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The 11th Frame: Jason Belmonte answers Brian Voss, foes of 2-handed bowling; Voss offers epilogue

JEFF RICHGELS | Posted: Thursday, February 18, 2016 10:30 am

Photo Illustration by Talk Tenpin.

If you don't know about Brian Voss' manifesto on how he feels bowling should be, you can read it and USBC Executive Director Chad Murphy's response, and then Voss' Part 2 here

It is free for non-subscribers, as this story is ... because I am just using 11thFrame.com as a vehicle to get this to the widest audience possible and I did almost no work on it — just a quick intro and the mechanics of posting it.

Below is 3-time Player of the Year Jason Belmonte's response to Voss as he posted it on Facebook Thursday morning. 

Voss later posted an epilogue to the exchange that follows Belmonte's post, as well as a statement about balls and oil.


Rather long post...this is my comment on the blog Brian Voss wrote about‪#‎2hands‬ bowling.

If you had the attention of a large number of people? How would you handle it? What would you say and more importantly how would you say it?

Knowing my place within the bowling industry as an accomplished bowler and knowing what I represent as a person, I take questions like these very seriously. It's something I think about daily. It's important that I choose my words carefully, make sure that what I say is accurate by using facts and logic rather then just having an opinion born out of emotion like so many others. I like to have fun and for the most part I stay out of some of the petty discussions that really hurt our sport.

That being said, I just couldn't stay on the sidelines with everything that's been said in the last couple days. There are some who want to trample the sport I love and the way in which I compete. I think this sport has much to offer today and so, here a some thoughts.....

Seems like the discussions center around technology and two handed bowling for the most part.

I do not want to go too far in talking about technology in bowling other then to say, I trust the experts of today. The manufacturers, the USBC, the PBA all have smart people who are working in these areas, far smarter than I, and I have to trust in their direction. I do not have time at this point to obtain and research the factual data I want about technology in bowling and the positives it has on bowling or the skills/talents it takes to use/adjust with equipment to be a better player. I plan to look into it more however.

Bowling should be incredibly thankful to the manufacturers of equipment. During a period where bowling hasn’t been able to find outside industry sponsor money, the manufactures (all of them) have given collectively, millions of dollars to support the sport at all levels. If the manufacturers do not make money how then can they inject funds back into bowling? More importantly, if they aren’t the ones injecting money back into bowling, who will? Would a roll back in technology at this point result in more equipment sold and therefore more dollars infused into the sport? I do not know the answer to that but I question those who think they do with some of the things being said. My message would be to be careful not to bite the hand that feeds you!

However, I will happily entertain the subject about 2 handed bowling of which I do know a thing or two about.

A comment was made that I take exception with:

“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.”

This is an incredibly bold statement to make, one I completely disagree with. The suggestion that by simply bowling a different way to what is deemed ‘proper’ is cancerous to bowling is no more than an opinion. There is no factual data proving that an increase in popularity of bowling would occur if one particular style is chosen as the only style and another, the two handed delivery was eliminated.

In fact, in talking with some experts that operate youth bowling in the U.S, the two handed revolution is growing the sport inside and around youth bowling for many reasons. The first is obvious, studies have shown that small children (less then 80 lbs or 36kgs) can't handle the minimum weight of the ball and so they start bowling with two hands at a younger age then they could with one handed bowling. That's a good thing. This segment and having them grow an attraction for the sport is where we see growth of the style more evident, right? So clearly if the style is a cancer in a disease ridden industry, we must see youth bowling suffering?

Let’s take a look at some factual data about the future generations of bowling. There are a lot of positives going on in our sport!

USBC Junior gold (6500+ members), USBC high school (100,000+ kids, 54000+ at the varsity level alone) and USBC collegiate (200+ schools) are at all time highs. With the introduction of the younger divisions at Junior gold the event has more then doubled in size over the past four years. I don't know how many kids bowling in this event today are using two hands (I’ll be attending this years event though, so I’ll see for myself) but I hear from attendees, both youth bowlers and parents alike, it's growing and gaining steam because the kids have more fun doing it and they are more competitive. They are developing their bowling skills faster due to the weight of the ball issue I talked about earlier. They can start earlier, knock more pins down earlier, begin a love for the sport earlier and see that love grow faster. These are all great things for the sport, I'm proud to say.

(Side note, the USBC should be applauded for their involvement in the growth of youth bowling in the USA. These numbers prove they are doing many things right to protect and grow the future of our sport!)

The most interesting trend, if these factual numbers were not interesting enough is that there is no polarity because of the style in the youth ranks or within the two handed bowling community. We two handers do not ‘hate’ one handers, we two handers do not claim that we are doing it right and everyone else is doing it wrong. So the only people who are making it an issue are the traditionalists who choose to disagree with the delivery for no reason other than because it’s not how they were taught the game.

I decided to ask this question to see what a couple of the best youth bowlers in the world had to say regarding the style and whether or not the future stars of the game see bowling 2 handed as a cancerous infection like this HOF.

“The kids don’t care nearly as much as the adults do. It’s the older generation complaining, the youth don’t complain at all.”

18 year old Kamron Doyle, arguably the best 18 year old bowler in the world doesn’t agree with Mr. Voss, nor do any of his friends.
“No one I know or hang out with think it’s cheating. I don’t know how people think it is – all bowlers have the same 60ft to the pins.”
“I am not against two handed bowling at all – for a sport to grow, the sport needs to evolve. Your success brings excitement to the kids watching and they want to bowl like you. You bring more bowlers in, not push them out.”
This said by a one handed, thumb using bowler who is the future of our sport.

Another super star of the future is Matt Farber. A 21 year old, team USA member who echoes a similar view held by Kamron. Matt is also is a one handed, thumb using bowler.
“Personally I have a very different outlook to two handed bowling because we’re more used to it, you don’t see older players use it. We see you and we see a lot of young bowlers doing it. We see it as normal. We have grown up competing against 2 handers. The older guys have competed against traditional styles their whole careers and now something new is beating them, it makes them bitter I think.”

I asked Matt if his circle of friends has ever, or if he had ever heard other kids talk about banning the style because it was cheating or unfair.

“NO, It’s never been discussed at all. If you’re going to limit a style then you are going to open a huge can of worms. What’s next, are we going to limit rev rates and back swing heights too?”

The difference I see between an older more traditional thinker to the views of the younger generation is simple.
One generation is accepting of change, the other finds it cancerous.

Another comment that was made.....

"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"

Traditionalist are incredibly hypocritical if ever their argument is that they bowl the ‘right way’. What makes their technique right and the techniques before and after them wrong?
Did a bowling God come down thousands of years ago invent the game that I am unaware of and proclaim that the intended way of bowling shall be exactly the way some see it?
I mean if you want to get technical, couldn't the generation before this hall of famer argue that the game was intended to be played with one finger and the thumb? That's how the generation before him bowled... so why isn't that the right way?
Let’s not ignore that if his mandate were to become law we would alienate those with disabilities. People like Josh McKinney who at the age of two had his arms and legs amputated. Check this video out to watch this legend bowl. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2YZBVuMAqU)
Will you tell Josh he is now excluded from a sport he loves?
I'm sorry Mr. Voss, I have the upmost respect for your accomplishments in the game but what you are communicating is simply wrong.

Another comment.

“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 disagree. I believe the accelerated progression of talent in bowling has to do with the fact that coaching is better now, with online resources that are at every bowlers finger tips and knowledge is shared faster and easier today.

It was also stated that younger bowlers shouldn't be able to beat seasoned veterans.....

Teenagers beating adults isn’t something new in sports either. In fact name me a sport where a 50 year old player even has a chance to compete with a 19 year old every single week?
Look at every other major sport in the USA. Soccer (football), NBA, NFL, MLB, tennis and golf are perfect examples of young talent outperforming veterans each and every week. Why would bowling be different?
The younger generation, with all this coaching available are just as talented but probably stronger, fitter and have developed techniques far different to their heroes of the past. But, make no mistake, it's their heroes that drive the affinity.

