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Hall of Famer Brian Voss' plan to fix the sport of bowling and USBC Executive Director Chad Murphy's response

JEFF RICHGELS | Posted: Tuesday, February 16, 2016 2:00 pm
Brian Voss. Picture from Facebook.

Brian Voss, a Hall of Famer and one of the greatest shotmakers of all time, has made no secret of the fact that he doesn't like what the sport has become. 

Unlike many who do no more than complain, Voss actually has a plan to fix what he thinks is wrong with the sport — and it's a very interesting one. He posted it on Facebook on Tuesday and several people directed me to it or sent it to me. 

It would make the sport pretty much what it was when we were young ... and guys like him were showing me how good I was not on the PBA Tour.

Just as I was then, I would be happy to compete under his vision for the sport, although anyone who reads my stuff knows I enjoy the intellectual challenge and technical complexities of the modern game, and believe 2-handed bowling is like the Fosbury Flop and shouldn't be legislated away.

Regardless of my personal views, Voss' stature mandates that any good bowling journalist air his views, so they are below, in full and unedited. and free to non-subscribers.

The question this begs is how would something like this be implemented? As a separate sport within the sport? Completely changing the rules as we know them?

Brian, if you have answers for that, I also would be willing to post them. 

This story has been updated because not long after I posted it, USBC Executive Director Chad Murphy posted his response on Facebook as well. 

Murphy's views follow Voss' views, and provide fascinating and starkly different outlooks. 

Update: Voss later added a part 2 and I have added that. 


OK all of my bowling friends. You asked for my opinion and after many hours, I'm about to post what I'm quite sure will turn into a debate of all debates....enjoy...

Talent in bowling is too vague of a term. Greatness is a better word for my definition and is twofold. It is either the player who can repeat shots with precision accuracy combined with supreme mental fortitude, or the player who can manipulate a ball with precision to take advantage of an invisible margin of error, combined with supreme mental fortitude.
Having said this, the type of environment needed to expose these two factors requires a bit of time, so sit back, relax and allow me to give my opinion…

First of all, the environment MUST be one that is fair from left to right. It cannot be any other way, so to avoid all discussion that strays from this, let’s talk about the two definitions. If one believes that bowling should only be the first one, then there is no need for oil. Precision from sound mechanics would need to be harnessed and the game would be played with no spin. This would solve the inequities that exist because of oil and how it changes. Very simple, but all of us bowlers know that this is not bowling.

Oil, when applied from the universally accepted manner of more on the front of the lane and less on the back, invites spin, because now energy is stored and the ball now has what is referred to as “power”. The more one learns how to spin it, the more strikes that are obtained because the ball now “attacks” the spins. As soon as a ratio of oil from left to right is applied, then margin of error exists. This margin of error entices players to learn a specific way to spin the ball to achieve maximum results. The beauty of today’s oil machines is that they have the ability to present infinite challenges, encouraging players to learn many different ways to spin the ball and from different angles, which I feel satisfies the second definition. The problem is, that because of today’s equipment and the type and amount of oil that is applied, the pattern becomes distorted and inequities surface. Also, because of the many different ball surfaces, cores and layouts, players are not encouraged to learn how to manipulate the ball with their own ability; they instead are enticed to have a large number of bowling balls that achieve this objective. So quite simply, the solution is to develop a marriage of ball surface and oil where the change is minimal combined with the total elimination of geometric cores.

There is not enough space and time to dive deeper into the intricacies of why this is essential, so I will move ahead into the next phase. The intent of this effort on my part is to revolutionize this sport into one that will make the best in the world rich, and others along the way to make a very good living. So, in my 50 years of playing this game, and many years of contemplation, here is my solution:

First of all, there must be rules in place that dictate how this is game is played. EVERYONE must use one hand, and with this hand, the thumb must be used. Quite simply, this is so that we are ALL playing under the same rules. The ascent of two handed bowling in my opinion is like a slow cancer to an already diseased sport. It has created massive polarity from the traditionalists to them. The accelerated progression that they obtain, as compared to what used to take many, many years to hone the necessary technique to deliver it with one hand is one of the reasons. Secondly, the moment that two hands are used, they obtain more spin than almost all of the traditionalists who spent years to develop the delivery with one hand. It is a totally different method of delivery. The fundamentals are NOT the same. Is it not enough to say, as evidenced in many tournaments of recent, that teenagers can now beat seasoned veterans, including the best in the world? I realize that by making this comment, I will undoubtedly become a hated man by some. I am willing to sacrifice myself for the love of this game. So be it.

Secondly, imagine for a moment where every bowling center in the world had an 8 week season (just an arbitrary number), whereby each week, a different pattern is used. Every bowling center uses pattern 1 on the 1st week, pattern 2 on the 2nd, pattern 3 on the 3rd, etc… These patterns would NOT differentiate in volume, only length and side to side construction. They would fall into a spectrum of creativity that would encourage different speeds and spins, straighter or more hook. While the normal people at home with jobs and families compete in this competition, the professionals are bowling on these 8 patterns on a daily basis. This would form a relationship with the folks at home and the best as now there would be an identifiable challenge that they can realistically relate to and compare their skills to. At the end of the 8 week season, there would be sectional roll-offs to determine the best in their region, moving on the best in the state, then the best in the country, then culminating with the best in the world. If every league and competitive bowler in the world participated in this, there would be millions of weekly dollars accumulated which would mean millions of dollars in prize funds. A portion of every participant would also be channeled to the best in the world so that their efforts would be realized by millions of dollars in prize money. Every bowling center could have through eliminations their own bowling ball in the likeness of their choice which their respective teams would use. Each sectional would have their own balls in the likeness of their choice. Every state would have their own ball in their chosen design. Every country would have their own ball in their chosen design. And the winners of the global championships would have now a ball with their own likeness, becoming perhaps a collector’s item. The best in the world would already have their own ball in their likeness or design. If they are the best in the world, they deserve a ball in their likeness, also being a collector’s item, in which additional money can be earned by royalties. If this effort results in growth, potential sponsors would jump on board, resulting in additional funds.

It should be said that the specs on these new types of bowling balls, which by the way already exist i.e. Visa-balls, must have a variance of allowance that is extremely minimal. They should have a pancake weight block. Anyone who bowled back when there were only these, know that 1/8 an ounce of side weight with 1/8 ounce of finger rolls much differently than 1/8 ounce of negative weight with 1/8 ounce of thumb weight. The allowance of only 3 balls with the option of drilling them within these tight specs still give the slight flexibility of drilling them to suit the different patterns. This variance of allowance is important to the best in the world because it’s important to keep all of the ball manufacturers on board. There must be a bidding war for the best to be contractually bound to a specific brand, and to give the illusion that one brand is better than the other.

What is the cost for a bowling center to participate in this effort? Nothing…all of the pieces of the puzzle already exist. Nothing needs to be invented. They actually may save money because they won’t need to use as much oil and won’t have their customers going over the foul line, slipping, and then suing the owner. If this venture is successful, then there is now a reason for people to practice. There is now a reason to have leagues again. There now is a reason for parents to push their kids into a lifetime participant because they can now make good money.
Lastly, this is not an attack on ball manufacturers. They are not to blame. Leadership is always to blame for lack of vision and lack of solving problems. If this is a viable solution or alternative to what exists and is not embraced by current governing bodies, then the time is now to start a new organization. Let the people decide. I would also call on a world survey, with unbiased questions, to see what the people think. Let us decide.

I liken the situation that competitive bowling is in to a tree that is in its infant stage of growth. If the tree (competitive bowling) gets ample water and sunlight from all sides, it will grow with many branches (all entities tied to consumer products) symmetrically. But if one part of the tree is shaded and one branch grows too much (bowling balls), eventually one side of the tree becomes too heavy and falls (competitive bowling now). All entities, meaning bags, shoes, grips, rosin bags, etc.…must grow together so the tree lasts forever. I could make this much, much, longer and go into much more detail, but for obvious reasons, space and time are limited. Peace to all, I’m sorry if I offended anybody, but I do this for the love of the game. God bless


"Cause we came out of the cave, and we looked over the hill and we saw fire; and we crossed the ocean and we pioneered the west, and we took to the sky. The history of man is hung on a timeline of exploration and this is what's next.

