November 25, 2013

Week 12 and a Pre-Bowl

Last weekend I completed my third pre-bowl for my anticipated paternity leave in December. I was throwing the ball pretty well, at least as far as accuracy goes, but a lot of solid pocket hits left corner pins and anything high in the pocket left a split. I threw a 201, 188 and 181, but I thought my performance was better than what my series showed.

On league night I fared much better, throwing a 219, 213 and 241. I started the night with five strikes in a row and was immediately in the opposition's head. My teammates could hear them talking about my average and how easy I made it look. Anytime I can make the opposing team focus on my play instead of their own I know I must be doing my job.

Overall it was a pretty laid back night until the tenth frame of each game. The result of every game fell to my last frame and I was able to deliver all three times. We swept the third place team by a total of about 30 pins. Our team has been doing pretty well lately and I hope we can keep the momentum up as the position round closes in.

The last half of the last game did get pretty interesting for me, though. After a week of cooler temperatures we had a bit of a warm spell. I had tape in my thumb hole from the previous week and left it in to get more loft on the ball earlier in the night. The result was that my thumb began to swell from the increased pressure and friction and by the seventh frame the hole was too small even after I took the tape out. Each throw was a crapshoot as to whether the ball would come off my hand at all. Luckily I was able to strike until the tenth frame. The first ball in the tenth stuck more than the others, missed my target right, and left the 2-4-5. I needed to pick up the spare and get six pins on last ball to win the game. I picked up the spare and decided to move my last shot to the center of the lane to make sure I wouldn't gutter on the last ball.

It was a scary situation, one I hadn't dealt with before with the C-system. The weather has been cold the last few days, so hopefully I won't have the same problems tonight.

November 18, 2013

Cold Weather & Sore Thumbs

If you live in an area that sees a lot of fluctuation in temperature as the seasons change it is likely that you will experience a change in how your ball fits your hand. In colder weather our fingers get a bit thinner and when it is warmer they expand. I luckily do not experience much change in my finger tips, but I do see and feel a change in my thumb.

A few weeks ago the Pittsburgh area finally realized that it was autumn and that it had some catching up to, dropping from days in the 70s to days in the 40s and nights in the 30s. With that drastic temperature change came a quick change in my thumb size. It also just so happened that this change occurred when I had to use a ball I don't often throw and so I was a little slow to pick up on what was happening. The ball was coming off my hand early and so I subconsciously began to squeeze it during my follow through, which resulted in this:

That is a blister that developed from the friction of squeezing the ball for three games. It stings, but doesn't hurt, and usually heals up enough in 7 days that some New Skin can be applied pain-free. In about 10 days it is completely gone. If you ever develop something like this check your fit because you are most likely squeezing the ball.

An easy fix here is to apply a piece or two of tape in your thumb hole. Always be sure to place the tape in the back of the hole instead of the front to avoid altering the span. Another quick trick if you don't have any tape is to blow into the hole before inserting your thumb. The little bit of moisture provided by blowing into the ball will cause your thumb to grip the inside of the hole without you having to squeeze the ball.

Off the record, or as off the record as I can be on a blog, alcohol consumption could help as well. As you may have noticed, drinking alcohol gives you a warm fuzzy feeling because it dilates the capillaries and brings more blood to your skin. This also has the effect, along with the added liquid, of swelling your fingers and thumb. Short of having your ball plugged and redrilled every time you need to change your fit, though, this is one of the more expensive options available.

November 15, 2013

Week 11 Recap

This past Monday's performance was average. Literally. A 609 series in a week where my league average is 203. My first game wasn't great, a 170, which wasn't really indicative of how well I was throwing the ball. I had two splits and a single pin miss that killed that game. I alternated strikes and spares for a majority of the second game. I finally was able to double late and finished the game at 215. I followed that up with a 224.

I did manage to determine that my previous troubles we more with my follow through than my speed. As long as I come through my shot after the point of release I am much more accurate. It is something that is usually automatic, but it seems right now I need to spend some time focusing on that part of my game. I easily resolved the speed issue, which was a contributing factor to an extent, but now that I have slowed my feet I am throwing more consistently and am balanced at the foul line.

As my wife's due date quickly approaches I still have a couple pre-bowls to bank in preparation for league paternity leave. I also wouldn't mind building on my current average to bring a bit of stability to my scores now that the backslide has ended.

November 8, 2013

Week 10 Recap

I tried to avoid thinking about bowling, or more likely over thinking, all day Monday. When I got home from work to an empty house I gave myself a little pep talk to try to get myself out of my funk. I know I am a better bowler than what I was the past three weeks, no matter how down I may have gotten and no matter how much I questioned my skill. Monday night was a chance to take back some control and to do that I decided to focus on two things: slow down my approach just a little bit and make sure to follow through on every shot.

The games weren't flashy: 191, 221 and 214. But I was consistent and barely missed my mark. I simplified my game and everything fell into place. I opened twice in the first game, leaving a 4-6 split and missing on an easy 4-pin. In the second game I started with seven straight spares including four 10-pins. The oil started to carry down the lane and I had difficulty striking in my adjusted line. Once I started coming in high I moved back to my original spot and struck five in a row to finish the game.

I started really well in the third game, but am still having some difficulty with the transition late in the night. The ball ran high in the ninth frame and left another 4-6 split. I adjusted in the tenth frame, but the ball still ran on me and left the 3-pin. I overcompensated to shoot the spare and missed right. I hate opening in the ninth frame, not to mention the tenth, so it was definitely a bitter end to an otherwise successful night.

