Miseducation: Split Level

Bowling Difficulty Chart

Probability Chart of Bowling Shot Difficulty

‘Miseducation’ is a series intended to correct falsities that are often mistaken for common knowledge. Tips provided are discouraged from being raised to maliciously correct teachers. Furthermore, OPT does not condone acts of know-it-allism.

Impossibility is often illusory. Between magic acts and statistical anomalies, utter implausibility can be clouded without full context. It can be said that there are different degrees of impossibility – some things are more impossible than others. If one sees this glass of logic as half full, some impossible things are less inconceivable than others. So as it turns out, some apparently impossible things are closer to our reach than we thought possible.

Bowling is a popular pastime in American culture, so much so that in addition to its basketball and tennis courts, the White House had a presidential bowling alley installed in 1947. Within this friendly game exists a legendary feat of difficulty, considered the hardest shot in bowling. Aside from the astronomical aim for perfection by rolling a 300-point game, the notorious 7-10 split is a much sought-after accomplishment that appears just shy of possible. Staring at the pin permutation known menacingly as the “Bed Posts” can unnerve amateurs and professionals alike. The odds of success at a time like that seem incalculable, but bowling and odds are not so difficult to wrap your mind around.

For a professional bowler, the probability of knocking down a 7-10 pin configuration can be expressed as .7%, based on data analysis of past spare conversions. One success in about 145 chances seems bleak to the laymen, but top-tier professionals actually consider the Bed Posts spare to be “very possible” for experts. According to the data, the hardest shot in bowling is actually the 4-6-7-9-10 split, known as the “Greek Church” because of its questionable resemblance to a cathedral. Professional bowlers convert the Greek Church spare less than .3% of the time, or once every 390 times. Based on this model, the 7-10 split is not even the second toughest spare, coming in third after the 4-6-7 split, without a nickname until now: the “Panda Claw,” because we believe it resembles that moniker closely enough.

The 7-10 split rose to prominence as bowling’s toughest shot through a number of films and television shows referencing it as such, but the legend begins with appearances. It is believed that the Bed Posts are so feared simply because it looks hopeless. If any pessimists are interested in applying their defeatism to the Greek Church frame, then they should be informed that even the toughest shot in bowling has a silver lining: The mirror image of the 4-6-7-9-10 split has a professional success rate of 1.3%, making the 4-6-7-8-10 Greek Church spare more likely than the 7-10 Bed Posts. This may be correlated to right- and left-handed bowlers, so while the opposite-hand Greek Church has a discouraging unlikelihood, the same-hand Greek Church is a comparative cakewalk, roughly five times easier. There are indeed tougher spares than the 7-10 split, but each has its weakness.

It is easy to face the difficult and deem it utterly impossible, but that habit is both mathematically inaccurate and motivationally incorrect. Theoretically, there is no reason you could not one day knock down a 7-10 split or achieve virtually any other goal, provided that you commit to that goal and work at it. You might even have seen the Bed Posts spare picked up by a fellow bowler who never thought they themselves could triumph on such a level. Even when a situation appears hopeless, you are closer to greatness than you think. The distance between you and glory is only dedication. So even when your first roll of a frame nets you one pin – the 7 or 10 corner pin, a spare we named the “Fire Marshall” because it is one below maximum occupancy – you have an easier spare than if you had knocked down more initial pins and faced the Bed Posts, let alone the Greek Church.

What’s the Hardest Shot in Bowling? – Ben Blatt – Slate

The White House Bowling Alley – Residence, Ground Floor – The White House Museum

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *