After reading the blog I posted Monday about my experience and thoughts on the 2014 Montana USBC Open bowling tournament being held in Anaconda, several officials and bowlers weighed in on some misinformation I published. I tried to clear those issues up below.
1. I was given some wrong information about the tournament possibly being split between Star Lanes in Butte and Cedar Park Lanes in Anaconda. It was clarified to me that it was our local association which voted to keep the entire tournament in Anaconda. According to my source, this was done for fear of losing the team event from a fully-functioning center such as Cedar Park and out of respect to their community of bowlers who would be tasked with volunteering during the tournament.
One member I spoke with said they felt an obligation to keep the entire tournament here because they weren’t sure if the state association would see distention and remove the tournament wholly from Anaconda if they voted to split the doubles/singles and team events. Whether that would have happened or not can be up for judgement, I will not speculate one way or the other.
2. The tournament shot. It was clarified to me that five bowlers (I will not mention their names) two left- and three right-handers, tested the shot out at Copper Bowl once it was drawn up. And I’ll fervently attest to the validity of these bowlers’ abilities (all of which I’ve beaten either head-to-head or in a tournament setting many times – sorry, I had to add that!). According to Mark Hodges, he confirmed the shot put out at Copper Bowl was extremely playable when bowled on according to all of the bowlers testing the conditions.
However, what happened from the day they tested the oil pattern and from what has been in play since is a mystery. According to a tournament official, two bowlers rolled a 300 and 278 last Sunday morning at Copper Bowl. Sincerely, good for them! But I will confirm and stake my reputation and ability on the following statement – they didn’t bowl on the same pattern I did 24 hours before. Maybe they didn’t strip all day Saturday. Maybe there was more oil out there from a days full of play. Or just maybe, like myself and a bar full of others witnessed after our 9 a.m. shift Saturday, some lanes were double and triple oiled when the oiler stopped running down the deck once it hit the arrows on Lane 6. No matter the case, some bowlers from the 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. shift bowled on completely different conditions – and I’m not just talking about typical carry down and less head old from non-oil, non-stripped shots. (And that’s what this board-certified competition shot was supposed to be protecting).
Kudos to Mike Evjen, the Montana USBC President, for taking upon himself to take the blame. It appears now, unlike before, the “shit” doesn’t roll downhill. With his response to my post, he clarified certain issues I spoke of intelligently and respectfully.
I would like to add this as food for thought. Because the state has since allowed a tournament director to reap the benefits in terms of payment who doesn’t set foot in the center other than when he/she bowls, where will we be during state tournaments to come? I will tell you right now, Ranie Kelly deserves far more than she’s being compensated. There’s no amount of money, other than the full administration fee the tournament charges, to give her. Nobody in their right mind will take it upon themselves to appoint a member of their local association to run a state tournament ever again if it doesn’t reimburse a tournament manager and/or volunteers accordingly. It’s too much work. So with that being the case, is the Montana USBC going to pay a member of the state board mileage and per diem to run these tournaments from Billings, Missoula, Great Falls, Libby or Miles City? What if they decline? Is Tom Brendgord going to travel to these tournaments and run them the way they should be? If that’s the case, if he can’t be at three at the same time with the Open, Women’s and Youth all going on at the same time, does he put the buddy system to work?
All I want to know is how the hell do I sign up for that gig? Or did Roz Gallup just hand it off to her Billings buddy for fear of losing some leverage on the state board?
And actually, that’s probably irresponsible for me to say. I don’t know if they are friends, acquaintances, bed buddies, etc.; but look at it from my point of view. Why does this USBC revolve around Billings? Is that just a false appearance or is it truly the case?
Blame who you want or call me an asshole for giving my opinion, but this tournament system and state board is a mess. For decades, the Montana ABC, WIBC and YABA all chose the best man/woman in their association to run their appointed tournaments. And when guys like Harry Shafer, Bill Meagor and Rich Potvin were in charge of it; they always worked beautifully. Sure, they were compensated nicely, but why wouldn’t they be? Why pay a Tournament Director who sits 250 miles away and basically does clerical duties and damage control instead of keeping all of that money in the local association? And actually, in terms of their compensation, they didn’t make a lot of money. It was a year-long process getting the entry forms ready, certifying averages, collecting money, getting the payouts correct, being their from the first ball to the last every weekend, verifying scores and issuing tough decisions consistent with the rule book. Now, the Tournament Director does far less with the help of a Tournament Manager, yet the state board employee is the one making the bigger payday while the local association takes it in the shorts.
In terms of Potvin, I remember he took it upon himself to buy equipment (balls, shoes, etc.) for youth volunteers, monetarily compensated others and, if I remember correctly, all but paid for the tournament-ending dinner we had after the final games were bowled. The way things are run now, Kelly will be lucky to pay for her food takeout and gas money during the two-month odyssey. And I know for a fact Meagor did much of the same, if not more.
Evjen said the board wanted to go to more of a “standard condition” for championship tournaments. How can a state like Montana do that, especially in Anaconda where both houses have completely different environments and equipment (lanes)? I understand you want to hold these tournaments accountable for not giving an unfair advantage to the local bowler, but you don’t have to reinvent the wheel either. And especially when the handicap is now 95 percent of 235!
We’re basically bowling at 100 percent of our averages, so why not throw down a walled-up house shot to see the scores go through the roof? If your theory of fair play for one and all is truly the case, why not see bowlers leave with a smile on their face and not out of disgust for the game? I guarantee those of you who run leagues put out easy shots for over half of the bowlers who paid good money to come to Anaconda and compete in the state tournament. Ask them if they want a “challenge” when the go to a state tournament or a shot they feel comfortable on bowling with their buddies on week nights.
Or is our state board like other politicians, choosing to do what they feel is best for the tournament instead of asking their constituents? ASK THE BOWLERS WHAT THEY WANT! Despite what you think or what your years of experience tells you, a happy bowler is the only goal you have to achieve. Have the associations put out a shot that’s fair for all levels of abilities and make sure they stay with that same pattern from start to finish. You think local guys like Bill Edwards don’t know how to keep all levels of bowlers happy? He keeps a business afloat when he gets as much open play in a month or more as Missoula gets during a slow Friday night, and he’s competing with another center with six more lanes and 30,000 less people versus Missoula and Deer Lodge counties.
Here’s my advice, in summary. Get rid of this silly tournament director bullshit and give it back to the local associations which keep USBC alive and well. Stop over-thinking the “shot” in houses the board, collectively, has no intimate knowledge of. Keep your associations in check by communicating with their board of directors (which it appears you, Mr. Evjen, are doing a fine job with in your position).
Oh, and stop referring to bowling as a sport because the dudes and gals on ESPN tell you to. Anything you can do better while drinking/competing cannot be considered a sport (unless you’re a fan of San Francisco 49ers defensive linemen).