Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What makes a good league?

A recent commenter to this blog suggested that most league bowlers want a good and consistent shot. Is that what makes a good league? Is that your main criteria in choosing in which league(s) you bowl? After thinking about these criteria, here is my list of what makes a good league.

First of all, if I am going to commit to a 32 to 36 week league, I am going to bowl with people I like and get along with. I bowl on a team of my friends. I don't see how this could not be top on most people's list.

I want to bowl where the better bowlers are bowling. Those leagues are more fun and can be more frustrating. Good sets have more meaning, and bad sets hurt just a bit more. Each week can be a big match. I tend to focus more. I get more motivated than just another league night. Chicken or the egg? Bigger prize funds tend to develop with the higher competitive leagues. Is it because sponsored leagues draw the competitive bowlers or do a large group of competitive bowlers draw sponsors?

Bowling Center Facilities
I like a bowling center that is brightly lit. I like a clean center. You are not afraid to go to the rest room while there. The bowlers' area is not littered with popcorn or other food from open play or birthday parties. There should be lots of room in the bowler area for seating. The pinsetters should be well maintained. It should be obvious that these machines should work flawlessly and not damage your bowling balls nor break down during the league session. This leads to a long night. The center should have a good central air/heat capability. That leads to good approaches; not too slippery and not too tacky. I prefer wood approaches, but that trend is going away. Some centers install synthetic lanes but leave the wood approaches. I like that combination. Since I don't normally eat at a bowling center, I'm not that interested in the snack bar/restaurant area. This is a major profit area for the bowling center. This should be obvious by the prices.

Friendly/Knowledgeable Staff
Most of the time, you do not interact with the bowling center staff. However, when something goes wrong or you need some information, this is where you will form your opinion on this part of your customer service.

Lane Conditions
I think most bowlers choose their leagues based on lane conditions. This would be first but is last on my list. With high quality competition, does it matter what the lane conditions are? Everyone is bowling on the same shot. Granted, I hate when my pair is bone dry while all other pairs are not. A commenter to this blog stated that most bowlers want a good and consistent shot. I interpret that as meaning that most bowlers want an easy league shot. A good shot does not have to be easy. Why does it have to be consistent from week to week? As long as lane 1 has the same shot that lane 20 does is the most important thing to me for a league. If the shot was consistent, we would still only have a double ball bag, with one ball for hooking lanes and one ball for slick lanes. Isn't that the way we did it back in the 80's? Now, league bowlers are coming in with 4 bowling balls. We have 10-15 minutes of practice and a reasonable theory on where the shot is each week. That is better than what we get in most tournaments.

Obviously, you can't get all of this. Smaller associations are only 1 or 2 bowling centers. Larger associations have many bowling centers, but driving distance is also an option in choosing a league.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Inside vs. Outside

I have heard it now a couple of times on the ESPN PBA Sunday telecasts. Randy Pedersen repeated the difference between amateurs and pro bowlers; amateurs work the outside of the ball and pros work the inside. What is he talking about? Usually, explanations for the show are "dumbed down" for the non-avid bowler. Here, Randy steps into it by introducing a concept that needs to be further developed. All he mentions is that the amateur comes around the outside of the ball producing more spin. However, no explanation is given for how a pro works the inside of the ball. At least, not one that I can discern and try to duplicate.

Well, I heard this concept again. Discovery Channel's Time Warp program on December 10 featured Michael Fagan. The show slowed down the footage of Fagan's release as well as ball rotation and pin action. The purpose of the show is to explain the science and physics of everyday activities or events. Michael's explanation starts at around 2:07 of the video. He tries to keep his hand on the inside of the ball and rotate to underneath the ball. By contrast, I'm guessing that us amateurs start with our hands underneath the ball and rotate the ball around the outside of it.

There may be good practice tips in that video. However, I cannot and am not encouraging anyone to duplicate Michael Fagan's style.

Monday, December 8, 2008

When is the best time for televised bowling?

Bowling Rules Cable
I just switched cable companies. I now have ESPN Classic which televises old PBA shows from ESPN and ABC. Do they have the shows from NBC? Yes, I can now enjoy the Pete Weber or Parker Bohn III marathon. These shows are on daily at 11:00am CT and the occasional Sunday marathon of shows already mentioned. With live PBA telecasts on Sunday, is bowling get all the exposure it could get? The fall/winter season competes directly with the NFL. Since I don't live in an NFL city, it is easy for me to watch the tour live as network television shows the same teams every week. I know about NFL Sunday Ticket but am too busy and too cheap to watch any NFL game every week.

Spring Tour in Prime Time?
Jeff Richgels is a regional pro bowler, newspaper reporter, and regularly takes my bracket money at the USBC Open every year. In his blog, The 11th Frame, he reports that ESPN is close to signing the PBA for a spring tour in which the finals will be televised in prime time.

I'm one of many who believe the PBA's Holy Grail is weeknight prime time, perhaps immediately following SportsCenter on Tuesday or Wednesday night.

So you can imagine how stunning it was to hear Schreyer casually mention to the Phantom that PBA was close to a deal for a Spring Tour in which the TV finals would be in prime time on ESPN.

"We have the potential right now of even possibly getting a four- or five-week run with ESPN in the spring on prime time in the evening," Schreyer said. "So we're trying to finalize that. We're hopeful that we'll be able to pull that off. And that could be really exciting in terms of getting tremendous additional exposure for the sport."

I also agree that Tuesday or Wednesday night at 7:00pm telecast would get better ratings than Sunday noon. Unless the networks come out with the next blockbuster series, Tuesday and Wednesday nights provide little television enjoyment; particularly after college basketball season.

Bowling puts me to sleep
Let me caveat that title statement. Televised bowling on Sunday puts me to sleep. I look forward to noon and get in my recliner to watch the show. After seeing who is on the show, watching their styles, lines, and ball reaction, I will soon drift off. Is the show that dull? The new 'powers that be' that run the PBA were right. The personalities of their players do catch the average fan's attention. I can fall asleep easier watching some pros than others. However, the time of day lulls me to an afternoon slumber. A tour show at 7:00pm will keep my interest just as an episode of House or any CSI franchise.

As much as we watch bowling on the tube, it is still more worthwhile to participate. I am rarely in a bowling center unless I am bowling. I don't go just to watch. I've only done that when a pro tournament is in town, like the PWBA in 1998 and the Masters in 1997.