Sam Seaborn, The West Wing, Season 2 episode 9 "Galileo".

(Chads top five list of West Wing episodes, check it out! smile emoticon )

What he is saying there is that we (mankind) were born to be explorers.

So many discussions about bowling's past and present go on today and I welcome the productive ones. More opinions then could be counted about what bowling should be and most of them take us back to the past. A longing for the past because this is simply "what we know". The future and what's next that doesn't have a return to exactly our past is harder to predict and less popular to talk about because it is exactly what "we do not know".

A PBA Hall Of Fame member was recently celebrated all over social media for telling folks exactly what they want to hear. He writes that "everyone must use one hand" follows with something that said everyone must also use the thumb hole. Traditionalists and one handed thumb users everywhere jumped in jubilation, applause was heard all over the earth, the lightning struck from on high, the thunder rolled and Moses himself came down from the mountain and started rewriting his tablet, oh wait.....


It is another simple example where someone longs for a return to the past and holds a disdain for the present, could also be a fear of the future which would make some sense. I simply question the productivity of it respectfully. Similar comments about cores, a Utopia type place created for bowling included an oil less lane is delivered within his blog through the eyes of someone who once was an iconic figure within the game and so, a respected figure with a popular message means lots of likes and shares. I did enjoy the last paragraph in talking about the tree and think it's very applicable but so much of the rest is simply utopia to something long past.

He follows later on questioning how a teenager could beat a group of seasoned pros but seems to forget that Mike Aulby and Norm Duke did exactly that many years ago as one handed, thumb using players. It all sounded great to Chad, the one handed, thumb using bowler. It really did. It didn't make as much sense to Chad the Executive Director of USBC, a known explorer.

I would submit to those who are celebrating Brian's ideas that we somehow get back to reality (non Utopia place of here and now) and start looking towards the future instead of longing for the past. It's the integrity of the competition that we should be looking at. A return to the basic fairness within the competition. It's the grey in the middle if you will, not the black and white thinking that will get us there. Our sport is evolving as the explorers (engineers/cerebral bowling types) find new ways. What we must do is get ahead of it with all the other factors instead of playing from behind like we have done in the past. The environment that is the competition has many factors and we have started looking at all of them.

In case you missed it, as explorers, we have operated two "Majors" where we have attacked this head on. We have looked at the topography, the lane pattern, the oil, a variable scoring pace within the events themselves. These items married with the use of modern balls and styles to try and create a unique competition where all can compete fairly. A left hander won one, a two handed player another. A little further down in the data though, you will find fairness might be possible.

(I know, it's easier just to toss out the no thumb and two handed bowlers and why not the lefties while we are at it but the optimist in me says bowling needs to be inclusive instead of excluding anyone, especially a style that makes our sport more entertaining for kids and so the responsibility is ensuring tomorrow with a competition that makes sense for all, that in itself another Utopia type line of thinking that isn't as popular but is needed)

If you were to run a points list from the two events. Ryan Ciminelli and Anthony Simonsen would be almost tied with Wes Malott third just behind them (the only bowler to make both shows). Two of these three bowlers are one handed and both use their thumb. One right, one left and one a traditional one handed player that uses a thumb hole. You will also remember on the U.S Open show, everyone was playing the same part (out) of the lane. No advantage, just shot making. Same (traditional track area) could be said for the Masters show this weekend. Wes was probably one shot away from an amazing championship match leaving a split on an errant shot in the ninth.

(It should be noted that "lil Ant" our winning two hander made a similar errant shot in the championship match and received a similar penalty (2,8,10 v 2,10)

Other bowlers making shows (top five) include: Pete Weber, Norm Duke, Dom Barrett, Chris Loschetter, Dan Maclelland and Tom Daugherty.

In all, one left handed thumb user. One two hander, six one handed thumb using bowlers and one thumbless, one handed bowler.

Mr. Loschetter and Mr Duke make up 20 percent of the slotted spots on the show and would normally, due to their lower rev rates, stand out as outliers in the data amongst the power players. Here, they don't because the two hander and no thumb player, also represented 20 percent. One handed bowlers who use their thumb make up the other 60 percent.

