Show me the oil! — a sure way to improve one’s bowling fortunes

The PBA Tour called it an experiment. Perhaps you saw the telecast in December. I did not. Let me explain.

Bowling establishments use a Zamboni type machine to oil their lanes. This transparent oil is laid down in different patterns. Some are tougher than others and the patterns change as a game progresses and the oil shifts. That is why professional bowlers make small adjustments trying to keep up with the changing oil conditions.

The pros can sense the changes as their balls react differently. To most of us amateur bowlers, it is a mystery that remains unsolved. To allow TV viewers to more appreciate what a pro has to go through to adjust to the changing conditions, the tour used a blue dye that does not change the characteristics of the oil, but does allow all to see the oil and whatever swings the patterns take.

As one wag put it, the PBA Tour was using lanes that look like a Smurf went splat on them.

If this became something that local bowling alleys were capable of using, would not the amateur have a better chance of scoring? My first thought was, “wow, this could be cool.” That was immediately followed by a second thought:

The Beartooth Highway!

Now I know that many of you wonder just where my mind wanders off to at times. That’s fine, I do too. “Bear” with me for a minute and I’ll try to explain.

There is a road that runs through Wyoming and Montana called the Beartooth Highway. Charles Kuralt called it the most scenic drive in America. It can be accessed using the northeast exit of Yellowstone National Park, which just happens to be my favorite place in the whole country.

After hearing about the roadway, my family and I chose to drive the 68-mile distance after leaving Yellowstone. At the base of the highway you can see mountains rising above the clouds. My kids thought that was so cool. So did I; at least from the base of the mountain. Most of the beginning portion of the drive up the mountain met our approval. It was beautiful. Then we got into those clouds.

What was a beautiful summer day at the start of our journey became a driving nightmare near the summit. It started snowing, visibility became very limited and the road wound left then right. There were no guard rails and motorhomes coming toward me felt they had the right to more than half of the driving surface. The one thing you did not want to do from the car was to look down.

The most scenic drive in America became a terrifying experience. Trust me when I say I will never make that drive again.

OK, what does this have to do with the Smurfification of bowling alleys? Well, here’s the deal. One of my biggest fears at my age is not stopping when I get to the foul line. The thought of stepping over the line into the oil is well, terrifying. You know if it happens you are going to have your feet go out from under you and hit the deck. You will fall on your back, your keister, your head or any combination of those three. It is going to hurt; the only question is to what degree.

Showing me the oil will not help my game. I have one ball, a “five board wide” mark and never throw the ball the same way twice. All showing me the oil is going to do is make me freak out. It would be the equivalent of looking down while driving the Beartooth Highway. What if I cross the line like a motorhome? What if I slip? What will happen to me?

I can tell you now. I will be hurt and I will look like a Smurf! Showing me the oil is only going to make me think and we know what happens when my mind wanders off

Steve Steinmetz Jr. figured out the oil pattern changes this week as he rolled a nifty 733 series to lead the Imperial-Majorette League. Kevin Young shot 657, Ben Hoyda 646, Bob Eaton 613, Linda Brookes 493, Deb Nominee 481 and Randi Hossler 452. In the Sportsman League Rich Yates Jr. shot 706, Rustan Burks 682, Scott Ferguson 662, Lance Davis 651, Alex Wagner 647, Bob Reinhart 642, Tom Wilkinson 642, Scott Hartsel 624, Phil Neikirk 620, Jason Zirkle 610 and Rich Yates Sr. 607. Tyson Shope shot 638, Steve Norman 612, Mark Phillips 599, Harry Smith 597, Ed Wilson 555, Dianne Smith 496 and Cheryl Radin-Norman 463 in the Wednesday Morning League.

Rocket League scores included Dave Coppus 663, Tim Sturgill 655, Tom Tiell 647, John Funk 644, Steve Barnes 601 and Virginia Vanover 504. In the Twilight League Steve Barnes shot 703, Nick Bumb 630, Larry Distel 614, Steve Steinmetz Jr. 604, Tom Tiell 601, Rhonda Fitch 594, Michelle Wagner 398 and Robin Brownell 377. Kevin Fitch had 685, Dave Ross 658, Rich Yates Jr. 639, Jim Hershberger 609 and Mark Ratliff 601 in the Big 8 League.

Action from the K of C Lanes saw Chris Johnson shoot 716 to top the Holy Name League. James Lord had 589, Darl Elchert 586, Rick Smith 579, Jerry Collins 579 and Jerry Coleman 554. Jim Ruess rolled a 606, Bill Mizen 602, Ken Gaietto 561, Paul Gosche 548, Rick Hanna 538, Dick Gabel 521, Bob Reinhart 508, Dan Coppes 475, Bob West 470, John Ferstler 465, Dave Everhart 449, Jim Ferstler 446, Paul Fey 441 and Jim Donaldson 424 in the 55 Plus League. Scores from the Tuesday Night League included Andy Hess 649, Rick Smith 629, James Lord 606, Bill Lord 598, Darl Elchert 581, Dave Hohman 574, Ken Gaietto 569, Steve Depinet 566, Jamie Kuhn 560 and Mark Orians 553. Scott Kromer had 592, Bennett Paulus 576, Tim Gassner 522, Fred Reimer 521 and Ken Ritzler 506 in the Senior League.

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

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