The warnings came long ago, as reflected in the pages of Bowling Magazine‘s September 1965 edition.
Indeed, exactly a half-century ago, the official publication of the American Bowling Congress stressed the subject of how “lane doctoring” and artificial high scores were becoming a threat to the game.
The headline “Doctoring Of Lanes Danger To Bowling” appeared on both the cover page and on a lengthy inside article. And a separate story carried the headline “High scores under improper conditions akin to setting 100-yard dash record with 30 mile an hour wind at back.”
Quoting directly from the featured article: Doctoring of lanes to produce unrealistically high scores is one of the most serious problems ever to confront the bowling game. In some of the more sophisticated techniques, automatic lane dressing machines designed to do a proper job have been modified to “doctor” the lanes.
ABC Executive Secretary Frank Baker is quoted as saying: “In the competition to get business, mainenance employees and others have succumbed to the temptation to make scoring too easy.”
Unlike the situation nowadays, where virtually all so-called honor scores are certified without question, approval a half-century ago required full inspection of lanes, pins and balls, and at that time a number of honor scores were rejected (84 in 1964-65) by the ABC for improper conditions.
As the problem of artificial high scores began to escalate a half-century ago, ABC spokesmen said: “These practices threaten the game’s scoring challenge, delude the bowlers as to their capabilities and could lead to their ultimate disenchantment with the game itself.”
A few other noteworthy paragraphs from the featured article:
- Artificial aids are equivalent to putting a springboard in front of a high jump, as far as scoreability is concerned. These conditions strike at the very sanctity of the game.
- The treatment of lanes in order to produce synthetic scores is done in various ways and has more angles than a geometry book.
- A sprinter with a 30 mile wind at his back can hardly be eligible for recognition of any record performance … One put it this way: “What will people pitching horseshoes do when they put up magnetic stakes?”
- More practical people in the game are concerned because fantastic scores bowled under (too-easy) conditions will delude bowlers as to their true ability. This can lead to lack of interest in the game, especially in the realm of junior age bowlers. The game’s scoring challenge is gone before they become truly skilled. They, it might be said, will never know the true value of their accomplishments.
- There’s a lesson to be learned by proprietors, because he hurts his own business. For who needs to practice when he can average 210 bowling only one night a week?
Fifty years ago, there were ABC rules in place to prevent artifically high scoring, but in recent decades, the rules and restrictions have been changed, watered down or eliminated. Today, an almost-anything-goes policy exists with regard to out-of-control scoring levels that couldn’t have been fully comprehended in 1965.
Anyone with even limited knowledge of bowling is aware that scoring has increased big-time over the years, but few likely realize the extent of the difference between modern-day and 1965 levels. A casual observer could possibly conclude that it wasn’t even the same game back then. To read a column about how scores stacked up 50 years ago on the local, state and national scene, click here.
As far back as the early 1960s, Bill Taylor had warned about how “super soft conditions” would negatively impact bowling, but for the most part, ABC ignored what he had to say. And therefore, Taylor wasn’t even mentioned in the September 1965 issue of Bowling Magazine. To read or scan the contents of Taylor’s warnings as published in a 1960 booklet, click here.
Many of the game’s movers and shakers thought there was a problem regarding artificially high scoring levels circa 1965. What would they think of the situation a half-century later?
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