Instead of bashing these kids with early success in bowling, disrespecting their accomplishments and criminating their talents, we should be celebrating their victories!

Maybe it’s because bowling has never seen teenagers beat older veterans before? (Begin sarcastic tone) Wait a minute…..Norm Duke and Mike Aulby had success as teenagers? How dare two of the greatest bowlers to ever live beat the worlds best at the time, when they were teenagers. Surely they were cheating? (end sarcastic tone)
The truly greatest players of all time don’t trap themselves in a battle with what the present is compared to what the past was - they adapt and win.

With evolution in sports, we find ways to be better, more efficiently evolve. Through science we learn what foods to eat to improve performance, what exercises/training programs to do. Access to information is readily available online for all to read and learn. I’d be more worried if with all the resources out there and access to these resources, the progression of skill wasn’t accelerated from yesteryear.

The fact is – there is no intended or proper way to bowl the ball, there are just different ways to do it while staying behind a foul line. Consider bowling a ball similar to high jump and how Dick Fosbury changed that sport. Was jumping over the bar backwards normal? No, but the object of high jump is about how high you can jump, not how you jump. Bowling is about how many pins you knock over, not how you do it. There are no extra points in bowling for correct and proper technique. It’s just who knocked over the most pins.

The current PBA Player of the year is two handed, the current PBA Rookie of the year is two handed, the current PBA TOC and USBC Masters champions are two handed and we have thousands of two handed bowlers joining the ranks of competitive bowling.
The only thing I see that’s cancerous about all this is all the negativity. Our sport deserves to be celebrated for some of the great things that are going on. I agree most of them are in the area of youth, but sooner rather than later this new generation will be adults of the bowling world and I look forward to watching that group in the future. Celebrating their accomplishments no matter how they deliver the ball.

Two handed bowling is here, it's growing, it will continue to grow and I believe coupled that with all the one handed bowling that exists, the future shines brighter.

Jason Belmonte


The Epilogue – First of all, I’d like to personally thank everyone who contributed to this hotly debated subject. It’s been about 48 hours since I started this discussion and can tell you that what I did was not easy. I’ve been insulted and praised at the same time for voicing my opinion, and after hearing many constructive perspectives from reputable people, I’d like to share my final conclusion. I’ve been consumed in thought with every waking hour because I know this is an important issue. This is perhaps a good lesson for people and I for that matter, that in order to form a conclusion on a particular topic, one must hear all perspectives. I am not the only authority.

The turning point for me, which I’ve heard before but didn’t really resonate until I heard it again, came from a good friend of mine, of which there are many. Larry Lichstein stated that, in the bowling world, we are and have been basically a product of our environment. Either adapt and figure it out, or go home. This could not be truer.

The hottest portion of this debate has undoubtedly been my stance against the ascent of two handed bowling. Looking back in history, there were instances of two handers that tried their skills against the best in the world, but with limited success. Their efforts were basically limited due to the environment, just as it was in the early 50’s and 60’s when rolling the ball with no more than a few boards of hook was the dominate way to attack the pins. Each era from hard rubber to plastic, then to urethane, then to resin, then to particle, and then combined with exotic cores all produced a dominate way that would stand out as being superior.

I was raised in an era with hard rubber balls that went to plastic when I was about 17. The dominate way which surfaced was a combination of great shot making and good hand action. I’ll never forget a speech during the mandatory 3 day school that we were required to attend prior to our venture on tour came from the lane man, whose name was Lon Marshall. He stood up in front of us all and said if you want to have success on tour, you better have good fingers. This was during the era of Mark Roth and Marshall Holman, two of my idols when growing up.

Then there was a turning point in our history that changed the game forever. The introduction of resin combined with exotic cores now favored players with less hand and great shot making. It also helped players who were not creative because they now could replace their inability to do certain things with a different ball. Highly skilled players with great hand action but not enough ball speed were reduced to less than great because of this occurrence. And now here we are today, where two handed bowling is making all kind of waves in the bowling world.

So the answer lies not in the various techniques that have dominated, but in the environment that created them. The answer is to reestablish the environment…what it should be and how it should be formed.

