Lofty Punishment for Excessive Lofting

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.

7 thoughts on “Lofty Punishment for Excessive Lofting

  1. Michael Tollefson says:

    i was taught to loft the ball…not in an arc but like a fast pitch softball pitcher, a direct and to the point loft…if your SYNTHETIC lanes can’t handle it then switch back over to wood…or DON’T HOST TOURNAMENTS, it’s that simple cause i ain’t changing a god damn thing about my approach

    • Marcus Hogan says:

      Rather than focus on enforcement, or whether or not a surface can handle it, why don’t we address the real issue. Oil the damn lanes! Stop putting out patterns that are so low volume or short distance that it forces hook players to loft the ball so much. Equipment has far outpaced lane conditions, leading to situations where “power” players are forced to either get weaker, or loft the ball. Don’t want loft, don’t make players loft it. Problem solved!

  2. Jack says:

    I mean for the center the bowlers are bowling at this year. In some cases you need to loft it because of how the lanes are made up a Sawgrass lanes with the heads and the back part of the lane being different.

  3. Gary Sparks says:

    Where I would disagree with your article is that “lofting” is not a product of today’s “game,” it’s a product of today’s conditions, that being lane conditioner application and bowling ball construction. Lofting is only needed because the bowling balls take so much conditioner off of the lane, that by the time a tournament gets through a 5, 6, 8 game block, there is literally not enough conditioner left in the front/mid part of the lane to keep the ball from rolling up immediately off your hand. Thus bowlers are pushed left (for right handers because this doesnt happen for the left side) to the point that late in a long block they have to throw the ball far enough down the lane and/or over the gutter to get the ball to read at the correct time.

    Some of today’s high level tournaments are set up to MAKE it happen, i.e. the “burn” squad and now even a “double burn” squad. In conjunction with the strength of the bowling balls there is no choice basically than to loft.

    This CAN be dealt with if it wants to be dealt with…..(1)Adapting conditions to help keep them from burning up so much and so fast in the first 20 feet. We have actually had some good success with this Collegiately with some new patterns we have introduced. (2)Re-oil for each squad as opposed to bowling “burn” squads. The argument here is that “transition” is part of the game and should be tested, which I totally agree with, but the conditioner already transitions PLENTY within a 5-6 game block to make bowlers have to move without forcing them over the gutter. In addition, this assures that the integrity of the pattern being demolished for the later blocks wont have as much impact on scoring thereby making the bowlers have to play the lanes more accurately from the start rather than just waiting for them to track so they can move in just hit on it. (3)This is the most controversial one, but in reality the one that will keep the Teen Masters from not having to worry about lofting…Get control over equipment and somehow reign in the strength of the balls so they dont have near the impact on lane conditions that they do now.

    It becomes a matter of whether the industry as a whole is concerned with where the “game” is progressing in how its being played. To say that this aspect of the “game” is not a factor in the drop in numbers is to just ignore an issue that is not going away anytime soon.

    Gary Sparks
    National Collegiate Bowling Assn. Vice President
    Varsity Bowling Coach Vincennes University
    Asst. Prof. Bowling Industry Management Vincennes University

  4. Keith says:

    So you all agree that it’s OK to damage someone else’s property if it helps you score a few extra points in a game? Synthetic or natural wood makes no difference. They both can be damaged by the heavy impact of 16 pound weights repeatedly dropping on them from 5 feet in the air. It may not break the boards, but it can still leave dimples in the surface that will throw off the path of the ball for people who bowl in a normal method. We’re not talking about dropping a tennis ball onto a 1″ thick steel plate here. Have some respect for the place set up for you to play your sport in. If you can’t get a strike without throwing your ball that high in the air, maybe you should either learn a new method of bowling or find a different sport.

  5. Shar says:

    When a bowler lofts it half way down the lane out of anger and frustration is the issue I have with this lofting it’s poor sportsmanship period. If lofting is apart of bowlers game that is a different story, but when done out of anger because you have already lost a match, just makes you a sore loser period and believe that should be a rule set before going into a league or tournament up front. You can put that rule in as a director, just because the USBC doesn’t have a rule on it.

  6. Nathan Krawitz says:

    Just had a “discussion” about this the other night. The bowler in question had a great series, but only two real mistakes. Game 3, he had his front 10, only to leave a 4 pin. He lofted his spare attempt, the only time all night he did that. He was upset and clearly not trying to adjust for later that night. His teammates were quick to say that lofting is not illegal and the bowler in question insisted I learn the rules before attacking him.

    Since I didn’t actually see the release, the sound alerted me to an issue. I wouldn’t have said anything except for what he did to finish Game 2.

    He left a split in the 10th frame and pushed the ball with his foot for his spare attempt. I told his team captain that was not a legal delivery. The reaction I got was one of resignation, as if he does things like this a lot.

    Based on what others have said (hearsay), he can’t bowl PBA because of similar actions. I don’t know if his situation is true, but in general these antics will get you asked to leave many events.

    And since he was abusive towards me, that makes a third potential unsportsmanlike conduct violation. If I file a formal protest, the violation at the end of the 2nd game would be upheld, the violation at the end of the 3rd iffy and probably won’t be upheld and it’s anyone’s guess if the verbal abuse will be upheld.

    Oh, and I do know the rules. I don’t know them 100%, but apparently neither does HQ. A few years ago, I challenged their interpretation of applying a foreign substance to your shoes. They said that because it can come off, it cannot be applied in the first place. I pointed out that if wiped off prior to getting on the approaches, it meets the rule. They had to agree and later added an interpretive note to clarify how to apply it legally.

    This guy might have only cost 2 pins, but the rules don’t apply differently if it’s a fill ball versus elsewhere in the game. Integrity must be upheld. And since this is a handicap league, those 2 pins off his average can turn into an extra pin for him later on and be the difference between win and tie or tie and lose to his and his team’s advantage. He shot 749, but should have been 751.

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