by Frank Goebel

The entitlement mentality has made its way into the sport of tenpin bowling.

The United States Bowling Congress (USBC) rewards member bowlers scoring a perfect 300 game, and/or an 800 three-game series, a ring or some other tangible award for a score bowled in a certified league or tournament. Highly skilled players who could attain multiple achievements of these milestones could even receive another of each award every season.

Until August 1, 2014, that is. That’s when the USBC will reduce these awards to once in a lifetime, no matter how long ago the first or previous “high score” (formerly termed “honor score”) was bowled.

To put things into my own perspective, I have a 300 ABC ring I earned in 1999. Since then, I have been a secretary of a rather large men’s league and quite a few of my players have managed repeats of those achievements. And yes, I respect each and every one of those, regardless of who bowled it or how many times they’ve been bowled by those members. Naturally, I cherish a bowler’s first time hitting either of those marks.

As someone who has bowled a 300, I recently joined a closed online group for those with any number of 300s/800s. In there, some do brag about dozens of lifetime marks; some share how old they were when they bowled their first one, what ball they used, and even some phone videos are displayed highlighting a “first”.

Recently, one of the more vocal members, whom I will name “Blaine”, started a thread complaining about the change to the USBC award rule. To be fair, Blaine, who hails from near Lansing, Michigan, has averaged upwards of 220 over the past seven seasons and has had at least nine perfect games and a number of 800s. But his terse thread opening, asking what others’ thoughts are on “not receiving rings anymore starting next season,” and wondering why leagues should even bother certifying (or sanctioning, as the former term would put it).

Replies came out of the woodwork in less than a day. Even I posted; I am a local association board member, and thus I linked directly to the USBC’s narratives about the decision and I asked folks to review them. Blaine even chewed me out, saying, “So next season I roll a 300 or 800 I get nothing that is wrong.”  And quite a few of the others echoed his thoughts. The high average bowler in my league, who himself had five 300s and four 800s last season, feels the same way.

Mathematically, the dues amount the national organization receives from each bowler is $10. Even the lowest trophy award costs over $40 (a free ring, $79). From a cost perspective alone, this is easily a misnomer. Now three things (lane conditions, bowling equipment, and coaching/instruction) have each contributed to the higher numbers of these games and subsequent awards. But the bowlers who had been able to score one of these rings every season, no longer being able to get them for free, seem to feel as though something is being taken from them.

And in fact, it is not: Very few bowlers even wear one ring day-to-day signifying their milestone, and unless multiples are being sized to and given away to family and friends (which some are), the idea of financing, producing, and delivering a ring only to have it sit boxed up is something even I cannot understand. So, these players want to bowl un-sanctioned? The one thing that should keep them certified is the fact that their averages won’t be recognized, nor will they be able to participate in certified tournaments or use those averages to enter.

Thankfully, some saner minds spoke up in this thread. It’s difficult to do so without invoking harsh language in rebuke of this “entitlement mentality”, but the common word that was used in reply was “selfish”.  Naturally, I concur.

We could turn the tables on these selfish sorts. Imagine that, like golf, the hole-in-one tradition took over and a bowler scoring perfection would buy a round of drinks for everyone at the bar that night? My league has 112 members, not including substitutes. That could get up to a pretty penny, even if the center offered a discount.

A further look at Blaine’s history is that he’s always bowled in the highly liberal state of Michigan. If that doesn’t make one expect an entitlement mentality, what would?