The real test will be to stay positive and on the upswing as we approach Christmas. I'd really like to finish this year over 205 and to do that I will need to eliminate most of the sub-600 outings.

November 7, 2013

A Lost Bowling Blogger and Blue Oil

Last week I was shocked to learn that Matt over at Bowling Roller Coaster decided to pack it in after a few great years of updates. Matt was one of the first people to read this blog and offer comments and I enjoyed reading about his bowling journey. Matt, I hope you are still reading and I wish you all the best. I'll be keeping Bowling Roller Coast in the blog roll and I hope some day it will be reactivated.

Now, onto some happier bowling news: blue oil! I was actually thinking about the possibility of visible oil patterns earlier last week before the announcement that the WSOB would be using blue oil for its televised finals and was shocked to see it had come to fruition in less than a week's time (you're welcome!). The visible oil will allow television viewers the opportunity to see how a sport pattern looks and breaks down throughout a PBA stepladder final. Of course some are already complaining that visible oil patterns are the end of bowling as we know it by taking one big variable out of the equation and letting the bowlers actually see the transition. I think it is the exact opposite. This is the PBA's way of telling the couch-riding bowlers at home who think they could do better to shut up.

photo from

If all goes well, though, I see a great future for visible oil. Whereas the PBA is using the blue oil as a way to emphasize difficulty, I see this invention as a teaching tool. All junior leagues should utilize the blue oil as a way for youth bowlers to learn how a typical house pattern looks and breaks down and how these changes affect their balls' reaction. While the colored oil is not good at showing the amount of oil in each area, it will still give newcomers one less thing to try to understand when learning about patterns. This philosophy could also apply to Sport leagues, perhaps by using blue oil the first week a new pattern is used.

One of the great difficulties of bowling is that we don't see the variables that effect each throw. Imagine golfing on a course where all 18 holes are in the exact same place, but the trees, sand traps and water hazards are invisible and move around each shot. This new oil will let bowlers and non-bowlers better understand the changes that take place during a game and, perhaps, give us all a greater appreciation for how we read and adjust to these changes when we can't see them.

November 4, 2013

Week 9 Recap

I knew it was going to be a bad night before I stepped in the alley last week. As I approached the front doors another league member pronounced "There'll be no oil tonight!" Apparently the machine broke down right before the lanes were to be dressed for league so we were bowling on a day's worth of breakdown.

I threw the C-system in practice with hopes that I could play further inside, but after ten minutes I could tell that I would need to go to my bag and pull out the Python. It was another terrible performance, but I can't really blame the lanes for this one. I was inconsistent. I could hit my mark no matter how hard I tried (perhaps I tried too hard?). When I did hit my marks I was great, confirmed by my 216 second game that followed the 146 opener. Whatever mojo I had going into the third was quickly cast aside and a 175 was all I could manage.

I need to break out of this free fall. I thought I was better than this, but last month's 769 series seems like a distant memory, a fluke. I'm running out of ideas on how to correct missing left. I've tried not bending over so far, staying behind the ball, keeping better balance, but once one thing goes right another seems to be thrown out of sync in its place. I think I just need to simplify my game, boil it down to the bare bones. Just follow through on every shot and don't worry about anything else. Let it come back to me. Let it build around the one good thing I can control and do well. I've got the muscle memory, I just need to figure out how to push the reset button and start all over.

October 22, 2013

Another Paternity Leave Pre-Bowl

It is sort of difficult expecting a baby in the middle of league season. Our first was born in June and my wife actually bowled an entire season while pregnant. Our second is due on December 22nd, but you never really know when the baby might get sick of her current abode and decide its time to venture out to see the world. To be a good father and husband I am planning to take at least a month off from my regularly scheduled league nights to help out with the baby and our 2 year old. As a result, I need to roll off for at least four weeks of bowling so I don't leave my team high and dry and also to get in a good number of games to make this year's average comparable to last year's. I need to get these pre-bowls in now in case the baby decides to come early. Since I don't know the exact week the scores will be used it makes the recap format a bit more challenging, but I'll give it a whirl.

On Sunday I threw my second week of paternity pre-bowls. I wanted to shake off the collapse of Monday's performance and so I really focused on finishing balanced at the foul line and following through over my target. The result was a 224, 212 and a 213. I haven't thrown many average 600s this season, everything has been well over average or well under, and so this was a pretty good outing.

The lanes were a bit dry, but were manageable and even a bit forgiving when using the Python. The only problem I have discovered with that ball is the fit of the thumb hole. When I play three games with it I get a pretty bad rub on the outside of my thumb just below the knuckle. I lose a layer of skin, it gets red and irritated, but always heals up enough so that I can throw a layer of New Skin over it before the start of league next week. It typically only happens when I need to use some tape, but its not an issue of the ball being too tight. Its very odd and the only solution may be to just have the thumb redrilled, but since the ball was already resurfaced due to the machine damage from last season is it really worth it or should I just buy a replacement. So many decisions.

My biggest concern during the outing was spare shooting . . . again. I missed a 10-pin in the tenth frame of the first game and the first frame of the second game. I also miscalculated on an adjustment to pickup the 1-2 in the tenth frame of the third game. It has been both poor decision making and poor execution all happening at the most inopportune moments. If I'm going to continue my success on the lanes and maybe even get better I will need to improve my spare shooting and become more consistent in my overall play.