I remain unwavering that the bowling balls must change. Finding the perfect marriage of bowling ball surface combined with a type of oil where there is virtually no change is the only answer for this environment, combined with the elimination of all geometric cores that assist in what should be created by the individual...especially if we’re trying to solve the inequity from left to right. Using these brilliant new oiling machines to their utmost capability of creating multiple challenges is the only answer. The elimination of voids, or the shrinking and placement of them in bowling pins that fall too easy and fly around too much, is the only answer. Finding the perfect depth of the gutters so that pins do not easily bounce out, creating artificially inflated scores and too many lucky strikes is the only answer. All of these things combined would create an environment that places accuracy combined with power as the preeminent way to stand out as the best. There is no other way. Until this is achieved, bowling will continue to decline, polarity will still exist, unfairness will remain, and our great sport will never have a chance to get in the Olympics, the ultimate objective.

I will also say, although it hasn’t been proven, that longevity will be hindered using two hands, so all of you parents that are encouraging your kids to choose one way or the other should think real hard about how you want them to excel. I also believe that if this environment is created in a way that tests a players skills to roll a ball multiple ways with unerring accuracy that is dictated by particular patterns, one handed bowling will once again be the preferred method. Just my honest opinion. Peace to all and God bless bowling!!

And Voss also offered this:

Oil – Let me preface this discussion by saying that my efforts to revive this great sport is not about me. I am 57 years old and the days of practicing 2-5 hours a day and running 5 miles a day to get my legs stronger are over. This is about the current generation and the next to follow. I do not enjoy the insults and hate mail I’ve received because of this effort. To each and every one of you that have participated in these derogatory remarks, shame on you. It solves nothing and is only a reflection of your character. You can critique my opinion, but leave those kinds of remarks out of it.

Oil is undoubtedly and unequivocally the single most important aspect to bowling. Without it, our sport would be reduced to a game akin to candlepins. We need oil, plain and simple. The application of it has come a long way since the former days of a bucket and towel, then to a spray gun, and now these brilliant inventions, which will continue to evolve in to more efficient, more accurate, and precise machinery. It has technologically advanced. But why is it, that nowadays, the single most important thing in competitive bowling is the bowling ball? Is there something wrong with this picture? Why are balls allowed to destroy the original intent of its application and strategy? Why are balls with different cores allowed to be made that replace what would otherwise have to be created with an understanding of mechanics and self-manipulation? This is at the core of the biggest ill in our sport.

Oil creates a 3 dimensional graph of friction. If this graph were to all of a sudden become visible, you would see the hills and valleys that are evident on topographical landscapes. You would see why it is essential to play certain lanes a certain way. You would see the margin of error that can be taken advantage of by rolling it a certain way in a certain area with a certain speed. From the foul line to the head pin, you would see a downward slope that can be altered to encourage different ways to let go of it. From left to right, you would see the slopes that can be taken advantage of by altering axis rotation and/or tilt. Unfortunately, the way this game is played nowadays and how these balls change the strategy, you would also see the inequities that exist from the left side to the right. This scenario should be at the top of the list of all things. What can be done so the inequities from left to right are non-existent? It’s not anyone’s fault that they were born right or left, it’s just a simple fact of humanity. There are just more right handers than left. The only answer is to do extensive research and development of a type of oil and marriage of ball surface so there is no change and to create multiple challenges that fall into a spectrum of creativity that challenges ball speed and trajectory.

I most likely will be forced into retirement from my competitive days. I most likely will never get a free bowling ball again because of my stance and will not pay for bowling balls when others are getting them for free. I’m done bowling with the kids and will not show up to a gun fight with a knife during Senior events. I’ll say it now and again. Until oil becomes the FIRST priority and the scenario that I’ve tried to outline in my discussions is solved, the polarity and disunity among players will only get worse. I will always maintain that the fundamentals of one handed bowling and two handed bowling are not the same, but to satisfy all types of bowling, I’m willing to waiver on this. Solve the problem of oil, and let anybody shoe up, bowl any way they want, and let the best man standing win.