I have been a bowling proprietor for over 25 years and have watched league bowling and USBC membership decline year after year. I have also seen big growth in open play, cosmic rock and bowl, birthday parities, companies, food sales, etc. But league bowling is still the backbone of the sport, and this industry, and nationally it is still in decline. There are a lot of reasons for decline, most of them are social, and the Internet is one of the reasons. We have been working on combining league bowling with the internet as way to put a little more relevancy and excitement in league bowling, something to help fight the decline. To make this concept work the format (handicap, verification, bowlers on a team, etc.) of the leagues should be developed from the input of bowlers from around the country. I put up a post about online leagues earlier today looking for thoughts and bowler input. I just looked back and the post has been removed, I suppose by someone who thought it was an advertisement, I can see how they might think that, but it was not the intent. As the last post said, “Just looking for ideas” to help Fight the Fight.
Based on my personal experiences, people who are not true bowlers view bowling as a recreation where people get together to drink beer, eat and watch pins fall over. They don't think of bowling as a sport requiring skill and the right equipment which does annoy me at times. I think golf gets more respect than bowling. Hey, why not a golf or football birthday party where kids run around with footballs or golf clubs eating cake and all that :-).
I don't know what will turn that perception around. The decline in league participation by true bowlers may be due to people afraid of a long term commitment and the associated expense. Currently, I'm in two 35 week long leagues and I look forward to going every week. I will also join some summer leagues because I'm now at a point in my life where bowling is important to me again and the commitment doesn't matter. Most people don't think this way because they're not hooked on the sport of bowling. Yes, I called bowling a sport.