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Bowl Opinion - June 2015 - The PBA Has Its Television Act Together 6/4/2015

by Jim Goodwin - Stars & Strikes Newsmagazine

Recently, CJ and I traveled to Oklahoma to represent the BNN and witness the taping of the PBA Summer Swing Finals. I was a little concerned about making the trip because I had heard that print media people, who have no role in filming television shows, would not necessarily be a welcome part of the process. Because of another commitment, we arrived very late on Saturday night, made even later because we had to bail off of Interstate 35 into a rest stop to dodge a very bad rainstorm. After about an hour of watching crazy truckers negotiate the flooded highway, we were back on the road again.

While checking into the very nice Grande Resort Hotel, I ran into Lyle Zikes, who was there covering the event for the Bowlers Journal. Lyle told me that the staff and audience for the Saturday tapings were evacuated into a safe area earlier that day because they had reports of a possible tornado in the area. Tornados in Oklahoma in the Spring... imagine that.

On Sunday morning, we had a nice break- fast before heading for the arena. Fans were lined up to get in, and we asked for PBA Media Relations man Jerry Schneider. The young man at the door thought our name was Schneider, and told us we were not on the list; but we persisted, and finally convinced him to go inside to find our friend Jerry, who got us in with a warm welcome. The arena was very impressive and just the right size for the two-lanes and all of the surrounding tables and equipment. There were grandstands behind and on both sides of the lanes for fans, and more comfortable seating in a horseshoe shaped upper balcony.

On the right side of the approach was a table for event officials and TV production folks. The first three seats were occupied by Mike Jakubowski, Kirk Von Krueger, and Dave Schroeder. In his role as Mike J. Laneside, Jakubowski made all of the announcements and player introductions, and cued upbeat music between shots. One of his favorites for this particular event was "You Should Have Been a Cowboy" - appropriate for a show in the heart of Oklahoma Indian Nation. Mike kept the dead time to a minimum. He even called the pin numbers on the shots that did not strike.

We had a nice visit with our long time friend Kirk Von Krueger and had a chance to speak briefly with his lovely wife Mary. We learned for the first time that Mary has moved into the PBA job Director of Membership Services formerly occupied by the great Barb Wilt. We have tremendous respect for Kirk and Mary, not only for their service to our country (both are former military air traffic controllers) but for the way they serve the PBA with such pride and dignity. Kirk has become so comfortable in his role as tournament director that he now makes a difficult job look virtually effortless. In the old days, players described long time PBA TD Harry Golden as "tough but fair." I'm betting that Kirk has earned that same level of respect, and it is hard to believe, but he has been doing the job since 1997. Johnny Campos held the position from 1991-96, and Golden was a road warrior for more than 35 years before Campos.

And now, Von Krueger also carries the title of Deputy Commissioner, working side-by-side with Commissioner Tom Clark. Clark was also in Oklahoma, and he went out of his way to offer a friendly hello and give me an up-close look at the relatively new 'blue oil,' explaining the nuances of its migration during the telecasts.

Some may not like the blue oil, but I think it is one of the smartest ideas ever, and I told him that. Clark deserves the credit for sticking to his guns and keeping it a part of the TV shows. Finally, fans, especially new bowling fans, get to see the oil patterns and how they change with traffic.

I really don't know how the players feel about the blue oil, but it appears that it has not had a significant effect on scoring. In the "King of the Swing" event, which featured a short pattern on the left lane and a long pattern on the right, scores were relatively low, as they should be... so it did not appear that seeing the pattern was a great help to any particular player.

A couple of other guys we were happy to see in Oklahoma - Television coordinator Dave Schroeder and producer J.T. Townsend. Our original connection to these two stems primarily from our days with the PWBA, and it is amazing that we are all still around and still love the work. Dave hardly looks a day older than when we first met more than 20 years ago. We first met Townsend when he worked with George Smith to produce the LPBT and later PWBA shows. Now he has a deal with the PBA to do the summer series for the CBS Sports Network. We were also lucky to work with him to produce a short film for the 50 Years of Women's Pro Bowling exhibit inside the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame.

A very pleasant surprise for both CJ and I was the opportunity to visit with Rene Fleming and Lil Johnson, two of our favorite players from our PBWA days. Mike Edwards was also there - he is a great PBA player and the guy most responsible for landing the Summer Swing in his home state of Oklahoma.

The set up of the arena has also evolved over the years. One thing I had never seen in-per- son before was the Ball Rep table. Whenever space allows, bowling ball company representatives/coaches are now allowed to sit at this table located on the back of the approach directly behind the players, and they are allowed to communicate with their player in-between every shot.

To make sure I understood the rule on coaching I asked Kirk Von Krueger if it was OK for the players to talk to their ball reps between every shot if they need to.

"Absolutely. Sure. It is basically the same rule we use during the week," he said. "Coaching is allowed. In bowling centers where they are not sitting on the set, we don't allow them to talk while the match is going on, simply because we don't want them to be running back and forth. But they can talk during commercial breaks and between games in those events."

A few other improvements to the PBA arena set... behind the grandstands are tables where ball and other sponsor reps can interact with fans, and off to the side behind the scorers table was a special high table for media. For many years, we lobbied to get this table. In the old days, when print media was king, writers were always put in prime spots where they could not only see the action, but usually they were on camera. I never really liked the 'on camera' part. I felt like we were using space that should be reserved for sponsors and VIP's. All I cared about was having a place where we can see the players, keep score if we want, and have a place to work. We now have that, and we thank the PBA for helping us do our job as it should be done.

When all was said and done, our Oklahoma PBA adventure was a very nice experience; time well spent, and we are looking forward to doing it again.

Article was posted with permission from Stars & Strikes, America's Bowling Newsmagazine.

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