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A Lingering Issue: Is Bowling Considered a Type of Sport?

Is Bowling Considered a Type of Sport?
Bowling is an ancient activity that has today become a very popular participatory sport, especially in the United States. Still, this is not enough to classify it as a 'sport'. This SportsAspire write-up discusses the lingering issue of whether bowling is considered to be a sport!
Rujuta Patil
Last Updated: Feb 27, 2018
Bowling Pins
World Bowling
Headquartered in Arlington, Texas, it is the world governing body of 'Ninepin' and 'Tenpin' bowling.
Bowling has been an old affair. The traces of bowling balls and pins can be traced back to the tomb of a 6th century B.C. Egyptian king Polynesians. He used to bowl on 60 feet long lanes, similar to what is used today. A part of the religious ceremony in 4th century B.C. Germany, knocking down the pins indicated a good character.

In the Americas, it was originally a form of lawn bowling, coming from the British. But later on, German settlers brought in ninepin bowling. This has today evolved into the famous sport of tenpin bowling. But for a long time, there has been a question hovering around whether bowling is to be considered as a type of sport?
Is Bowling a Sport or a Game?
It is not very clear as to how and on what basis one can decide an activity to be taken as a sport or a game. We will take a look at the definitions of these two terms first, so as to get an idea of what can qualify as a sport.

According to Merriam Webster:

A contest or game in which people do certain physical activities according to a specific set of rules and compete against each other.

A game played by rolling a large, heavy ball down a smooth floor (called a lane) towards a set of pins in order to knock down as many pins as possible.

Bowling is generally defined in a similar fashion by everyone. Differences can come in pertaining to the various types of bowling, or its versions. Variations in pin bowling include candlepins, duckpins, fivepins, ninepins, and tenpins. Target bowling is another kind, which consists of many styles, including lawn bowling, carpet bowls, boccie, etc.

Bowling is primarily seen as a game, hobby, recreational activity, or also a mere pastime. Beyond its role as an entertaining activity, some consider it to be a real sport. However, bowling does not get the attention it deserves as a national- or international-level sport. Here are a few points explaining various arguments from both sides.
Reasons Why Bowling is Considered a Sport
The parameters of physical exertion and skill are considered necessary for an activity to be qualified as sport. Professional bowling tournaments require individuals to play around 40 games in approximately a span of three days.
- Talking of skills, bowling requires a very high level of eye-hand coordination.
- Going by the definition of sports being a contest decided upon by rules, the United States Bowling Congress acts as the agency enforcing all the rules of bowling.
- Maintaining oneself in a good shape is very much essential for keeping up stamina to bowl repeated shots. These professionals indulge in programs of weight training to build good arm and wrist strength.
- Bowlers can be considered as athletes, as they strive to attain perfection in their throw, swing of the ball, stance, or any other techniques employed for achieving a strike.
- Considering the competitive aspect, oiling of the floor (amount and method of applying oil) in bowling alleys is different for competitions and championships. So, a casual player going down for a game or two would not face any challenge, unlike a skilled professional.
- Even collegiate tournaments, for example, an otherwise 'individualistic' activity, translate into team effort. Here, every person plays to support each other, especially if someone has not yet got the crucial strike.
Bowling has been a fiercely competed sport activity for years. The World Bowling or the Fédération Internationale des Quilleurs (est.1952) is a sports federation that has been established to promote and nurture international interest in ninepin and tenpin bowling. Later, in 1972, the International Olympic Committee recognized the World Bowling as the governing body for the sport of bowling.
- According to the United States Bowling Congress, it is the number one participation sport in the country. Over 60 million people bowl at least once a year.
- Bowling was an official demonstration sport (played for promotion) at the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics.
Reasons Why Bowling is Not Considered a Sport
- Bowling leagues and the huge number of bowlers participating in the leagues every year turns it into more of a game and less of a sport.
- League bowling follows easy lane conditions, reducing the value of professional effort, as anyone without a lot of skill can get a pretty good score.
- Bowling is understood to be mainly a recreational and fun activity. Many consider it to be a game to be played with friends and family.

- Depending on the person, bowling can appear to be either a game or sport. If a group of high school students go bowling, it is naturally perceived as a recreational activity.

- Association of drinking with this activity makes it a casual activity. Casual bowlers believe in the old saying, that bowling is a kind of activity where the more one drinks, the more proficient one becomes.

- As a social activity, the scoring does not matter much. Neither is any particular system of scoring insisted upon. The point system differs according to the league.

- Bowling, or the Professional Bowlers Association does not get the attention of the media like other famous sports.

- There are some negative stereotypes about the game: bowling alleys being smoke-filled, people drink beer while bowling, it is a blue-collar sport, it is attributed to the middle and lower class, many bowlers are not in their best fitness form anymore.
It can thus be said that bowling in itself is an excellent recreational activity. To see it as a sport or a mere way of recreation is in the eyes of either a professional (for whom it is a delivery), or for somebody for whom it is a mere rolling down of a ball.