Just when you thought the Olympics were dead (bowling edition)

If only the IOC had as many suitable hosts for the Winter Olympics as it had sports who want to get on the Summer Olympic program …

The sport of bowling, long an Olympic aspirant, is taking aim at the Olympics, with a new scoring system that more closely resembles match play golf. (Which, ironically, is not the format golf will use in its Olympic rollout in 2016.)

Here’s how it works:

In the Tour finals, held at the South Point Bowling Plaza in Las Vegas on Sunday, matches will effectively become a frame-by-frame showdown, with each bowler initially rolling a single ball per frame.

If a player outscores their opponent, they win the frame and go “one-up”, like in match-play golf. If both hit a strike, each gets a half. If both hit, for example, an eight, each competitor would attempt to complete their spare, with the higher scorer taking the frame. Matches tied after 12 frames continue until there is a winner.

It’s a strange proposal on two levels:

1. Bowling proponents have long tried to explain to us that lanes are like holes in golf — the wax patterns give them distinct identities. To make this format work, each bowler will have to be on a different lane. (Unless they reset the pins after each shot, which would kill the “speed up the game” component of this argument.) So that would be like Tiger Woods facing off against Rory McIlroy with Woods playing the fifth hole and McIlroy on the 15th.

2. Bowling is already all about match play. Two bowlers go head to head. If one bowler gets a strike in a particular frame and the other doesn’t, it’s pretty much the same thing as winning the hole.

But the fact that bowling is willing to consider such a radical change should remind us: A lot of people still care about the Olympics. Never mind the fact that a lot of Olympic sports barely get a minute of coverage in any mass-media coverage. The mere association with the name “Olympics” carries a lot of prestige. Just as softball organizers still reeling from being excluded or wrestlers who fought tooth and nail to keep their sport back in the Games.

These are crucial years for the Olympic movement. How can we encourage diverse opportunities without creating (or continuing) a giant tangled mess?

And how can soon can we get this new bowling format on Wii Sports?

 

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