Friday, July 07, 2006

"Bowling: Straight vs. Curvy"

I think it was rather ambitious of me to try and make a full-length post out of this topic. Let's see what I can do. I can always resort to "this is what I did today", I suppose.

Anyway, let's start with generalities. There are two ways to approach bowling. One is simply to roll the ball straight and hope for the best (the "straight" approach). The other is to put spin on the ball, start it wide, and have it curve back towards the center just as it reaches the pins (the "curvy" approach). I've been "straight" bowling my whole life, but I've reached a point where I'm not getting any better. This is likely typical of all "straight" bowlers - no matter how much you bowl, eventually your performance will cap out at some point, and you'll still get beat by all those "curvy" bowlers, because apparently "curvy" bowling is the only way to get really good. So if you want to improve your game beyond the "straight cap", you'll have to switch sides.

Now, I'm not saying I'm one of the best "straight" bowlers out there. Far from it. But I'm still not getting any better, and I was curious, so I recently decided to give "curvy" bowling a try. Actually, I don't really care that much about my bowling skill - I know I'm never going to be that good. My main motivation isn't to get better, it was just to screw around and try it out. I'm just trying to relate to the very skilled "straight" bowlers by discussing the "straight cap". (I can already feel it...I'll have no problem whatsoever making this a full-length post.)

Here's a question: why don't you see any crappy "curvy" bowlers? All the "curvy" bowlers you see at the bowling alley are pretty good. (With some exceptions of course, but even the bad "curvy" bowlers can still beat me most of the time.) Every "curvy" bowler probably started out as a "straight" bowler. When did they make the switch? And why don't you see anyone at the bowling alley who's in the process of switching? (By that I mean, a "curvy" bowler who obviously is just trying the curve out for the first time, and scoring very low.) Well, anyone who was at Northland Bowl in State College on Monday around 700p would have seen two people who fit that description. (I'll let you guess who the other person was. If you need a hint, read yesterday's post. Or the day before's.)

The main rule for this experiment is that we must attempt to spin the ball as long as there are at least 3 pins remaining. If there are one or two pins left, we are allowed to roll the ball straight to pick up the spare. Not that it really mattered at first - this rule never came up in the first game, at least for me. Final score: 23. I was happy, because my goal was just to break the score I put up at my friend's 1st-grade birthday party. (That being an 11. Made more impressive by the fact that it included a strike.) Well...can't quit now, right? Let's try it again. Second final score: 69! A vast improvement over the first game, and I even got a spare. (I might have gotten another mark or two, but I don't remember for sure.) Once I figured out the grip, a mechanic, and a place to aim, I started actually knocking pins down. That's another thing we didn't want to do - either ask knowledgeable "curvy" bowlers for help, or do research on the proper mechanics. Not only would that take all the fun out of it, but that wasn't the point of this exercise. Besides, I learned how to play disc golf not by learning the proper mechanics, but by screwing around until I found something that works. (But don't try that method with regular golf.) I don't remember Amber's scores, but she did get at least one legitimate strike. (And a cheap one by "accidentally" rolling the ball straight. Cheater!)

So, what are my lasting impressions? 1) "Curvy" bowling is a lot harder, obviously - you need to spin the ball just the right amount, throw it with just the right speed, and throw it in just the right direction. In "straight" bowling, all you have to do is throw it straight. I guess that's why so many people bowl "straight". 2) It's a lot of fun - more fun than "straight" bowling, even though I get twice the score with "straight" bowling, at least for now. 3) I look "professional". If someone in another lane sees me doing my "curvy" thing, they're automatically impressed, at least until they look at my score.

This is definitely something I'd like to try again. After all...if I triple my score again, I'll throw a 207 next time! (Unfortunately, my score as a function of repetitions probably isn't an exponential. Maybe it's a logarithmic.)

Today's random thoughts:

1) A lot of times, you'll see an advertisement on some food item for a movie - often it's cereal, chips, or crackers. Often by buying the food item, you can get a great deal on some cheap toy or something related to the movie. My question is this: who benefits more from this arrangement? Is it the movie, from the added publicity they get from having it plastered all over the box? Or is it the food item, from people who buy the food item because they liked the movie (or want the toy)? Either way, both sides benefit, and that's why you see this kind of thing so much.
2) For the first time ever (my parents' house doesn't count), I have my own dishwasher. It's really nice to just put dirty dishes in there, put in some Cascade, turn a couple knobs, and the dishes are clean a couple hours later. But using it feels like a terrible waste, because I don't have enough pots and dishes to fill it up before I have to use it. So every time I use the dishwasher, it's at best half-full. Oh well, I'll get over it.
3) My officemate got Bojangles' for lunch and brought it back to the office. Ugh...I wasn't happy about it. Stupid novelty I want some Bojangles'. But, I'm going to be strong and wait until July 24th. I guess the one-Bojangles'-per-month thing isn't as much "novelty protection" as it is "blood flow protection". July 24th is a Monday - I'm already making plans to stop at Bojangles' on my way back from work.


Erik said...

I've seen lots of bad curvy bowlers, just look for the guy in the bowling alley throwing the ball straight... into the gutter, and then getting pissed like he expected something different to happen.

Oh, and I think a third party benefits from the cereal-movie relationship. The toy company. The cereal company pays the movie people for the toy (which increases their sales), the movie people pay the toy company to make the cheap toys (hoping to raise more interest in their movie), and the toy company dumps all the cash in a pool (and invite their friends over to swim in it).

Walter said...

While I know it is missing the point, if you had decided to learn to bowl before you moved, I could've given you lessons. As for your accomplace, I can always teach her and let that 'trickle down' to you.

As for why you don't see many (I've seen some) in transition, good bowlers bowl more often, and therefore make up a higher percentage of the bowlers at the alley. Furthermore, it depends on you definition of 'good'. With a properly-drilled ball and a couple of sessions, most people can hit 100+ regularly with a hook, but that doesn't make them "good" in my book. However, if you're throwing a straight ball and are under 100 as often as over, it seems good.

I've got plenty more on this one, but I'll stop here.

James Allen said...

The movie/food item relationship is symbiotic mutualism. See, I learn stuff by teaching.

Anonymous said...

100 is the minimum score you should get. If you're a straight bowler, averaging 120 is decent. When you hit a cap, try something new... As of now, I'm doing a very slight hook (ball travels straight until it reaches the pin and curves slightly in) and i can average a 135. Hook bowlers should average about 130 to be decent. You should never dip below 100 unless you're doing something radical (so your 69 is fine).

Anonymous said...

I agree "straight" bowlers do seem to cap out their score.
I've been a straight bowler all my life. I stayed straight when a friend of mine switched to hook. He has actually bowled a few 300 games, I haven't bowled any.
The reason hook is better than straight is when the ball hits the pins you get more pins bouncing around.
But I do feel if you really work on straight you can do just as good as a hook bowler. You have throw the ball, not straight down the middle, but stand a little to the right. Imagine a parallel line to the back pins. If you throw down the middle that's a 90 degree angle to the parallel line. If you stand over to the right you have to throw at more of a 70 degree angle to the line. That's closer to the way a hook bowler hits the 1-2 pocket. I throw it this way and have a 185 average. I can go to any alley and expect a 185 average. Take a hook bowler to any alley and he sucks until he gets used to the lane conditions,etc. Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I meant the 1-3 pocket.

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