With the pros averaging in the 240s on a weekly basis, and with all of the 900 series being shot, I think it’s safe to assume that all bowlers consider this trend the most problematic facing our great sport. Everywhere you look, people are throwing strike after strike, even if they just learned how to bowl a few weeks prior. It’s gotten to a crisis point where strikes are much more common than spares and splits.
There have been many proposals about how to combat the scoring pace, including going back to older equipment, making the lane conditions more challenging, and even making the pins heavier. With all due respect to those ideas, I believe I am about to suggest an idea that is vastly superior to all that came before it. My idea, which I now humbly present to you, dear readers, is as follows. For all of these years, we’ve determined who the best bowler is based on who knocks down the most pins, but what if we flipped that on its head? What if the best bowler wasn’t who knocked down more pins, but rather less?
The scoring system would follow the rules of lowball, a method of keeping score that has, until now, only been in the realm of recreation play. The object of the game would be to knock down as few pins as possible; however, a gutter ball will still penalize a player. If a bowler rolls a gutter on his/her first ball, that frame will count as a strike. If the ball goes into the gutter on the second roll, it will count as a spare. The best frame will give the bowler a total score of two (coming from knocking down only one pin on each of the two rolls), with the best score being a 20 as opposed to a 300.
Now, I’m sure some of you are rising angrily in your chairs after reading what was just typed, despite the obvious advantages of this system, so I will now lay bare the multitude of reasons why this can be bowling’s only recourse.
At first glance, I can see how one can come to the erroneous conclusion that knocking down more pins is harder than knocking down a single pin. But if you consider how much friction modern bowling balls create, mixed with the wider angles the lane patterns allow to be played, I think you’ll see it’s not hard at all to throw a strike. Furthermore, since a bowling ball is 8.5″ in diameter and pins are 12″ apart from each other, this means one can only miss by 3.49″ in one direction if they are to knock down a single pin exclusively (I say in one direction because on the other side of the pin is the gutter). Upon having this knowledge, I do not see how anybody can fail to see the truth these numbers so simply and clearly demonstrate.
Another complaint I imagine will come against my system is from the ball manufacturers. They want to keep making better and better bowling balls so people will be forced to spend money to buy the new equipment. Only needing to topple a single pin renders their advances useless, they will say. Well, the truth is quite to the contrary. I say keep making the bowling balls stronger and stronger, as this will make it harder to be accurate enough to only hit one pin. They should keep going until it is nigh impossible to throw a straight end-over-end roll. This will really demonstrate who is the best bowler! Why would any bowler want to make it tougher, as opposed to easier, to get only one pin each throw? They wouldn’t, but this is where tournament rules will come in. For regular tournaments bowlers can throw whatever ball they choose and roll it however they want, as it is hard enough to only knock down one pin. For the more prestigious tournaments, bowlers will be limited to certain equipment or a certain way of throwing the ball. For example, all bowlers may have to use the strongest ball on the market during one tournament, and they may have to throw a hook on all of their shots for another.
A final misconception is that this format will be boring. Anybody who takes this stance is sorely mistaken, and can’t be more wrong. Under the old system strikes were so prevalent and commonplace, that bowlers expected to strike each and every shot. When a strike was obtained it didn’t elicit any emotion from the bowler. Under my much improved system, however, bowlers will be jumping up and down when only one pin falls down, and they will agonize in anguish as they watch an errant shot create a domino-effect among the pins. The ball might only hit 3 pins, but the end result could be as much as a catastrophic nine-count, or even a dreaded strike. The fact that the center of the 7 and 10 pins is only 2.75″ from the gutter will make the action even more exciting because both spectators’ and bowlers’ hearts start beating faster when a ball looks like it is headed for the gutter. If a ball manages to hang on and clip the corner pin, everyone will breathe a collective sigh of relief, but if the ball instead slides into the gutter right before hitting the pin, everyone will groan in unison, knowing that the bowler was so close to throwing a good shot, but they were just slightly off. And, of course, spectators will bellow with laughter when a bowler is unfortunate enough to get good pin reaction and end up with a high score.
The governing bodies and bowlers around the world have been debating for years how to fix bowling. Changing the scoring to be only 10 frames was even considered. In light of the recent decline in popularity and strife the high scores have caused within the bowling community, I humbly submit the above proposal to the powers that be, free of charge, in the sole interest of improving this great sport.
Kenny Martin, an avid bowler