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Two Handed Bowling and Sandbagging Essay

Sandbagging is a term used in many sports to define someone that is intentionally playing the sport bad in order to better themselves with handicap. There are people that completely agree with this and use the handicap as an advantage. On the other hand, you have the people that are for all intentional purposes trying to do their best every week and try to keep their average high. There are two sides to every story and finding out the cheating side is always the hardest. Bowling two handed has become a controversy because people technically aren’t switching hands, which is against the rules, instead they are switching styles and this usually causes them to have a lower average.

Some people think that a new rule should be added to completely do away with the two handed style all together and others think that if people want to sandbag, then let them sandbag. Two handed bowling has been a controversy since Jason Belmonte started bowling at the age of just two years old. Before that, though, two handed had never been seen and everyone bowled with just one hand. It hasn’t been a problem against the rules, it has been a problem called ‘sandbagging.’ Sandbagging happens in leagues and gives that person an advantage. For example, if a one handed bowler with a 200 average starts out bowling two handed with a 160 average, he can get a higher handicap and finish out bowling one handed.

The higher handicap will give his team more points. This goes into the idea of it being ethical. It’s technically cheating and if you are aware you are doing this to win, it isn’t right. If a bowler cheats and sandbags, should they have to finish out the season bowling the way they started? This isn’t just to win their league, it’s to also help them win tournaments that have handicap. “They seem to flock to handicap leagues and on occasion have a “career” year in a high money scratch league with team maximums.” (Rodriguez). Bowlers look down on the people that do this because it isn’t fair to the ones that keep their averages high and take the sport seriously.

The argument with two handed bowling isn’t that it is against the rules, it’s that people abuse it. They sandbag with two hands, then bowl one handed in tournaments to win. People want a rule made to go along with the rule that says if a person starts out left/right handed, they must finish out the season left/right handed, to say that if a person starts out bowling one/two handed, they should finish one/two handed. “The emergence and growing popularity of what is known as the “two-handed” delivery in bowling has caused the United States Bowling Congress (USBC) to consider its impact on the rules and application of the sport’s specifications.” (Henry). This quote is explaining that USBC is looking into the rules and could possibly add a rule that is against switching between two styles. However, there are some exceptions and some people that think sandbagging is an ‘ok’ thing to do.

Not only is this an argument against the rules, most people strongly disagree with the idea of sandbagging because it gives people an advantage in handicap tournaments. “…if I have the ability to be a consistent 200-average bowler, but I spend all season deliberately averaging 170 or so, my handicap will be that of a bowler much worse than me. So, when the important games start, I go back to bowling as I know I can, and I have an additional 20-30 pins of handicap as a cushion.” (Goodger). This is explaining how the handicap works and why people sandbag. Handicap tournaments are for people with averages usually under 220.

The reason they have the rule that you can’t switch hands is because people will bowl with their ‘bad’ hand to set a low average, then in tournaments, they bowl with their right hand and dominate the competition. It’s the same thing by switching styles. People bowl two handed, which can be by their same hand, but actually bowl one handed. The only thing that people think should be allowed is picking up spares one handed. A two handed bowler, Osku Palermaa, bowls his first ball two handed but picks up spares one handed. Almost everyone that are against the switching of styles think this should be allowed. This is where stats come into play. If someone can average a 210 one handed and a 170 two handed, they should only bowl one handed on the first ball. On the same page, if a bowler averages 210 two handed, and just 180 one handed, then they should only bowl with two hands on the first ball.

The switching of the two styles could be the equivalent of switching hands in golf. Maybe a shot is easier for someone left handed and they can make the shot, even though they golf right handed. That option is not allowed in bowling, and with the many styles that are offered today, there has to be some rule to balance the field. Tournaments in the youth and some adult tournaments are used with handicap. So handicap with bowling would be a good thing. You average 200 and shoot a 210 with a handicap of 100% of 220, and you technically shoot a 230. This is the same in golf, if a golfer has a high handicap, then that means his ‘average’ is higher than some other golfers with a low handicap.

It’s almost backwards in golf, but works the same way to ensure that players can play each other and be equal, regardless of skill level. I think of true athletes like Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan and Derek Jeter. “Can you imagine for one second any of them missing the winning putt, not making the game winning shot or striking out INTENTIONALLY? I didn’t think so.” (Doe) This quote is saying that a bowler averaging 170 is not going to make that game winning strike, and it’s very obvious when someone is sandbagging. In every sport there is always someone trying to bend the rules and take advantage of things such as handicap in order to win tournaments.

In golf, someone can shoot horribly and have a high handicap, and then shoot great in a tournament and nobody can beat him at all. This is taking advantage of an idea that is supposed to even out the players based on their personal ability. So if you do better than your average with a 170, and someone else does a little worse than theirs but bowls a 210, then you should win, regardless of the scores. That is how handicap works in bowling, as well as golf. This is a moral thing and I don’t see how someone can win in terms of cheating. You can’t cheat in football or any other sport, so why be able to in bowling?