It's a smallish sample size but very telling in that we set out looking for fair not looking to include or exclude any particular style. All styles welcome. The only requirement was that the lane had to be used from outside in, instead of inside out like so many modern players look at the lane today. Was it perfect, Nooooooooo. Is there still work to be done? Yes. Could basic math of how many of each of these styles play into the outcome? Yes.

My point is this, we were born to explore. Just because a certain style has dominated over a period of time doesn't mean that style should be excluded just as they haven't been exclude in the past (Earl comes to mind). It means we probably just need to explore all the factors that led to it and learn from it while also saying "congrats" to the winners instead of suggesting that a 19 year old winning today against more experienced bowlers is somehow different then Mike Aulby and Norm Duke doing it so many years ago.

To be clear, it doesn't mean we shouldn't be looking at the balls, the lane and the oil as well, we should. Also the numbers of balls allowed in competition maybe should be on the radar. All, additional factors need to be "explored".

But, for now. Anyone not looking at these two events as a possible precursor towards the future isn't looking at the data or, they just don't believe in exploration.

I realize going against such an iconic figure like Brian will make me less popular but I do it for the love (future) of the game.

:-} Be nice please.





Part II – First of all, I’d like to say that I consider everyone that I have met in the bowling world a friend. I consider Jason Belmonte and Osku Palermaa very good friends. Even though one of my best friends Robert Smith and I differ on some issues, I will still give him a great big bear hug when I see him. I hope that by stating my opinion, our differences of opinion are set aside and our fellowship will continue. My comments on teenagers beating seasoned veterans unfortunately include people that I have never met. I don’t want it to be that there is hatred towards me for offering an opinion/solution. These discussions should be amongst gentleman, so please keep it so.

I’m hearing a lot of comparisons to other sports, so I’ll give mine. On the equipment side, what would the traditionalists say if geometric objects were allowed in golf balls to aid in shaping the ball around doglegs? What would the traditionalists say if geometric objects were allowed in baseballs? The governing bodies have taken a stance that since oil cannot be controlled and is not the fault of the players, an assortment of balls should be at their disposal for any and all circumstances. I maintain that oil can be controlled if R n D researched the perfect marriage of ball surface and oil where there is virtually no change. I personally like the fact that even though there will always be some kind of change, this keeps the invisible challenge a mystery to be solved by the player. It should not be solved by the ball.

Number one, it is too expensive to have an assortment comparable to what staff members or those with deep pockets can afford. This is one factor that will contribute to less people pursuing the sport lifetime. What kind of a statement is it when one learns that professionals drill anywhere from 50 to 100 balls a year? Do the math…it eliminates too many people.

I do not endorse showing up at tournaments not knowing what the pattern/patterns are as it was in the old days. This would require players to bring their entire arsenal with them. This is too expensive and quite frankly a pain in the butt. It is now possible, within a certain degree of variance and because of the technological advances in oil machines that players can practice on certain patterns to best prepare themselves. I also do not endorse competition using only one pattern. A variety of patterns should be used to test a player’s skills, as long as the patterns fall within a spectrum of creativity that challenge speed control and angle of attack. But once again, these patterns are only as good as their ability to maintain their original strategy, now impossible because of how the lanes change.

In regards to 2 handed bowling, I maintain that the fundamentals are totally different. Someone brought up the fact that 2 handed tennis players surfaced and that it was something that would not go away, just deal with it. Other than holding the racket with 2 hands, are the fundamentals that much different than those that hold it with one hand? This polarity will never go away, and in my opinion will only get worse as more kids are being schooled at an early age to learn this technique. What would the golf world say if it was allowed to lay on the green and putt the ball like a cue stick? Everyone must play the game the same, and I will die in my grave saying this, which unfortunately looks like it will happen before any change to the better is implemented. Statistics do not lie. Bowling is in trouble and has been for many years now. I have nothing to gain from these opinions but enemies. I owe it to the sport of bowling to make these statements and I will aid in any way I can to see it propel to the respected sport it deserves to be.

Knowledge is a collection of proven facts and ideas. It should not be that good ideas get suppressed for the benefit of those that get rich under current systems. The late Nikola Tesla had suggested AC as an alternative to DC and efforts were made to suppress his knowledge.