Volume 2, Issue 43, The 95th Edition
By Angel Zobel-Rodriguez
The Summer PBA Tour might just be the preview of things to come under the tenure of the new PBA owners. Since the Winter Tour finished in February, the players have been on hiatus, and the fans have been going through major PBA withdrawal. But the PBA is back, and aside from simple jubilation at the return of the telecasts (albeit for a short five-week span), the observant folks point to the fact that the PBA is facing potentially the biggest changes since its inception after its purchase by Internet gurus Chris Peters and his partners .
First of all, I watched the telecast because it was bowling. But it didn't take long to notice the differences from former telecasts. Now how many of these are newness of the production crew and how many are permanent changes won't be known for a few weeks, but my initial thoughts on the telecast varied, so I broke it down as follows.
The Cable Station: Not everyone gets Fox Sports Net, so that's a large problem. It was the first time I consciously looked up that channel. My husband, the sports enthusiast, assures me we've had it for quite awhile.
Other people may not receive the telecasts when they expect them as the regional Foxes can play havoc on the schedule depending on local games. Someone in Illinois told me he taped three hours of Fox, and it didn't air during any of those times. The good news is that bowling is a sport, so it has a better chance of airing at its scheduled time than does a rerun of an old Bruce Willis movie as had happened during the CBS-telecast days.
The Logo: Much has been made about the new logo. And I'm torn. I'm not especially attached to the old one, but the new one is missing something. Whether it's color, a little more effort in the design, or something else, I'm hoping this is a work in progress, and we see a "finished product" at some point that has a little more OOMPH to it. But the reality is that if they don't, it's only the logo, and it will inevitably be changed again in a few years, and then I'll be sorry to see that one go.
The Announcers: The press release that announced Ron Thulin would be paired with the PBA's own Randy Pederson, made my day. I've been a Pedersen fan since the mid 80s when Randy did a commercial for a local bowling supply company. Back then I had two ABC affiliates to choose from, one in Santa Barbara and one in Los Angeles, and I took the Santa Barbara one just to see those commercials. Several years later, it seemed the PBA wanted to groom Pederson for future announcing-booth consideration, when they experimented with having certain players interview the players as they came off the lanes or they were about to go into the next match. John Mazza and Randy Pedersen popped up more often than any one else. Randy recently completed the "Rockin Bowl" college bowling telecasts, and apparently someone noticed. Randy's irreverent comments were always welcome then, as they were today. Two that stuck out in my mind were the "Mika must be Finnish for really good." and my personal favorite referred to a ball that went through the headpin as going through the "schnazz."
Thulin asked set-up questions without asking the incredibly obvious or stupid. My 9-year-old son could understand, and I didn't get the feeling they were talking down to non-bowlers, or ignoring the bowlers in the audience with the comments. This is oodles better than hearing about the three pound, ten ounce pins for the millionth time.
The announcers stressed the athleticism of the players, and their experience on the lanes despite their new touring status. I fully anticipate a strong emphasis on college bowling programs and college education to be another way the telecasts begin to rachet up the sport's integrity.
Format: While this telecast drew back on the five-man stepladder, I'm not sure what the other four telecasts will feature. Personally, I liked the quicker pacing of the eight-man shootouts, and now the five-man show seems downright slow. But the five-man allows for more commentary and behind-the-scenes info, which might be what the tour needs to build fan bases. One of the strongest considerations was that the eight-man gave more guys a chance at incentive money, and if the "New" PBA ups the ante, the players might not need to eek out a living on incentives.
Production: This was where I was probably the most unhappy. I'm not sure if I could call it "mood lighting" or what, but they're going to have to use more lights. I had trouble making out who was in attendance and everything a
few feet away was just too dark. There were a few bad camera angles early on, and the glaring mistake of the afternoon was a graphic telling folks to go to www.pba.com to enter a contest sponsored by Brunswick. That would be great if pba.com was actually running yet, which it's not. The last I heard from the folks in the PBA office targeted the site operating in the Fall, and in the meantime, we have to stick with www.pbatour.com.
On the other hand, there were numerous shots shown from the side taking great effort to show the players' approaches and how the players' shots affected their final scores. These slo-mo shots give bowlers a better understanding of the mechanics in someone's game.
Overall, it's great to see the PBA on TV, no matter how it's presented. I'm looking forward to the next few weeks, and with any luck, some of the bugs will work themselves out and some of the successful changes will carry over to the PBA Fall Tour on ESPN.