GEORGE IS BACK – Patel ponders the Past and Present

1993 and UK Bowler George Patel has a feature in the World of Tenpin Magazine where he answered questions, gave advice and tips and more. George a talented bowler and also like many ‘had opinions on the sport then and now.

His career on the lanes was pretty good also, A Winner of the Brunswick World Open Qualifier and BTBA All events among other things. He also won a Car once by bowling a high game.

The game has changed a lot since the 1990’s so It was our pleasure to have George speak again about bowling past and present.

George, I come from an era where your name and others like Scammell, Hill, Botting, Hood, Buck and more dominated the 80’s and 90’s. I thought when senior bowling grew and those names matured we might see the big players of old still representing the country. You have flirted with seniors and even paid your dues in the PBA 50. Why no attempt on the World senior championships?

It’s been a long time since talking bowling!:) The 80’s and 90’s were interesting times and a lot of fun learning the game. Many of the bowlers you named no longer have the hunger to bowl or compete.
Personally speaking, I do not like the age bonus system. I think it should be scratch with maybe some automatic cashes for over 60’s and that’s all. Therefore, I have no desire to play for country and never have.

Regarding the PBA 50 tour, I have a lot of friends there and its far more challenging and enjoyable plus I love hanging out in Florida. I play a few stops every few years until last year when I had heart surgery. I am fully fit now, but with no passion to bowl. Maybe something will change in the future and I’ll put my hand back in the ball as I miss the people most.

Back in the old days of Talktenpin you were a very vocal part of our successful forums. They were retired and on came social media, you have been less vocal about the sport, just watching or taking a break?

The Talktenpin forums were a lot of fun, especially banging heads with players who hid behind their computers. I do not get involved with social media, but I do occasionally watch some events on YouTube. You never know, I may just be on another long break and may return as long as my legs stay strong!

There is certainly a lot to talk about in changes over the years and certainly in the last few years. Interesting is the PBA did blue oil which was like an idea you came up with years earlier with a visable playing area. What did you actually think when the PBA finally did something you had vocally championed?

The spray on VPF (Visible Playing Field) sole purpose was to show bowlers, coaches and spectators the quality of shot making. Each time a bowler rolled the ball it would leave a tracer line on the oil so you could see from shot to shot the differences in shot alignment (Imagine running your finger across a car windscreen on a frosty morning leaving a line, same happened on the lane surface using the ball). You could also create any colour of choice by adding a UV dye! We tested the spray in Sweden with Team Pergamon, Turbo training center in Michigan and other places. What we found was that coaches, spectators and players who could repeat loved it, but most bowlers hated it and were embarrassed to bowl on it as it showed how much they were spraying the ball. I soon realized the VPF spray was only going to be good for coaching and not much more then that. A few years later PBA came out with a similar dye to show the oil pattern and not much more. I think the PBA would love to use the VPF spray on TV today if it was available! Many the PBA players would hate it though. I’d watch for sure.LOL

Starting then with your views on the current state of bowling in the UK, are you still following the sport be it UK or PBA? and maybe we start with the new PBA deal and them now technically owning bowling centres, What do you make of this news?

The current state of bowling in the U.K is very poor. There are so many young and talented players with so little to compete in to hone their skills. Lack of scratch tournaments is holding many back. What actions are the B.T.B.A and the Proprietors Association doing to combat this! We do not see anything encouraging to change that view. Actually, we need more people like you who love the game and promote it. Hope you continue.

The new PBA deal is fantastic news for bowling in the U.S. Bowlero Inc now owns both Brunswick, A.M.F centres together with the PBA tour. Now it’s in their interest to promote and grow the sport that they have invested so heavily in. I expect great things to happen in the near future for all. Great news.

String bowling next and I have to say regardless of what you say in this answer, I would love to see what the pins did when some of the old high rev players hit them. UK alone the number is growing quickly and spreading through traditional centres. 90% at least of new centres being built are string. passing phase or here to stay and what do you think about them?

To be honest I have not experienced bowling on them yet, but I have seen them on screen. I have nothing against them and if it helps proprietors with cost efficiency and more centers are opened, then that’s good. Pin fall wise, I don’t think the pins will fly like they do on traditional machines and bowlers may have to be more accurate to carry the corners. So less messengers for sure. It’s early days and we will see.

A note of caution though: at present on traditional machines 100% of the pin weight (3lb 6oz) sits on the pin deck. What if some start to mess with the tensions of the strings and the pins are not fully sitting on deck! You could be bowling against much lighter pins! On the flip side…you could say use a heavier 6lb pins and adjust the tensions for what ever weight you want to set a challenge at! There is scope in this. I say this because since the early 80’s, the bowling industry has done all they can to increase scores artificially and fool the bowlers into believing they really had improved. I know this industry, they will want to widen the goal posts even wider if they can to keep the customer happy!

Home bowling next and the BTBA membership is at an all time low and many factors contributing to this. Without raking over years of the association and issues bowlers have had. How do they go forward to grow a sport in a shrinking pool?

In my opinion the BTBA membership started to decline after the Maurice Glazer era, and look at the troubles left for the BTBA now. At that time the BTBA had money in the bank and owned the office property. The office building has long been sold and money has been spent with no clear vision or plan to increase membership or to find new sponsors. It’s unacceptable to ask players to have to pay all or towards international trips and that should not be the case! Even the smallest nations in the world raise sufficient funds to send their teams to international events.

As you said the game is in a shrinking pool and I totally agree. I am of the opinion that both the proprietors and the BTBA should together promote bowling and grow the game by reaching out to new bowlers in local communities to create new junior/adult starter leagues and grow the game. It is not the job of the BTBA to grow the game, but they can help the proprietors create new leagues. Just look at how many centers lay idle during the day time! The proprietors also have to help themselves to increase their businesses. It’s a two way street and the BTBA has to in return, give value for the £25 membership fee.”

Bowling balls, wow this could be a long answer I guess? So back in the early days, you are a ball driller and living in times where there are maybe 2-4 releases by a brand in a year to maybe 3 releases in as many months as it is now. What do you make of the way ball development has gone?

Yes I agree, in the late 70’s there were very few new ball releases and the choice was either 3 piece plastic or rubber and most people carried just one ball, that’s it. There was no advantage as they all did about the same. So people bowled with the same ball for years and if you wanted the ball to create some angle to the pocket, YOU had to apply some skill and technique to the ball and they did hook, because hook was a big advantage but very few could hook them.

If you started bowling after the mid 90’s you need to know why I and many others feel the way we do. In the 70’s Mark Roth dominated the PBA for years with a plastic ball. Roth used to hook it half a lane with a plastic ball and he was one of a very few who could carry the light hits better then anyone. Everyone wanted HOOK. Then in 1980 A.M.F introduced the first Urethane ball which hooked slightly more without the players have to learn new skills. They doubled the price as everyone wanted one and sales went crazy forcing other manufacturers to follow and profits rocketed. Free hook was very profitable and the war between manufacturers was on.

Then in the early 90’s Excalibur released the first Urethane Resin ball that snapped harder and you guessed it, everyone wanted one and sales went crazy again. This allowed many of the fringe players to start winning over night without doing anything different to their games. It allowed the straighter players who could not create power buy power in the box. I remember clearly watching Lol Ellis (with respect) who was a fairly straight bowler walking out the pro shop at the London international match play with a newly drilled Excalibur ball and shooting 837! The ball snapped so hard it was the first time I saw Lol leave a solid 9 pin! I was with Mario Joseph and I said to him, this game is getting out of control.

Today it’s no where near like even in the 90’s. Today it’s way crazy. Look at the big cores and the many resin covers that can suck up oil so fast, balls can hook at your feet within a few games! The integrity of the game has been greatly cheated with big cores that just fall to one side giving bowlers unearned angle to the pocket to gather with “walled up” lanes.

