League Bowling

By Michael Cousins

Tonight, I bowled league. I bowled 688. I didn’t throw it great, I didn’t throw it bad. I seen guys throw it far worse than me bowl 750, I seen guys throw it far better than me bowl 610. This is league bowling.

Before you assume that I’m writing this article to complain about the state of league bowling, please hear me out.

League bowling is what it is. Both the good and the bad. It isn’t going to change anytime soon, and it probably shouldn’t have to either. It is meant to be recreational. It is meant to be fun. It is not meant to be challenging. That is league bowling.

I won’t, for a second, pretend that I am the biggest fan of league bowling.

I think everyone that I bowl with can attest to this.

And for years I have been trying to find out what is “wrong” with league bowling. I have tried to find a way to “fix” it. Make it more to my liking. Find a way for me to enjoy it more. But what if league bowling isn’t broken? What if it isn’t league that needs to change, but, rather, us, the bowlers?

First thing is first, league bowling isn’t a barometer for talent and skill level. We need to accept that. Just because someone averages 240 and you average 230 doesn’t mean that they’re more talented than you.

For the longest time, that really bothered me. I hated league bowling because of it. I felt like on any given night I could lose to lesser talent. That frustrated me beyond belief. It made me hate league. But, again, what if the problem there wasn’t league, but, rather, me and my expectations.

You can’t get mad at a leopard for being a leopard. Just like you can’t get mad at league bowling for being league bowling.

As I am getting older, and I’ve left competitive bowling behind, I have grown cynical. I have realized this. And I don’t think I am alone. In fact, after dealing with customers on a daily basis, I know that I am not alone. This article is to you guys. You know who you are. And I hope this helps.

League bowling isn’t going to change. It shouldn’t have to. When you’re at league next time, do me a favor: look around you, look at the other league bowlers. Do they look miserable? I think not. To many bowlers, league is a night off, a night away from whatever it is they’re dealing with in their day-to-day lives. They’re there for fun.

Who are we to take away from their enjoyment?

They’re not bowling league for the challenge; they just want to have a good time. They are there to converse, mingle, see friends, bowl the best they can, and, for 2-3 hours a week, try to get a break from life.

And while I know that, in most cases, we – these cynical league haters – are not trying to take away from anyone’s enjoyment, but we are. Inevitably.

Trust me, I understand that, from a competitive standpoint, league bowling gets frustrating from time-to-time.

It isn’t necessarily “fun” to throw the ball well, end up shooting 650, and losing to the competition – competition that may or may not be as talented as you are – by 100 pins. But that is league bowling. And it isn’t going to change.

We need to understand that. I need to understand that. We need to accept that. I need to accept that. League bowling isn’t the problem. We are. It is time that we stop waiting for league bowling to change and, instead, become the change ourselves.

8 thoughts on “League Bowling

  1. tim says:

    I’m not sure what the hell the intention of this e-mail is. I bowl in a league one nite week and enjoy it. and we give pins to every team in the league, of course there is a reason for this. I don’t like to lose any more then the next guy, but it happens. my only complaint is I wish the establishment was more consistent with the shot from week to week.

    • johnny says:

      If you give up pins to every team in the league, then you should be able to adjust to any kind of shot, that is put out there.

  2. Steve says:

    Yes, you are correct about having fun, the social mix, getting out, all of it.

    But I do feel that league bowling, in it’s basic form, has to have at the very least a set standard of condition. Certainly not at the top level of the sport, but at least Some standard beyond the barbaric 3 units of oil nobody even checks anymore. People that really just want to socialize and have a good time have little incentive to join a “sanctioned” league. The word “sanctioned” should mean something.

    Having a decent shot that anyone can bowl on within reason is very simple to do. We have one house that’s got more miss room than oil, and another that’s consistent week to week, and fairly applied.

    I have no problem with the gist of your article, except that it promotes surrender to all aspects of a sport. The closest many bowlers get to any competition is league, given the time constraints and dollar constraints many people have that conflict with tournament bowling. Not to mention the fact that while the USBC gave up on regulating league shots, they did their level darndest to make the USBC Open Championship conditions hard enough that pro bowlers have a tough time of it. Mind you, the OC is basically the championship for league bowlers, more or less.

    I think it’s high time that the USBC deal with their governance mandate. They gave up long ago to the likes of the BPAA, time to gain at least a little credibility back.

  3. johnny says:

    This sounds like sour grapes to me. I bowl with a guy who talks like he should be on tour. He always has an excuse, the shot, lanes, ball not breaking ect. ect. If he gets beat by someone with a lower avg. they’re sandbagging. All it is ,is operator error.
    I don’t care how good you are or how good you think you are, you’re going to get beat. So get over it and move on.

  4. Jim Stem says:

    Nicely stated and thank you. With your permission I would like to share this article. Being in the pro shop industry, not only do I sell, coach, mentor, service, etc, but also provide therapy for many who sometimes forget about others’ perspectives.

  5. Pinbreaker says:

    I agree with Tim. The establishment doesn’t care or even like the league bowlers
    however they realize that they can’t survive without them. Would like to see
    the lanes more consistent with the shot and have the lanes cleaned more often.
    and the approaches cleaned up before league bowlers arrive. (popcorn, gum, etc on
    the lane itself also cut down on the number of breakdowns each league nite,(most lanes don’t open until late afternoon). I am more apt to blame the establishment for the decline in league bowlers. When lanes are dirty, breakdown it takes the fun out of bowling and everyone seems to get more grumpy instead of just having fun.

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