technology and information should be worth another "33 to 36" pins to a savvy and talented bowler's league average.

    In other words, if a bowler could average 200 in 1960, his clone today should be able to average between 233 to 236...all factors being equal.

    And remember, I asked him those questions five years ago and technology has changed even more drastically since 2004.

    I don't think it is fair to be critical of today's high averages without tracing what happened to scoring in the ABC and WIBC National tournaments since their inaugural events to 1960.

    So I decided to look into the record book to see scoring trends during the first 50 plus years of the WIBC and ABC National tournaments.

    It took only a 648 score to win the singles title in the first ABC tournament in 1901. It took another nine years before the first 700 series was bowled. The second winning 700 singles set wasn't recorded until 1915 and the third wasn't carded until 1918.

    I wonder if purist writers in that era started attacking high scores after 1918 since from then on it always took at least a 700 to win the ABC singles title.

    Now let's look at the scoring trends at the WIBC national tournament. It only took a 486 score to win the first WIBC Nationals singles title in 1916 but only 40 bowlers competed on six lanes during the two-day tournament in St. Louis' Washington Recreation Parlor.

    The first 600 was bowled in the 1922 WIBC Nationals and the first 700 in 1934. It took another 22 years before another woman bowled a 700 (1956) and then another 16 years (1972) before a third 700 was recorded.

    After that winning 700 series came rapidly in the growing WIBC National Tournament.

    What the ABC/WIBC singles scores show before 1960 is that the sport was more difficult, but that was true of all sports before so many technological advances were introduced.

    Unlike most bowling writers, I think high scores reflect well on the modernized sport of bowling and firmly believe they would not be an image problem if there was no ceiling on scoring ability and I firmly believe despite my critics that some sort of rule adjustment should be made so all scoring records should be able to be broken.

    My belief that high scores can produce publicity were re-enforced recently when the Daytona Beach News-Journal, a daily newspaper with a circulation of about 110,000, ran a bowling story on its front sports page, which is a rarity.

    It was placed on the front sports page because the sports editor was impressed with the fact that two high school bowlers had bowled 300 games on the same day but for different high school teams in different bowling centers.

    When I went to play tennis that morning, everybody at the club wanted to talk about two high school boys rolling perfect games on the same day.

    They were amazed and impressed because most of them had been bowlers earlier in their lives and still were impressed by a 300 game.

    Fortunately their opinions had not been jaded by writers hinting that bowling lacked a solid governing body and the integrity of the sport had been tarnished.

    Even if you recognize the Heisman name in college football, you may not know that once his Georgia Tech team won a game by a 220-0 score. The lopsided score made headlines all over the country.

    Running up the score did not tarnish his name or image.

    I know first hand what high scores can do for a bowling writer at a daily newspaper. During one of the years The Miami Herald sent me to cover the Firestone Tournament of Champions in Akron, I was down in the dumps because the sports editor had told me earlier in the evening that he saved only 10 inches for my TofC story and it was going to be run on page eight of the sports section.

    About an hour later, Gary Dickinson beat Mark Roth, 300-299, during match-game competition and I called the sports editor back and told him about the exciting match and he said, for such a fantastic duel he would reserve 12 inches on the front sports page for my story and would jump another 10 inches of my story to page eight.

    So I advocate high scoring during bowling tournaments I am covering just like I would rather write about a football game that ended with a 35-21 score versus one that ended 10-3.

    Unlike many bowling writers, I made a living for 40 years being a sports writer for The Miami Herald.

    Before big boxing or bowling or tennis or football or basketball or baseball or horse racing events, people often would ask me who or what team I wanted to win.

    I had a stock answer: "I want a lot of scoring and action and I want the champion to be the one who will give me the best quotes." Of course, in horse racing that meant the winning jockey and trainer.

    If I got all those ingredients, then I was confident I could write an interesting story that would draw strong readership and hopefully a pat on the back from my boss and a raise next year.

    In case you don't know, they don't allow any cheering in press boxes across America.

    I once covered an Orange Bowl Classic game in the Orange Bowl and there was no fear of any cheering even by the spectators because Tennessee won by a 3-0 score and the Vols' coach had his team punting on third down after the Vols kicked a field goal in the second half.

    Boring.
    Email address: Evans121@aol.com