For example: Imagine if you could walk into a pro shop and buy a new ball that gave you what Jason Agate and Zara Glover do with the ball, well that’s what happened to many of us and that leveled out the competition. Sure most people will say what they have always said….it’s “Technology”. That’s total BS. The balls cheat the Do-Do scale to give unearned power down lane and I will never accept they are legal. These new balls helped 95% of the bowlers and make the ball industry a fortune so it’s all o.k!!! If it flares, it’s out of balance, no if’s and buts. It’s too frustrating to watch many players of the past bowl. We remember how good they really were and that’s another reason why so many of the older players left the game mentally frustrated.

The balls have made the biggest changes to the game. There should be a standard ball for all to use, but I don’t think that will ever happen in my life time. So you will continue seeing players fill their shed’s with balls waiting for that next magic option to come along.

We have a UK Hall of Fame now and you are in there with 12 points winning in Scheveningen, BTBA Nationals, Brunswick World Open qualifier twice and an NST tour win. Looking back are you still proud of the accomplishments as a singles player and team player during what in reality was a strong male bowling pool of players in this era?

Yes the competition was tough and it was a great time to be in bowling up until the 90’s. I miss the team era too. In singles I should have won a lot more, but It was easy to sell your soul to bowling. I chose to bring up my young family first, and bowled when I could. And yes, I’m very proud of my winnings. I won with plastic, rubber, Urethane and resin, thumb in and thumb out. I have won with rubber when the whole field was using resin with the big cores. I used my skills without having to rely on the so called “technology”. Do you remember I also won a new car at the Plastic house ball tournament which ran for a full year in Skegness? I won that thumb IN. It was ME, not the ball, how many can say that!

You were bowling with two fingers in the ball back in the 80’s, you actually inspired me to try it which i did and did ok, Seeing Ron Oldfield and Ron Deacon’s faces in league on friday night was a picture. Seriously though, this was the start of what we have now seen with two handed, Why did you decide to bring this into our lives at the time?

I’m sorry if I got you in trouble, but seriously, I used to mess around with different hand releases and palming the ball for fun thinking it was not legal. Then I saw a guy on tour practicing palming the ball and I learned it was totally legal! Wow I thought, so I when got back I started working on palming too. Three weeks later there was a coach and fours tournament in Bexlyheath and I bowled NO thumb for the first time in a tournament and won it! I knew back then creating high revs was the way forward. The carry was so good I continued working on it.

Others like Robert Bruce followed, but the BTBA banned them for palming the ball! I was never challenged so I continued working on it. There was a lot of jealousy at that time of what I was able to do because most could not do what we could do with the ball. Hey, I didn’t just wake up one morning and got good at it. I didn’t walk into a pro shop and buy 600 revs in a box. I was on my own with everyone around me telling me not to do it and that my thumb IN game was better. There was lot’s of figuring out to do and lots of hard work and failure along the way.

If I was still coaching today, I would not coach players who could not create at least 500 rpm’s and with a decent ball speed. I have no doubt in the future two handed male and female bowlers will out weight the entries, this increase will tare up the lanes even faster and frustrate many of the lower rev players to quit. I’m sure of that. Are the BTBA coaching no thumb yet?

Finally George, You have always been someone opinionated about bowling, from those early days writing for the World of Tenpin. Have you looked back at some of your articles and how many still ring true today?

Looking back at many of my writings, yes many have come. Making the playing field visible, the use of my idea of wearing a sock to slide and many more.
People used to laugh when I used plastic and Urethane balls, now most top players carry at least a Urethane or two!

The most important was the vision to see the growth of the NO thumb game across the planet. I said over 25 years ago that this was the way forward and it is proving to be the case.

I also suggested on Talk Tenpin forum that it should be taught at junior level and many argued that it was not the future of the game and that it was a crazy idea! Well, just look at what our players have had to compete against on the PBA the last decade!! LOL. Just imagine the pool of players we could have had today had they listened! Shame.