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When you’re stick, call a Purple Duck…and other stuff

One of the lesser-known species involved behind the scenes, hard at work in trying to bring out the best in Illinois bowler, are the Purple Ducks.

What’s a Purple Duck, you ask? Well, you’re not alone. We just learned about them during the Illinois State Bowling Proprietors’ Association’s annual meeting in Naperville in early November.

A Purple Duck is an Illlinois bowling center owner who has served a term as ISBPA president and served on the BPAA national board of directors. The flock includes, among others, Collinsville’s Artie Hartman, Peru’s Jim Stubler and Pana’s Bob Crawford.

As the name may suggest, this is a group of guys who have a sense of humor, but when they are doing “duck duty,” it’s no laughing matter. Rather, it’s a matter of continuing to serve the sport as a mentor to the next generation of leaders. For example, a Purple Duck might still be asked to serve, but they make it a point to avoid exerting undue influence over the next generation of leaders. The Ducks want new blood to offer new ideas and bring new energy to the sport, but their role is to offer a sense of history and past experience to ensure those ideas are well-grounded.

Where did the name Purple Ducks come from? Well, rumor has it you’ll have to ask Jim Stubler. I’m pretty sure you’ll find his answer entertaining.

During the ISPBA meeting, a couple of long-time bowling acquaintances - both with a bit of fire in their eyes - asked what I thought about the new USBC Open Championships announcements regarding a new Standard Division for bowlers who average between 181 and 209 and revised Regular Division for those who average 210-plus (including all PBA members); a decision to keep the lane conditioning pattern top secret until the tournament is over, and a new policy prohibiting USBC and BPAA employees from participating in the tournament.

Re: the new 189-209 division, the school of thought was, since when do we need to reward those bowlers who can’t compete? For more than 100 years, the tournament has provided the Regular Division as the ultimate test of skill among the nation’s grassroots bowlers. The Classified Division was for bowlers with lesser skills, just to give them a chance to participate in the national event.

But now bowlers of lesser skills will have two divisions, opening new opportunities to manipulate averages to avoid having to face the sport’s elite players rather than encourage them to work harder in order to compete at the highest level.

It suggests to me that USBC is taking a dramatic step to encourage entries rather than protect the integrity and traditions of the event.

Plans to keep the lane conditioning pattern a secret under a threat of harsh penalties if the secrecy is violated is an exercise in futility at best. Especially considering the extreme measures USBC appears ready to take to protect its secrets.

Example: USBC is going to stop video-streaming to prevent bowlers who will bowl later on from being able to analyze lane play. That step does nothing to stop bowlers from calling their friends to discuss conditions. Bowlers who live close to the tournament venue can easily stop by and watch to get a “read” on what’s going on. Smart phone videos will likely reach more bowlers than USBC’s video-streams ever did.

The issue raised to me is that contemporary bowling ball technology will call for serious players to bring along more equipment than ever, or players will be forced to buy new equipment on-site, to try to match up with conditions.

As one acquaintance said, the simplest answer is to use the same lane condition USBC used in 2015, when scores were the most credible they’ve been in years.

Make ‘em tough...and let the best bowlers win.

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29 February 2020

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