“The game has changed, and you can’t go backwards.”

01bowling.1.190.jpgThanks to reader Sean for this Neil Amdur-New York Times story on science making bowling easier and how it's driving not impacting participation levels. Hmmm...

Twenty-five years ago today, Glenn Allison bowled three consecutive 300 games, the first to record the feat in a sanctioned league. But nothing has been the same in the sport since Allison’s 36 strikes in a row were initially heralded, then, after a protracted legal fight, disallowed because of what officials cited as noncomplying conditions at La Habra 300 Bowl in California.
Fast forward...
Four other bowlers as far back as 1931 preceded Allison with 900 scores, but none were in a sanctioned league or under tournament conditions. Allison said he was not upset that noncompliance with oil distribution on his lanes left him as an asterisk in bowling record books. If Allison rolled a 900 series in a league tonight, it would be approved without an inspection. Rule changes now allow for season-long certification of lanes, another accommodation that rankles traditionalists.

But as tennis and golf have had technical and tactical shifts in their sports with the introduction of new equipment, science has found bowling. Allison used one ball for every shot, but many league and pro bowlers now have three or four. The new balls “grip the lanes better,” he said, creating a coefficient of friction that is much higher than years ago. “You can buy a hook with these new balls, and it’s so much easier,” Allison said.
“It’s an altogether different game,” said Mickey Curley, who has worked at the lanes for 44 years and whose son Dennis bowled with Allison on the night of his perfect series. “Fitting and drilling bowling balls now is a science.”

Roger Dalkin, the chief executive of the United States Bowling Congress, said: “One of the difficulties we have as a governing body is trying to manage the technology and not eliminate it. There’s always a debate: What’s too much, what’s too easy?”

Registered membership in the bowling congress fell to 2.7 million last year from close to 10 million in 1982. But according to Simmons Research, 70 million Americans (37 million men, 33 million women) bowl at least once a year, and many are prepared to spend $10 a game and more for the lively social activities at places like Bowlmor Lanes in Manhattan.

The bowling congress has also initiated Sport Bowling, a division that tries to emulate pro tour-type conditions for more serious competitors. Begun three years ago, it has 40,000 members and has doubled in membership each of the last three years.

“Thirty years ago, 90 percent of bowling was leagues,” Mark Miller, a bowling congress spokesman, said by telephone from Las Vegas, where the Bowl Expo, which ended Friday, attracted 5,000 exhibitors, including bowling center proprietors and product manufacturers. “Now, 60 percent of all bowling is recreational. The game has changed, and you can’t go backwards.”


Wait, it's going backwards in terms of cost and participation? No?