California Bowling Writers

September 1, 2008

A Response
by Frenchy Letourneau

After reading Dick Evans' imaginary interview with Michael Phelps, I feel compelled to respond.

First and foremost, Bowling is a game, and looked on as a true sport by a certain percentage of players. The SPORT of bowling, which includes a well-toned and talented athlete, ends at the FOUL LINE. Then, the GAME takes over. The athlete no longer has control of the outcome. In the end, the SCORE determines the competitive outcome, and often it's not entirely the athlete's effort. The most gifted players still leave ringing 10's, solid 8's and various other anomalies, despite a seemingly flawless effort. The best players MINIMIZE the anomalies, but do not ELIMINATE them. This is why I have always contended that bowling - even in it's purest form - is not Olympic.

Michael Phelps' Olympic records are ENTIRELY determined by the efforts of the athlete, as is all other Olympic sports. The bowling game was not invented to go on forever and be afforded the luxury of being identified as an Olympic sport. It is a game of competition between two individuals or teams, and has defined limits so that more games can be played more often. The ten-frame structure and score limit is a mindset of competition, with a start, a finish, a winner, and a loser. Setting "records" is not part of the equation.

To clarify what I mean by athletic effort, you only need to examine two places in bowling history. My most vivid was the final match of the 1995 Touring Players Championships. Randy Pedersen delivered what he and the TV viewers saw as a perfect athletic delivery, flawless in execution and right on target. Instead of the strike he needed to win the tournament, he left the most disappointing solid 8 to hand the title to a strutting Ernie Schlegel. Was it an "Olympic" effort, or did he make a mistake? The score won, not the athlete.

My second historic event was the $200,000 won by Chris Barnes with a cross-over strike in the Roll to Riches. Was that a flawless "Olympic" execution? Chris is a true athlete and has been rewarded many times for his talent and hard work, but was this his best effort? He will be the first to tell you "No." This is a glaring example of where the GAME earned the reward, not the athlete.

Bowling has built in rewards for mistakes. Swimming does not. Bowling has built in anomalies regardless of athletic execution. Swimming does not. To allow a bowler to strike indefinitely to create a "record" is nonsense. Bowling, a COMPETITION game, is not structured to let the world stop while Bubba Revs tosses strike after strike on doctored lanes in a house that wants the "record." How many of these "record" strikes are crossovers, nose-hits, messenger 10's, and whatever mushy strikes that are now attainable in centers that doctor lanes? My wife just chimed in: "Who pays the house for all those extra frames for an hour after the league has gone home?" And, "What if you have a late league waiting to start? Do they take a bye, or start late?" DUH!

Bowling is a fun, wonderful GAME played on a varying field that challenges the worst to the best players. Too bad that we have scoring limits. WINNING matches, leagues, tournaments and a quarter from a teammate is what bowling is. It was never meant to be an Olympic "Sport." You want a bowling effort in the Olympics? I can offer this:

Set up a lane with NO OIL. Place two stakes 60 feet away 9 1/2 inches apart. The athlete must roll the 8 1/2 inch ball between the stakes without touching them. Each athlete gets ten tries. "Records" can be established should two competitors ace all ten shots and continue until the tie is broken. To make sure the athlete is "Olympic", alternate deliveries should be with left and right hands. Now, you have a game of skill, with hand and eye coordination and physical dexterity factored in, and all the record possibilities you want.

Please don't try to identify our game of bowling as something that needs to be Olympic. We have the World Cup. That should be our highest international effort.

Incidentally, the match between Randy Pedersen and Ernie Schlegel for the TPC title was held at Olympic Lanes in Pittsburgh.

Frenchy Letourneau, Publisher
TenPin Alley, Las Vegas, Nevada