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To Be Fair, Pro Bowling Should Adopt Equal Opportunity Rule

By Dick Evans
For more than 30 years, every good teenage bowler wanted to join the PBA and go out on tour in pursuit of fame and fortune. Future Hall of Fame bowlers like Mike Aulby, Marshall Holman, Mark Roth and Dave Davis became almost instant stars after joining the Professional Bowlers Association because they had talent. They only needed one good ball, which generally cost about $25, to knock over pins. And none needed a coach behind them, they won or lost on their own wits. But the tour has changed, and I think for the worse. Today an unknown rookie has little or no chance when he comes out on tour because:

EQUIPMENT. Most of the top tour bowlers have contracts with bowling ball companies like Brunswick, Storm and Columbia and get all their equipment free of charge. Sometimes a bowler may go through six new balls at a tournament, which can be very expensive since most of today's high-tech balls cost over $150.
COACHING. In the past decade, the bowling ball companies have started putting out on tour competent coaches who work with their players. They stand behind their bowlers and tell them what they are doing wrong and may even run to the paddock to get a new ball for their staff member. The unknown rookie is on his own.
MONEY. It costs more and more to go out on tour, the prize funds have been dwindling and sponsors have been harder to find. Established stars get financial help from glove, shirts and ball companies and that makes it easier to concentrate on your bowling. The unknown rookie has to come up with about $1,200 a week just to stay out on tour.

"I have to admit that it would be very difficult for a high school bowler to could come out on tour today and do so well so young" said Aulby, who won the first of 26 titles at age 19. "I was lucky, a dream fell into place just out of high school. Today you need to go to college and make a name for yourself because ball reps have become so important to the success of any bowler," said Aulby, who once severed ties with a company so he could try all different types of balls. But he soon re-signed with Brunswick, citing the importance of ball reps. "There are so many different makes of balls out there that it can become really confusing if you are not with one company. All the companies are coming out so fast with new balls because they are doing research and development all the time that they don't allow the paint to dry under your feet. "Fortunately, the ball reps know about all the new equipment and can guide you about what type of ball you should be using on different lane conditions. "And if your game is in trouble, the ball reps will help you find a solution." Even Mark Gerberich, commissioner of the PBA, admits "there is definitely an advantage for the players on (bowling ball) staffs. As you discussed, there are too many benefits for the top players." The Professional Women's Bowling Association recently decided to let the ball reps actually do coaching even during games on TV.

Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I like the way tennis handles the coaching issue. Almost every player of any merit has his/her own tennis coach. They work long and hard together on the practice courts. But when it comes to tournament time, the player is on his/her own. I like the fact you sink or swim on your own mental and physical talent. Oh, I know, some of the coaches and players try to cheat with hand signals and things like that, but tennis penalizes players points if they are spotted breaking the rules. And can you imagine a coach being allowed to run and get his employer a new tennis racquet or a hot dog during change of courts. Bowling allows ball reps to do anything the pro bowlers want, at any time and any place Unfortunately, bowling has allowed the tour veterans to make rules and naturally they are going to watch out for No. 1. It's only human nature. I don't blame them, I blame the PBA and PWBA for allowing it. In my opinion, unknown rookies who may venture out on tour today are not playing under the same rules as established stars. And that's not fair.

It was really evident at the 50th ABC Masters Tournament in Albuquerque, N.M. Of the 400 plus bowlers, fewer than 50 PBA players could afford to drill up a new ball at any time without worrying about cost. And they were the only ones who benefitted from ball reps who lurked right behind the railings. Ed Baur, programs and production manager for the ABC, said he thought the ball reps represented a big advantage for a handful of touring players and said the ABC would look into the situation next year. Jim Jaryszak, senior technican for the ABC's specifications and certification department, said he thought the ball reps were a "tremendous advantage" for the touring players. To have a bowling coach sitting back in the grandstand is one thing, to have them hanging on the rail immediately behind the players is another.
Let's level the playing field and make it level for all contestants.