I walk into the small room. It appears to be a classroom being used for this mandated meeting. Other bowlers are in the room with all the chairs positioned in a circle. I do not recognize anyone in the room. As I have been to many scratch tournaments, none of these bowlers look familiar. Wait, I think I do recognize a couple of them from a few handicap tournaments such as The Stepladder or Ebonite eliminator tournaments. As the newest member to the group, I have to stand and introduce myself. "My name is Joey. I've been re-rated." There are fewer things more embarrassing than a public confession. The experience is therapeutic as it is humbling and introspective. The others welcome me to the group and encourage me to continue my story, most likely hoping for some juicy tidbit or embarrassing confession of a transgression. I continue.
"I've been bowling for close to 40 years. This has never happened to me before. It is mid-January and I decide to enter the monthly tournament being held at the local lanes. It is a handicap tournament using an eliminator format where the top half advances to the next round after each cut. This continues to the final two bowling for the championship. As I have bowled in this tournament before, I pay my entry and prepare for practice. Everyone draws for lanes and we begin the three game qualifying round. During the first game, I need to ask the tournament director a question concerning rules as this is the first of these tournaments that I have bowled in the current season. I ask to what average is the handicap based upon. The answer was 220. I then informed the director that my book average from the previous season was below that. Yes, I had a bad year. I have never had handicap in this tournament before. I had bowled only one league at the statistically hardest house that previous season. I also had a shoulder injury that required missing a few weeks after the pain became unbearable. The director entered the book average into the laptop. I also explained that my current average was more than 10 pins higher than the previous year's book average. I instructed him that I will approve a re-rating if he determined it necessary. The director did not change my handicap back to zero. The tournament flyer lists very few rules if any. I returned to bowling my qualifying games.
I bowled very well. I easily made the top half eliminator cut as I qualified 2nd with my handicap score. To be fair, my scratch score would have also qualified me second. My handicap was a bonus of 5 pins that I hadn't seen in many, many years. I made the next eliminator cut after the next game. The following game, I had the first 10 strikes in a row and very easily made the next eliminator cut. The field is down to the remaining 5 bowlers. After the bowlers are announced over the intercom system, I am publicly requested to come to the front desk. I am then told that I am being rerated to a scratch average, and my handicap is removed. I accepted. I had no remorse as I felt as I had provided all necessary facts. Is it normal to be re-rated when the tournament is nearly complete?
Bowling scratch, I made the final elimination to the championship match. At no time during the tournament, did any handicap pins give me an edge to qualify to the next round that I would not have made with my scratch score. I did not enter any handicap brackets. All my bracket money was entered into scratch brackets. The championship match was close for about two minutes. I was giving my opponent thirty-one pins handicap. He bowled a scratch score over 250. Since I did not start with ten strikes in a row, I ended up finishing the tournament second place. It is a different time. Back in the 1980's, when I was averaging in the 180's (which is a handicap in the 30's), I never shot a 250 score. Only the 200 average bowlers were shooting a rare score of 250. The young bowlers who grew up on high scoring, high risk, high reward deliveries can bowl 250 one game and then follow with a 160. I hope that when this young tournament champion bowls the next tournament, the director looks at his high tournament average and re-rates him accordingly."
I conclude my story and sit down. The looks in the room of the other participants are unimpressed. I guess I should have spiced the story up with tantrums, ejections, protest letters, loud public arguments, and blacklists. A laughable story of how one bowler can justify his 175 average while others have seen him in Tennessee bowling scratch tournaments is told by another participant. I can't believe I am in this group listening to these stories.
The moderator thanks everyone for showing up for this month's meeting. The next meeting date is announced. I told the moderator that I had no plans for attending any more meetings of this group. I would not ever be back.