Leveling the playing field — I’ll let you make the rules decision

Super Bowl Sunday had its mesmerizing moments. For sure, the Super Bowl itself was not one of them. The game was one-sided and pretty boring to everyone except, I suppose, Seattle Seahawks fans.

I did tune in for Puppy Bowl X. I even watched a bit of the first ever Kitten Bowl where I saw Meowshawn Lynch prance around. This feline wasn’t talking to the media either. Both shows were cute, but hardly mesmerizing.

What got my attention last Sunday were two other sporting events whose games are dear to my heart. I had the remote control working overtime as I switched back and forth between the PGA Tour event and the PBA Tour Super Clash.

Unlike the football game, these two events came down to the wire. The golf tournament came down to a 5-foot putt on the 72nd hole. The unusual bowling format of three games with total pinfall determining the winner came down to the 10th frame of game three.

Though both events were interesting as well as exciting, it was the controversy surrounding the two winners that had me mesmerized. Kevin Stadler won the Waste Management Open in Phoenix using the soon to be banned long putter. Jason Belmonte won the Clash using – oh, the horrors, both hands – which brought condemnation from fellow pros who were on the television broadcast.

Let’s take a look at the controversies and, as always, I’ll let you be the judge as to what the rules should be. Of course, along the way, I will give my two cents worth. We’ll start with the golf tournament.

Sunday’s final round had several golfers vying for the top spot. When the last hole was played, it was the final pairing of Stadler and Bubba Watson who were tied for the lead. With Stadler safely in with a par, Watson needed to drain a 5-footer for a playoff. When the putt went astray, Stadler became a first-time winner on the PGA Tour.

As the round progressed, the TV commentators talked about Stadler’s use of the long, anchored putter. After years of haggling, it was determined that the long putter would be outlawed beginning in 2016. Stadler was asked what he was going to do two years from now when he no longer can use the club. His response was very interesting.

It seems that Stadler has the yips so bad with the shorter blade, that he suggested he may have to make as much money as he can in the next two years and then quit the game. I doubt that will happen, but the question is “does the longer putter give a golfer an unfair advantage?” Perhaps, but Stadler is not your typical golfer using the longer club. Usually a golfer using the long putter is not a very good lag putter, but makes a higher percentage of 5-footers. Stads is the opposite. He lags very well, but has yet to find a 5-foot putt that he is comfortable with. Hmmm.

The long putter will soon be gone as the tour has decided to ban it. In the case of Belmonte, I don’t know how you do away with his so called advantage, unless you insist bowlers throw the ball with one hand. On the telecast, pro bowlers Tommy Jones, Jason Couch and Chris Barnes gave their thoughts on two-handed bowling.

Couch was the most outspoken, suggesting that as an old school bowler he did not like the two-handed approach. Barnes went on to say he knows that Belmo gets a lot more revs on his ball than he can using the traditional one-hand method. All bowlers feel that more revs allows for more pin action and noting all the messengers that Belmonte took advantage of during the match, perhaps they have a point.

My take is that these guys all have the opportunity to throw the ball two-handed if they choose. It’s not like they don’t have access to equipment that another bowler might have. Whether they can use that style to their benefit remains to be seen.

I do understand that the purpose of rules in any sport is to try to level the playing field. That cannot be done simply by rewriting the rules book however. No rule will allow me to drive the ball like Bubba Watson. Similarly no rule will allow me to throw a bowling ball like, well, any of the bowlers listed above. For sure, I don’t like that 5-foot putt no matter what putter I’m using.

You folks can decide what your position is regarding these controversies. If nothing else it makes for some good TV watching, especially if the Super Bowl is a dud.

Mother Nature limited league bowling action again this week. Here are the scores that I have received.

Tim Sturgill rolled a big 290 game on his way to a 728 series in the Rocket League. Steve Norman shot 645, John Funk 605, Dave Coppus 592, Jon Distel 580 and Ellen Ewing 457. Rich Yates Jr. shot 703, Jim Mason 694, Scott Hartsel 693, Ken Butturff Jr. 658, Jim Archer 635, Alex Wagner 594, Dick Gabel 593 and Kyle Musa 593 in the Sportsman League. The “old” guys braved the weather at the K of C Lanes as Jim Ruess shot 618, Bill Mizen 539, Bob Reinhart 533, Dan Coppes 513, Dick Gabel 489, Jim Ferstler 485, Paul Fey 475, Dave Everhart 469, John Ferstler 438 and Jim Donaldson 409 in the 55 Plus League.

Al Stephenson is The A-T’s bowling columnist.

Read his blog at: