By Michael Cousins
In a recent article posted on BowlingDigital.com, Lucas Wiseman, formerly of the USBC, has shared the results of a couple of Twitter polls regarding the USBC Open Championships.
According to Wiseman’s informal poll findings, 49% of the participants claim to be less excited to participate in this year’s event. Wiseman claims that this is largely to do with the lack of transparency the USBC is exhibiting when it comes to the lane pattern and live streaming – or lack thereof.
Though I, and some others, question whether or not that is the true reason why bowlers are “less excited” to be competing, that is another argument altogether, an argument I will likely address at a later time.
But back to the topic at hand.
The USBC believes that the lack of transparency will level the playing field and this year’s outcome will be “determined by a bowler’s skill,” rather than outside variables. According to the USBC, “Providing the pattern in advance creates an unquestionable advantage for those with the resources and ability to replicate the pattern and lane surface.”
Wiseman, however, argues the exact opposite: “What USBC has done by keeping the pattern information secret has simply put the average joe bowler . . . at a significant disadvantage.”
Furthermore, Wiseman goes on to say that these rules not only put the average bowler at a disadvantage, but, also, give the better players, the “well-connected” players, the ones that Wiseman calls “professional” and “professional amateurs,” a significant advantage, due to their professional connections: ball reps, fellow staff players, local friends, inside contacts, etc.
I, in part, agree with Wiseman; the “professionals” and “professional amateurs” do have an advantage over the rest of the field: it is called talent. An advantage, might I add, that has been earned and gained through years and years of hard work and preparation.
In a separate poll that Wiseman conducted, 70 percent of the 319 respondents said that the USBC’s lack of transparency changes nothing, and that the same top players will find success at this year’s event.
So if these changes change nothing, I ask this: what is the issue? Why is everyone in such an uproar?
Our very own John Gaines, USBC Hall of Famer and four-time USBC Open Champion, chimed in on the changes, saying that while he understands some of the issues with the lack of transparency, he makes the argument that these changes effect a very small demographic. “We are fighting a battle that roughly effects 5% of the overall field, ” and by arguing over this, we are simply “polluting the views of other bowlers that don’t really understand pattern sheets to begin with.” He urges bowlers to let these changes play out and give it a chance before passing any further judgment.
The original need for lane graphs, Gaines says, was for process verification, not to give any demographic of bowler an advantage. “It took the onus or suspicion off of the lane man,” says Gaines, “but now you can lock the pattern into the machine and, without admin capabilities, it cannot be changed.”
Gaines argues that, over time, this generation of bowlers — today’s bowler — has become too reliant on “what is the pattern.” “I get that bowlers want to have some clue as to what they’re bowling on, for equipment and lane play purposes, but,” he goes on to say, “I highly doubt that we will see much, if any, major variance on overall philosophy or pattern shape at the Open Championships as long as these new rules are in effect.”
“Additionally, regardless of where you stand on this particular argument,” says Gaines, “I am sure we can all agree on this: the pattern at home plays nothing like it does at the Open Championships.”
At the end of the day, it is Gaines’ belief that all of this whining and arguing over the transparency of the event is only benefiting teams like his, saying:
“If they want to continue to argue and complain, go right ahead. Way too much time and energy for me and my teammates to waste. The way I see it, the people worrying about this are just less people and teams that I have to worry about beating. This is our National Championship, and I am going to shoe up and bowl, period. If bowlers don’t like the new changes, the solution is simple: don’t pay your entry fee and stay home.”
“I’ve never bowled a tournament that someone didn’t win,” said Gaines; this year’s tournament is no different. “At the end of the day,” Gaines went on to say, “put your darn shoes on, throw some shots, and figure it out.” That is his group’s game plan going into this year’s event, as these changes are, simply put, out of their control.
This, for the most part, seems to be a common theme amongst the players I have talked with, regardless of their skillset.
Complaining, after all, isn’t going to change anything with this year’s event. The tournament has already begun and, like Gaines, himself, said, someone is going to win, regardless of these changes, and they’re going to win because they have earned it. Not because of the lack of transparency. Not because anyone was at an advantage or disadvantage. But, rather, because they threw quality shots, made quality decisions, and executed their game plan to the best of their abilities.
Will these changes be a part of future events? Will USBC address them at the end of this year’s event? Only time will tell us this. But, for the time being, let’s try to stop complaining, let’s try to stop making excuses, let’s try to stop worrying about the things that are out of our hands and focus on the things we can control: our individual performances.