Garza: USBC Must Keep League Bowling on Pairs of Lanes

On Wednesday, May 6, the United States Bowling Congress (USBC) Board of Directors approved modification to the USBC playing rules, that would allow for leagues and tournaments to resume while also maintaining an environment that encourages social distancing during the COVID-19 crisis across the country. 

Included in the changes are the allowance of leagues and tournaments to be bowled on just one lane, waiving the need for bowlers to cross two lanes and not bowling on the same lane in two consecutive frames, and also the use of isopropyl alcohol to sanitize bowling balls. The exact rules modified are rules 106a, 106b, 320a and 320b. 

Awards and honor scores are now acceptable on just one lane, and frankly, this just makes the game that much easier for bowlers to increase the tally on their perfect games, 800 series and even 900 series! Bad, bad, bad! 

These new rules could be rescinded as the safety guidelines regarding COVID-19 are modified – so it could be a change that doesn’t last very long, and for the sake of the game, let’s hope it doesn’t. 

One thing about bowling that makes it so fun is trying to figure out both lanes in a pair each night. Lane 7 might play a lot tighter than 8, and scores might reflect that. What if you get stuck on Lane 7, and you’re hoping to open up the lanes? 

Bowlers like to complain about bad lanes already, but when stuck on a “horrible” lane, you’re looking at tempers flaring and a lack of fun. Even worse is that you’re competing against bowlers that aren’t bowling on the same lanes as you anymore. Some nights we’re going to bowl bad – but our opponents bail us out because they were even worse on that bad pair of the house that week. 

Many dread bowling on corner lanes, and what is worse: the odd or even lane? What if your opponent gets the good lane? How about if you watch them strike all day on a lane that looks like it would’ve broken down in your favor? Sounds frustrating to me. 

While working at Saddleback Lanes I have met a handful of bowlers who specifically request to bowl on odd-numbered lanes. One specifically is a bowler named Tim Jones, who bowls in the center’s Practice League. If I don’t have an odd-numbered lane open, he will not bowl, period; even if his Practice League Card expires that night. He just will not do it. 

He will have to bowl on an even-numbered lane at some point given the safety guidelines laid out by Gold Cup Bowling in Warner Robins, Georgia. They are putting a lane of space in between every group, and perhaps that’s what the solution might be during league night too. 

But now think about the bowling center. A 32-lane center is now completely booked if a 16-team or higher league is bowling. 

In a time where bowlers are itching to go bowl, and Americans are getting ready to jump at the opportunity to go out and have fun again, this could be bad for business. 

Squads are the smart way to go here, but not on one lane, but a pair. Don’t take away the league-bowling experience. 

By allowing teams to bowl on one lane is a very bad idea, USBC. Imagine eight bowlers within a typical bowler’s area. Lots of older centers needing to be updated have little to no space for 6-10 bowlers to hang out in, and having teams speed up a pace while crowding up two teams together is a recipe for disaster. Have you ever watched collegiate bowling? They bowl Baker format games, where five bowlers line up, and each bowler takes their turn; bowls and then heads to the back of the line to wait for their second frame. After a game they switch lanes. But the bowler’s area is so crowded! No way social distancing can be practiced in that way!

Back to the idea of squads. One team on a pair of lanes, with the left team hanging out on its odd lane, and the right team posting up on the even lane. Sure you might get a bad pair, but you’re begging to hang out with your buddies, right? Hanging around them, or at the table behind the lane, without worrying about another team hogging up your space sounds ideal, right? Bowlers would still cross lanes as normal, requiring the usual skill for bowling. It’ll feel like a prebowl. 

The best part about it though is the pace. Since league would wrap up sooner, centers could allot their 16 lanes they’d typical set aside for league to eight teams across two different squad times across their usual three-hour slot. The league bowlers win, the centers win and open play bowlers win too – because they aren’t turned away. 

At the end of the day this is about everybody having fun. Bowlers are ready to have fun, and I know our centers are ready to let them while staying safe and cautious. 

Nothing has been decided on in terms of the centers I work at, in case anybody is wondering. All this is speculation and hearsay according to what USBC agreed to a few days ago. 

If you too are unhappy with the USBC has done, let your secretary know to voice out to your local association today! 

That said, we are one day closer to returning to the lanes, and I, as well as everybody else at the bowl are ready to see all the good times start to roll once more. See you soon! 

This story was originally published in the May 21, 2020 issue of The California Bowling News

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