Whether or not you have favorable or unfavorable opinions about bowling’s continuing high-score explosion, inflated scoring has impacted the “disappearance” of many facets of the game that were commonplace in years gone by.
In many cases, changes have been subtle, but without question, many aspects of the “good old days” are no longer a significant part of modern-day bowling — such things as beer frames, scratch leagues and tournaments, media coverage and awards at all levels.
There are many reasons for bowling-related changes, and there are numerous reasons why large numbers of people have left the game, and not all of them can be linked to soaring modern-day scoring levels. But this article takes a look at 10 things that have been reduced to a significant degree, and most of the downturn came after the advent of the high-score era.
- BEER FRAMES are far less common nowadays, in part because the cost of drinks has skyrocketed as fast as the scores. It’s been a long time since five beers (or drinks) cost $2 or less, and not only that, the modern-day strikefests have vastly upped the number of frames in which all but one team member strikes.
- POT GAMES and SCRATCH SWEEPERS used to be far more prevalent than nowadays. Pot games were the norm following some leagues, and at other times as well, decades ago, and things such as 15- and 24-game scratch marathons are pretty much extinct. [Several local centers, including Sarasota Lanes and Rip Van Winkle Lanes, hosted frequent 24-game scratch marathons, and other scratch sweepers and tournaments were commonplace. But recently, when only three bowlers showed up for the once-popular Prove It Scratch Challenge tournaments, that series was discontinued. Also until the late 1970s, Florida All-Star Bowling Association tournaments were held on a regular basis throughout the state, but they disappeared at about the time that The Great Wall Of China arrived. Even handicap tourney organizations such as ABT, NABI and Diamond 21 fell by the wayside.]
- SCRATCH LEAGUES used to be part of virtually every bowling center’s schedule, but even though many more bowlers are posting box-car numbers, they apparently aren’t interested in scratch leagues. In part, that’s because ultra-high average caps became necessary, thus “freezing out” all but the top-echelon players, whereas previously, with lower average caps, bowlers with averages in the 170s and 180s were able to “fit” into scratch leagues. [The Tuesday scratch league at Rip Van Winkle Lanes used to be the premier area scratch league when it had five-man average limits of 920 or 940, but the league folded completely after a season in which the team that finished dead last had the lowest combined average of 1,008.]
- ASSOCIATION and USBC AWARDS have been drastically cut back or even eliminated, primarily because of the skyrocketing total of perfect games, 800 series and awards categories. Once-prestigious ABC/WIBC awards became so numerous and costly that some were eliminated and others switched to one-in-a-lifetime status. [Until about a decade ago, the local association yearbook included all 300s, 299s, 298s and 800s rolled in the association’s history, but those listings took up so much space that they were eliminated.]
- ABC/WIBC/USBC MEMBERSHIP started a steady downward slide almost immediately after the mandated “gutter-to-gutter” lane-conditioning rules were abandoned in favor of “gradual curve from edge to edge” oiling patterns, which eventually evolved into virtually anything-goes THS conditions. [In the early 1980s, more than 95 percent of all Sarasota area leagues were ABC/WIBC-certified, but for well over a decade, fewer than one-half of local leagues have been USBC-certified. And part of the reason, whether justifiable or not, is the “Why should we sanction?” viewpoints brought about by perceptions — especially by low- and medium-average bowlers and senior participants — that their dues have no “bang for the buck” as compared with leagues that yield numerous high scores and averages.]
- CASH AWARDS for 300s and 800s used to be given out by a fair number of proprietors, but now, only in rare instances do proprietors award a bowler $300 — or any amount, for that matter — when he/she rolls a perfect game. [Sarasota Lanes still pays $300 for the first 300 game of the season and $400 for the first 800 series of the season, but until the center started putting out a THS shot full-time, there were $300 cash awards for every perfect game shot. And other centers also presented similar awards.]
- MEDIA COVERAGE — especially regarding newspaper bowling columns and articles — has become virtually non-existent in many areas of the country. Sports editors apparently feel that bowling is no longer worthy of media coverage,. [All area newspapers had bowling columnists until about a decade ago, but area newspaper bowling coverage was totally gone by 2012. It’s a far cry from a time, prior to 1980, when even perfect games in practice got a lot of newspaper publicity. But with the “value” of a 300 game diminished by the high volume of them, local coverage dropped to near-zero, except for frequent bowling articles published on atombash.com.]
- HALL OF FAME STATUS — whether on the local, state or national level — no longer carries the same measure of esteem and recognition as it did decades ago. Some ABC/USBC Hall members were inducted for bowling ability, even though they had only one or no perfect games on their resume, And in almost all cases, Hall of Famers inducted prior to the advent of The Great Wall Of China have posted honor-score numbers that pale in comparison to the accomplishments of modern-day bowlers. [Sarasota-Manatee County Halls of Fame used to have displays in each area center, but in recent years, the only available Hall of Fame information is a list of members published in the association yearbook, which isn’t widely circulated.]
- PATCHES used to be proudly worn, especially when they indicated perfect games, 11-in-a-row or series of 700+ or 800+ — or various other patches, for that matter. [Perfect-game patches weren’t common in the local bowling community for many years. For instance, no perfect games were rolled in the Sarasota-Manatee County Bowling Association over an eight-year span from 1965 to 1973. And other high-score patches weren’t all that common, either.]
- BANQUETS : Reasons may vary, but the number of leagues conducting post-season awards banquets has significantly decreased, and the same holds true for local association banquets. And by the same token, there aren’t as many trophies given out in leagues or by local associations. [Soon after the advent of The Wall in the late 1970s, the Sarasota-Manatee County Bowling Association discontinued its once-popular annual awards banquets, open free of charge to all cashers in the SMCBA championship tournament.]
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