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February 25, 2013

Where is Bowls' Defining Moment?

Other sports have them – what's wrong with us?

I woke up this morning and, for whatever reason, this was the question that was on my mind! Usually it’s a question of what to do next in one of our home renovation projects, or what can I develop next to make one of the games I play (bowls, golf curling) a better game. But no, today it was the burning question of what defines Bowls as a sport. And you know what? I didn’t have an answer.

So, I got to thinking about other sports. Hockey, for instance, has the Stanley Cup and that is surely defining enough. Football has the Super Bowl as its big game (the Grey Cup here in the Great White North). Soccer/Football has the World Cup. Baseball has the World Series. These are all team games with a set number of players and the big events are played pretty much the same way as they play in their league play leading up to the “event.” Cricket has whatever they play for a championship, but it looks the same as their league play. Aussie Rules Football (brilliant game!) has its exciting finals (in Sydney when I was there in ’85).

There are other team games that also fall in line with this where the Defining Moment of the sport is a culmination of how the game is normally played. Let’s look at some events that aren’t based on full team participation. Tennis is primarily an individual event and while Doubles, and Mixed Doubles are played nobody really cares who wins them. The focus is on the Singles winners. Other racket sports follow suit. Darts – I suppose you can play team games, but only the individual is celebrated. Swimming is a weird one and I can never understand why there are so many different events allowed, and why we celebrate individuals who are, IMO, given the opportunity to win multiple Gold Medals for doing basically the same thing – staying afloat in a pool.

Track & Field could be pared down to one sprint, one middle distance and one long distance race, and to one throwing event and one jumping event – but their Defining Moment is still regarded as being the 100m Men's Sprint which provides us with the World’s Fastest Man. Gymnastics has too many events and so nobody cares about them either. How many times can the same person do the same floor routine and get medals each time they do it? That one definitely confuses me.

The Winter Olympics is another story. I know what the difference between Skeleton and Luge is, but they are essentially the same type of race, one on your belly looking straight ahead in terror and the other lying on your back, feet first, hoping you don’t end up on your belly. I don’t want to get started on Figure Skating because as most of you will know, I loathe Olympic sports whose outcome is based on a judges grading. Figure Skating does not really have a Defining Moment. I can’t say for certain that the Singles is any more important than the Mixed Pairs or the Dance or whatever they refer to them as. Enough on that – Figure Skating in whatever form is all just a judged event so shouldn’t be any more than a lovely demonstration sport anyway!

Curling… now there is a sport that has it down. The World Championships are held to determine the best team in their sport, in Men’s, Women’s and Juniors. Four men, four women, or four juniors. That’s it! Those are the ones that Curling cares about. Mixed is played, Seniors are played… but the focus is on the Majors, and yes they are played the same way you and I would play the game at our league level, only we don’t play with quite as much skill. Not nearly!

I could go on listing sports and their real or perceived Defining Moments but it’s time to focus on Bowls’ Defining Moment. At the World level do we even have one? At the Canadian level do we have one. If so, what is it? Better yet, how do we declare the World’s Best Bowler? Some might say it has to be the Singles Champion, but right now it could be the vice on the fours team, or the lead on the Pairs or the Skip of the Triples? We just have too few variables to determine a winner and too many types of games that are played the same way.

Therefore we really have no Defining Moment. 

While it may seem that there are too many variables we really only have one, as no matter whether the game is played in Singles, Pairs, Triples or Fours, Mixed Pairs, Mixed Triples, Mixed Fours – it’s the same game. In Bowls, we roll a bowl to the same target no matter what game we are playing (S, P, T, F). They all look the same and therefore we don’t have a Defining Moment that can be used to either declare the best of the best as they do in Hockey, Baseball, Football or Soccer. While each of those sports can be played with varying numbers of players (ie 4 on 4 hockey games were some of my favourites when I was playing!), when it came time to declare a champion they chose one style of game and one style only and it resembled the game that the masses could identify with most, that they had played the most. We don’t do that do we? No, we play Fours and Singles, Triples and Pairs, and it’s all based on travel arrangements so that organizers can make arrangements for a 5 member “team.” It’s all done so that no member of the “team” has to sit out or be sent home when their event is over. In cases like this I have seen it before where the best bowler is placed on a team that might be regarded as a bit weak and therefore in need of a solid skip. However that player, the skip, might have been the best selection for the Singles event, and as a result another player was thrown to the wolves in the Singles, up against reps of other nations who had determined their priorities differently and chosen the Singles as their Defining Moment. 

When you get right down to it though, this is not the fault of individual nations – it is the bane of the sport itself. Bowls, as it is played now, has no Defining Moment. In Canada we hold Championships that include Fours, Pairs, Singles and now Triples. Certainly the attempt is being made to separate the Singles from the pack but is this because it is to become the Defining Moment? If so, I can get behind the idea for that is exactly what the sport needs IMO. But, if that is the case why do we continue to hold the Championships for Fours, Triples and Pairs? Waste of time – waste of money – waste of resources – waste of energy that could otherwise be devoted to promotion and growth of the game. I prefer Fours and Singles myself and believe Fours is the basis of the game but I also know the TV hates it because they can’t get a good angle on the head, so that really only leaves Singles as a showcase event. Or, does it?

Let’s stop wasting time, resources and energy and start thinking about the great Bowls Defining Moment because right now I don’t believe we have one!

What would be your choice? Singles? Fours? Or, have you invented another one?

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