After covering an early round of a Professional Bowlers Association event one year in California, I adjourned to the bowling alley’s bar to have an adult beverage with a few of the fans.
That was in the days when you could say “bowling alley” without causing an uproar. Now it is “bowling center.”
In any event, the time crept toward midnight and we all were enjoying the topic of the day, how tough life was on the tour.
Out in the parking lot was a village of house trailers, as many of the competitors didn’t have the financial wherewithal to stay at the local Econo Lodge.
If you weren’t a steady casher on the tour, you weren’t going to last long. The best guys ate steak, the others bologna.
Shortly after midnight, a guy came into the bar and plopped down on a bar stool. He was rather portly and had holes in his T-shirt that weren’t of the fashionable variety.
Some of the guys in the bar were regular league bowlers who carried hefty 200-plus averages. The new guest was a PBA member who had struggled earlier in the day in competition.
So, with a couple of beers in them, the locals started giving the pro a few pointers on how to handle their home lanes.
As you might expect, the pro took exception to such talk, and eventually he challenged the locals to a duel. They had their own balls and shoes, and he came in with nothing. So this guy picked out a house ball and a set of multicolored shoes and proceeded to spank all comers at $50 apiece.
Now I was getting a clear picture of how some of the pros made it on tour.
Numbers are no more deceiving than in the sport of bowling, where lane conditions separate the truly gifted from the league bowlers. It always been a rather fuzzy line that can be hard for non-bowlers to understand.
You get why a minor-league hitter who can launch 40 home runs can’t hit .200 in the majors. Better pitching.
You understand how a star college football running back can’t get through the holes in the NFL. Faster players.
How come a league bowler who averages 225 can’t compete very well in a pro tournament where the field averages 205? Same lanes.
And yet that difference might be even fuzzier today as, due to equipment changes, league scores are climbing higher than ever. Bowling proprietors know that easy conditions and high scores attract participants.
Making lane conditions easier by using oil patterns to help the bowler find a path to the pocket assures those high scores. Equipment changes allow bowlers to “miss their mark” by a greater distance and still take a favorable path.
But just in case you start wondering if your 227 average would land you on a PBA televised show, consider the news from Sunday’s PBA50 Sun Bowl from The Villages, Fla. Joe Scarborough, a 50-year-old playing on the senior tour, bowled the first 900 in PBA Tour history.
That’s the first one ever. It wasn’t done by Walter Ray Williams or Earl Anthony or Dick Weber or Mark Roth.
Norm Duke once bowled three consecutive 300 games in 1996, but he did it because two ended one round and the third started another.
Meanwhile, the feat has been accomplished by 20 bowlers who weren’t participating in a PBA Tour event.
It’s pretty obvious we’re talking about two separate worlds.
So instead of handing over $50 to a pro bowler who is doing some midnight hustling, give up something else instead.