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The 11th Frame: PBA takes step to level Regional playing field with new ball use rule

JEFF RICHGELS | Posted: Thursday, July 19, 2012 5:00 am

After this blog was published, I was informed that the rule on Tour has been that all non-released balls be available to all competitors on the truck if they were available to staffers. So the impact of this rule change is in Regionals. I have not bowled a Tour stop for years and didn't know that rule out there, but just bowled a Regional last month where I used an IQ and a FIRE ROAD that weren't available to the public at that time.

On Tuesday, I got this email sent to all Storm and Roto Grip staffers:

“We have recently been informed by the PBA that effective immediately; balls that are not “officially” released to the public are not allowed to be used in any PBA competition. ... This will remain in effect on any new releases going forward until further notice.
“We will continue offering our releases to the PBA ‘full members,’ but they will not ship until the official release date. Staff members will continue to be able to order the equipment early and use them in all other tournaments and leagues. ...
“If you use any balls prior to their release date, in a PBA event, you run the risk of being disqualified.”

Once the United States Bowling Congress approves a ball, it is able to be used in certified competition even if the public can’t get it. PBA also lists eligibility dates for balls, which I always check before throwing a new ball.

Those dates typically were before full PBA members or the general public could purchase the balls.

I took part in a lengthy message board thread last year on the topic of staff players having access to balls for use in competition before they were available to the public.

I said it made me uncomfortable because it could theoretically be an advantage, although other posters pointed out that ball technology has basically leveled off and that it was something staff players had earned, among other things.

I don’t want to re-hash that debate but would like to say that I fully approve of the rule change by PBA.

The bottom line is that when bowling in a PBA tournament, there is no way one bowler should be able to use a ball that another bowler can’t. (Obviously as a Storm staffer I choose to restrict myself to Storm balls, which is not the same thing as having no access to a ball — obviously I could drop my staff affiliation and throw any ball.)

I think it’s been years since having early access to a ball felt like an advantage to me, but I do remember when Marc McDowell was able to help me get an Xcalibur quite a while before they were readily available (although that was simply because demand outstripped supply).

Believe me, that was an advantage at times!

PBA rules shouldn’t make it possible for an advantage like that to happen.

Great move PBA!

(As of Thursday morning, PBA officials had not returned an email seeking comments on why the rule was changed and what was behind the change.)

Now if USBC could just make a rule that no one can use a ball in the Open Championships that wasn't available to the public on the opening day of the tournament. This would prevent a future Xcalibur from coming out during the tournament and providing an advantage to those who bowled after it became available.