How to fix bowling…

Bowling is in quite a dilemma. The game is currently on the decline. League bowling is down across the board and there is no clear-cut explanation for loss in participation. There are many contributing factors but one in my mind sticks out.


In my opinion handicap is the downfall of our game and should be done away with. Handicap has become a crutch that many bowlers lean upon. The players today have no incentive to continue to elevate their game when it will most undoubtedly hurt their chances of winning a league or tournament.  It has made the high level players lower their game by sandbagging and made the lower level players be very content with their game. In fact it is almost impossible for a team of high-level players (or any level) to win a handicap league without sandbagging at the beginning of the league. It has even become socially acceptable! Either way, nobody is practicing and our bowling centers are a ghost town when league is not going on. People don’t mind bowling poorly because they will just get ‘em the following week when they get more pins.

The scratch league is almost extinct but I urge you to lobby and bring it back. It is truer competition. Winning is just and losing, I personally believe, is easier to swallow. There can be no excuses. The team who won, won fair and square and there is no debate. If the losing team want to win next year they will get out there and practice to get better.

I heard a great idea for a league recently and it’s so simple that I am surprised that I haven’t seen any leagues like it in the past. Hold a player draft, simple as that. Have the league vote who the top players in the league are and put them on separate teams. Hold a snake draft (1,2,3,3,2,1 etc.) and voilà. You have your teams and there is no fairer way to divide the players. I would try creating these types of leagues with a minimum entering average or an average range, say 140-180 or 190 and up. This will make it so no team ends up with “Mr. Irrelevant” with the last pick and completely kills their chances.

I heard a story this weekend of a player getting criticized by other bowlers in the league for averaging “too high”. The player finished the league with a 248 average and he was criticized that he will not be able to bowl in any leagues and nobody will want him as a teammate because he will not be getting any handicap and probably receive negative handicap. Does anybody else see the problem with this?? We are the only sport that penalizes people for getting better!!!

Due to the tour schedule I haven’t consistently bowled in a league since college but I will always remember the Monday night scratch league at Babylon Bowl. It was one of the best leagues I was ever a part of. We recruited a 185 bowler who was new to fairly new to bowling to fit under the average cap. Our team practiced with him and worked with him that entire season and by the end of the league he was averaging 205 and we were cleaning up! We didn’t win the league because we scammed the system; we won because we worked at it together as a team and improved our players. I truly looked forward to that league every week because of the high level of competition we were bowling at.

I’ve come to realize that the only people that can save the sport are the bowlers. The bowlers must come together and convince each other and the bowling centers that scratch leagues & tournaments are the best thing for our game. Bowling center owners will not force leagues to change lane conditions or formats in fear of losing entire league bases and entire revenue streams all at once. The bowlers must convince one another this is the best thing for everyone involved in the sport of bowling. We are the only sport that conducts itself in this manor and it is clearly not working. I have never seen a basketball, football, baseball or soccer game start 10-0, have you?

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Comment by Timothy Small on July 4, 2013 at 8:40pm
I believe you have a good point. Handicap has gotten to be too high to begin with. When I started bowling it was 75%, now look at it. The idea of a draft sounds like a fun and interesting way of running a league. However the economy is not helping anything, much less bowling, with a dwindling pocketbook for the American people entertainment is the first thing to go.
Comment by Terry Wilson Jr on August 1, 2012 at 2:29pm


Comment by F.O.X on July 31, 2012 at 7:06am
This problem didn't exist 20 years ago when there was oil on the lanes, people actually had to practice to get good. 300's weren't being handed out like raffle tickets, execution and hand action were a premium to succeed. If you got better you felt good about it, because you worked hard at it. Today the lane conditions are piss poor, everyone is worried about "scoring". Scoring has taken over practice, execution , hand action and knowing your equipment. Today's bowlers buys a high tech boulder and on todays short oil, hooking in the mid lane, fried backends shoots 300 in no time. This is the only "sport" (if you can call it that anymore) NO ONE wants to practice, but yet want to reap the benefits as if they did?! To get excel at any sport you have to put in blood, sweat and tears. When the so called "tough" shots come out, the masses run to the hills because they aren't accustomed seeing their balls go straight or not boomer ranging off the 10th board. Why do you think there aren't as many honor score awards anymore? Don't play dumb, the governing bodies know the shots are soft. They'd go broke handing out awards....Bowlers are going to have to bite the bullet, suck up all that ego. You really aren't as good as you think you are. If you're that good bowl a kegel, pba league or some regionals. Enormous averages on bumper bowling means nothing. Scratch league?! What a joke that is. Where?! On what shot?! The "big" guns have these enormous averages on bumper bowling that if you put them on a "tough" or sport shot, they might turn in water pistols. They won't be returning to do that again, when its a bruise to their ego. Bowling is in the toliet when it knuckled under to scoring and pleasing the NON BOWLER. A true bowler is going to practice, get lessons, read and and move on to the next level in bowling. Pba league, kegel, regionals, something that is going to test their skill and knowledge of tha game. The house shot or open play shot everyone starts out on, just like elementary school. You just don't spend the rest of your life on it and get a Phd.
Comment by Brunswick Zone Roswell on July 30, 2012 at 10:52pm


Comment by SHERMAN LOFTON, SR. on July 30, 2012 at 9:09pm

Fagen is c0mpletely wrong. Scratch leages are useful.

Comment by randy hicks on July 30, 2012 at 8:10pm

heard that!!!  Love the idea of a league that will rate players and hold a snake draft.

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