By Michael Cousins
I typically try to keep these posts relatively PC. I try to share both sides of the argument, both for and against whatever it is I am discussing. And, above all else, I like to let the reader come to their own conclusion on the topics discussed here.
I begin by saying this because today’s topic is different. I do not believe that there are two sides to this argument.
In a recent Facebook post, Gary Beck, founder and tournament director of one of the biggest youth bowling events in the country, Teen Masters, shared that he would no longer allow excessive lofting in his tournaments, in order to protect the host center’s synthetic panels.
According to Beck, this rule will be in full effect at this year’s national championship, and will be governed by he and other tournament officials.
Personally, I have several issues with this new rule change. And while I understand that the balls and conditions used at the Teen Masters National Championships aren’t conducive to lofting in the first place, I refuse to believe that any bowler – for any reason – should be punished for trying to find a way to strike.
In today’s game, both at the professional and collegiate levels, lofting has become an important and viable asset. With today’s bowling balls and patterns, seeing players – notable players seen frequently utilizing loft to their advantage include Jason Belmonte, Marshall Kent, Tommy Jones, Brian Valenta, and others. – loft the bowling ball over the heads has not only become a beneficial asset, but, rather, a necessary skillset.
Players utilize loft for a variety of reasons, reasons that include avoiding the front part of the lane, generating added length, creating steeper entry angle into the pocket, to name a few. And while this may – and most likely does – cause damage to the lane panels over time, in today’s game, it isn’t really an option; it is a demand.
I do not believe that players should be punished for utilizing a learned skillset. A skillset that they worked hard to incorporate into their game. A skillset that could benefit them in the present and in future events.
A player should be allowed to do anything deemed legal by USBC in order to give themselves the best chance at striking. In no way is lofting the ball “against the rules.” This is a rule that Mr. Beck – and only Mr. Beck, thankfully – has adopted on his own to protect “the proprietor’s significant financial investment.”
If the proprietors of the venues that Mr. Beck chose to house his tournaments in have an issue with lofting the ball, I would challenge Mr. Beck to, in regards to future Teen Masters’ events, find better proprietors.
Before writing this article, I spoke with several proprietors regarding this very rule. None of them, and I mean not one single person, agreed with Mr. Beck’s opinion. One proprietor told me that “when you buy or run a bowling center, you expect significant wear and tear over time, it is inevitable. If a bowler feels that he/she needs to loft the ball in order to give themselves the best chance at succeeding in my center, I urge them to go for it.”
This completely contradicts what Mr. Beck, himself, has said on Facebook, stating to all naysayers that if they were proprietors, they would understand his reasoning.
In addition to the issues that I have already addressed, I question exactly how Mr. Beck and his team, will justly and fairly enforce this new rule.
In Mr. Beck’s opinion, this will be easy. I, on the other hand, beg to differ. He and his officials cannot be everywhere. Which will lead other competitors and parents to, inevitably, get involved. How, I ask, does Mr. Beck expect to handle this conundrum? Sure, he says it will be a non-issue. And I am sure that he thinks it will be easy to enforce, but I personally question it.
Where do you draw the line? What is “excessive?” He says it is easy to see. According to some open dialogue he had on Facebook, anything past the arrows is excessive. Fair enough, I suppose. So what about just before the arrows? That is fair game? So if a bowler is lofting just before the arrows and not getting it past them at all, he’s fine? But if another bowler, on the same lane, is doing the same thing, but lofts it just past the arrows on an errant shot, now it is an issue?
Again, I understand all of this is hypothetical, given the balls and conditions used in his events, but, for the sake of this argument, this is the issue that he and his staff could be presented with.
A rule should not be open to interpretation. An arbitrary distance should not be assigned. If a bowler is lofting the ball out frustration and expressing clear unsportsmanlike conduct, I get it. But if a bowler is lofting the ball to give himself/herself the best chance at striking, then that said bowler should not, in anyway, be punished. Period.
I understand that this is Mr. Beck’s tournament. I fully acknowledge that he has the right to institute any rules that he sees fit. And while this rule will not likely effect the outcome of his event in any capacity, I still feel that the rule is completely unwarranted.