The basic counter argument of this idea is that sandbagging and switching hands to do so is something that is ‘normal.’ Some people think that taking advantage of this idea is why it was put in place and they can abuse it if they want to. If they want to sandbag then there is no rule that is preventing them from it. From their point of view, it’s only cheating if you get caught, and most people report them to their league supervisor or coach. Some even sandbag in the first couple of weeks and then bring their average up gradually in order to stay hidden and ‘under the radar.’ Besides, it isn’t like everyone else can’t throw a few bad balls their first few games of a league.

An article about why sandbagging is allowed in bowling alleys explains it. “The only real handicap we are dealing with in bowling is money. If the bowling alleys have to throw a blind eye to what is going on they will, this is the only way to keep them in business.” (“Bowling tips for beginners”)Money and keeping their league members is exactly why they don’t report the sandbaggers. They are almost always the ones that know how to bowl bad and make it look like an accident. Another thing they look at is that if people don’t like sandbagging, then they can go join a scratch league, in which there is no handicap so you have to bowl well.

You may be able to bend the rules and some people may not care if they cheat, but sandbagging is wrong in all levels of sports. Even in a youth league where you have ages ranging from just 7 years old all the way to 19 or 20 years old. But even in these youth leagues you have the bratty teenager that knows his or her way around the rules. When bowling in these types of leagues, there is handicap, and hundreds of dollars worth of scholarship money is on the line. What a better way to make sure you get the top amount than cheat your way to the top. What a better way to win tournaments than to cheat. While that is going on you have the kids that try hard every single week to keep their average up and usually do a great job at it. So when those kids get in tournaments sometimes they do better than their average and they deserve that trophy or money.

But three lanes down you have a guy that really averages 210, bowling with a 180 average and that isn’t fair to the ones that try and work hard to have the average they want. To show some statistics and numbers, I found an article that shows just how hard it would be for someone in golf to shoot two over par with about a fifteen handicap. This would be the equivalent of a bowler averaging 175 and bowling a 680 series (three games put together). “The guy, a member of the host club, claimed a midteens handicap, but in his practice round shot a couple of strokes over par. The odds against a true midteens handicapper shooting such a score are greater than 37,000 to 1.” (Golf Journal). All this is saying is that if you are going to sandbag to win, don’t make it so obvious.

To prove that sandbagging is wrong and to show how handicap does work, I have put together a situation. In a tournament that was last week, two guys, we will call them Bill and John, were bowling against each other and both were doing extremely well. The handicap for this tournament is 100% of 220 pins, which means whatever their average is, for example a 200, their handicap would be 20. These two guys are bowling and they are bowling very well scratch (without handicap), but with handicap one of them was losing tremendously. John has been bowling since he was five and has never changed his style, except this year he decided to throw two handed at the beginning of the season and averaged just 180.

His average went way down so he later decided to go back to his normal style in which he averages 210. So he goes into this tournament with a 190 average and actually has a 210 average. But Bill, a newbie that hasn’t even been bowling two years yet, has tried to keep his average at a 200 all year long and has succeeded. This was the championship game and Bill had worked his way up the ladder to bowl John who qualified first. Starting off, John already has a 10 pin advantage over Bill because his average is just 190, which gives him a 30 pin handicap compared to Bill’s 20. But remember, John’s real handicap is only 10 because he sandbagged earlier in the year to make his average lower. The two start bowling and John shoots a 268, But Bill only misses once and gets a bad break, but finishes out for a 275.

Now, technically, Bill is the real winner here and he bowled a great game to finish with a 275. But with handicap, Bill’s score is a 295 and John’s is a 298. So John won because of the handicap. How is this fair? If John had actually worked hard to average 190 and managed to bowl a 268, I believe that he should win hands down. But, he didn’t, he cheated and he shouldn’t have won. I have personally bowled in many tournaments and leagues and I witness adults sandbagging on a monthly basis. I see bowlers that can throw a great ball, and throw it straight at the pins like a beginner. I find this extremely unfair and I do see it as cheating.

“All good is hard. All evil is easy. Dying, losing, cheating and mediocrity is easy. Stay away from easy.” – Scott Alexander. (Brain Quotes). The quote explains itself. Cheating is the easy way to do things and you don’t get any satisfaction from beating someone by cheating. It’s like using steroids in baseball, or taking off a restrictor plate in racing, you will get caught and it’s not as fun. Why would someone ‘try out’ two handed bowling for a few weeks and then go back to their normal style? If they start out two handed then they finish that way and the same goes for a one handed bowler. Personally, my average two handed is 215, but one handed I couldn’t probably even average a 170. The facts are there and it isn’t fair that people sandbag in order to win. It’s wrong and hopefully one day the USBC bylaws will enforce this controversy.


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