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Blue Bowling Oil continues our series of Editorial articles with a spotlight on the Professional Bowlers Association newest tournament strategy, the use of blue bowling oil.
The PBA announced recently that during the televised finals of the World Series of Bowling that a special oil would be used to accommodate viewers of the telecasts.
Here is the actual press release from the PBA which will be followed with a few comments of my own about what we might see:
“The Professional Bowlers Association will take an historic step toward illustrating the challenges bowlers face when blue dye will be added to the lane conditioning oil for ESPN’s 2013 telecasts of five PBA World Series of Bowling championship events this weekend.
PBA worked with its official lane maintenance provider Brunswick to formulate and test the oil that will be applied exclusively on the pair of Brunswick lanes installed in the South Point Hotel Exhibit Hall B complex for the World Series of Bowling ESPN-televised finals. The oil is not a product on the market and is being used only for the WSOB TV shows.
'Throughout its history, it has been difficult to describe the challenges players face in our sport,' PBA Commissioner Tom Clark said. 'How oil is applied to the lane, and how it transitions as competition progresses, is something no one is able to see with the naked eye, and those are critical variables in scoring and player strategy.'
'For the first time ever, we’re going to add dye to the oil so that bowling fans on site and watching at home on ESPN will literally be able to see how the pattern of oil looks on the lane. We are sure it will be educational and insightful for all levels of fans tuning in and we hope to learn from this experiment and improve it moving forward.'
The dyed oil will debut with the Cheetah Championship which uses the 35-foot PBA Cheetah oil pattern. The Viper (39 feet), Chameleon (43 feet), and Scorpion Championships (47 feet) will follow.
PBA Hall of Famer Carmen Salvino said visible oil was a milestone in educating the audience and elevating the sport.
'A lot of credit has to go to PBA for taking what I believe is a huge step for the sport, and to Brunswick for doing the extensive research and development that was necessary to have the oil ready for this event,' Salvino said.
The WSOB shows will be taped Saturday and Sunday Nov. 2 and 3 and will air on ESPN beginning Dec. 1 at p.m. ET.”
The notion of blue bowling oil when viewing PBA telecasts brings to mind a few thoughts about what we might learn from this visible oil technique.
As the PBA states, the varying distances of oil using blue dye on the aforementioned PBA patterns will certainly show how the oil transitions as the players deliver shots during the competition.
We will most certainly see the oil carrydown to the dry backends of the lanes and we will see oil moving on the front ends of the lanes as bowling balls pass through the heaviest concentration of oil applied to the surface.
The unknown at this time is how easy will it be to see the ratio of oil applied to the lane surfaces to compare one pattern to another on subsequent telecasts.
Some patterns use a heavier blend of oil with respect to cross lane ratios than will other patterns. Will we be able to see and compare oil blends by means of varying color shades?
We likely will see the carrydown oil strips remaining left on the backends of the lanes when the camera shoots closeup shots of the bowling ball traveling into the pocket.
We do not know if we will see a change in the coloring shades of oil from a lighter shade of blue or a heavier shade when oil is removed from the front end where typically the heaviest concentrations of oil is applied to the lanes?
We are also unsure at this point if the camera will let us see blue oil rings on the coverstocks of the players’ bowling balls when the balls are sent back to the return tables. Perhaps we can see a close up camera shot of the players wiping the oil rings off of their bowling balls using their microfiber bowling towels before stepping onto the approach as we do when we bowl?
We know that as the lineage increases on the TV pairs of lanes that we will see the gradual transitioning of oil the longer the telecast goes on. Can we learn anything from observing the oil transitions with respect to our own league play or tournament play where considerably more lineage occurs than does during these special PBA telecasts?
There are so many interesting concepts regarding the blue oil. It is my opinion that bowlers may see comparison charts between the PBA patterns with house conditions which we see each day at our local bowling centers.

We may see how the edges of the lanes have more units of oil applied on PBA patterns than does than do house conditions thereby making the lanes less forgiving with errant deliveries for the professionals.
It is certain that the premium will be on shotmaking on the challenging PBA patterns. These patterns require great accuracy, speed and loft control, and a great degree of hand control in delivering each shot over the course of a tournament.
The blue oil will reveal how challenging it will be for the professionals to record high scores on the more difficult PBA patterns compared to very forgiving, high scoring house conditions.
This is as it should be. Tournament competition at the highest levels should be challenging. Everyday conditions for leagues and local tournaments should be fun and, therefore, much more forgiving with respect to shotmaking, hitting the pocket, and to scoring.
As for me, I cannot wait to watch these events using the blue bowling oil during the World Series of Bowling telecasts.
Please feel free to offer your thoughts and comments about the blue oil either before or after you watch the PBA telecasts.
We would love to learn your views about using visible oil on the lanes and if you think it would help you, as amateur players, in leagues or area tournaments should the industry make visible oil readily available to proprietors in the future.
Thank you!
Rich Carrubba