The heart and soul of professional sports (with the exception of golf) are the teams! Of course, everyone has their favorite athletes, but unbreakable sports bonds are created over the love and passion for a team—the ones fans live and die for every game throughout every season.
In the bowling world, the most popular form of competition (except for the pros) is team leagues—so it makes perfect sense that something should be done to capitalize on this major opportunity.
Say hello to the brand new PBA League!
PBA CEO Geoff Reiss and Commissioner Tom Clark have joined the likes of the MLB, NFL, NHL and NBA and started a PBA team concept, bringing back a legendary format first developed in the 1950s—PBA Teams.
This not just a bunch of teams thrown together; it’s about a brave new world and creating new excitement and interest.
Each team has its own geographic identity; is linked to major city or area. There are celebrity owners, uniquely designed team logos and t-shirts—all done with hopes of gaining exposure to new audiences, increasing attendance, viewership and of course sponsorships.
The league will be competed in what is called the Baker format. This means each five-person team will bowl two frames per game. The lead-off position bowls frames one and six; the second up bowls frames two and seven, and so on. The highest pin fall wins.
Read on, to see what COO Tom Clark and the captains have to say....
Is this the future of the PBA?
“The League is certainly a major directional shift with all aspects of the PBA geared towards making it a success—and it is a major part of the future of the PBA.”
What will determine if the PBA League continues, or are their plans in the works to move forward?
“The League will continue through next year for sure, and beyond. No plans to reevaluate it separately from the health of the entire PBA—it is part of the PBA. The tell-tale signs for anyone watching, trying to gauge the success of the League is if we are able to bring corporate sponsorships onto the teams once the concept goes live. The opportunities for sponsors are magnified by the League concept.”
What is your message to fans who either do not watch the PBA, or who have never watched?
“My message to fans who don't watch is that you are missing out! The players, the inherent values of the sport, are all compelling and great television...watch Sunday when we debut the PBA League to a national TV audience and I know you'll come back for more.”
Pete Weber (captain), Tommy Jones, Scott Norton, Jack Jurek, John Szczerbinski, Kelly Kulick (supplemental pick)
I touched base with the team captains and asked these three questions.
Do you have a strategy for picking your team’s bowling order for the matches?
What is unique about your team and what advantage do you think it has?
What makes this league “must see”.
Pete Weber, as only Pete can be...brutally honest.
On picking a bowling order:
“No. I haven't seen them bowl on the condition yet.”
On the uniqueness of his team:
“There is nothing unique about my team and we don't have any advantages over the other teams.”
Why the event is “must see”
“It's the first of its kind for the PBA, a team event like this.”
Mike Fagan (captain), Tom Smallwood, Mike Scroggins, Ronnie Russell, Jesse Buss, D.J. Archer (supplemental pick)
“The order will be a last minute decision based on ball reaction and feel.”
“We have many different styles and I believe that we can use that to our advantage and hopefully one person will always be 'on.'"
“The PBA league is a whole different animal and it will be interesting to see how it develops. With bowling being such a mental game, team chemistry and respect of one another will go a long way. I hope we have the right blend of talent and personality to take home the title.”
Chris Barnes (captain), Dom Barrett, Josh Blanchard, Stuart Williams, Nathan Bohr, Jon Van Hees (supplemental pick)
“I am not sure how unique it is, but I prefer to have two guys at leadoff and second that are the most lined up and give our team a chance to get out to a quick lead. The anchor will still most likely be the best overall reaction and/or comfortable being in that position.”
“The Atom Splitters have a great combination of shot making and the ability to play multiple angles. This added to our ability to match our ball rolls up to each other makes us a very strong contender.”
"I believe it is the opportunity to see the best players playing together at the same time and the opportunity to hear the communication between the players as the match goes on. With less shots, communication will be very important to the success of our team and should provide some insight at the thoughts that the players have based on ball reaction, strategy, emotion and adjustments.”
Norm Duke (captain), Rhino Page, Amleto Monacelli, Bryon Smith, Mike Machuga, Mike Wolfe (supplemental pick)
“I think that as we get further in to the competition, lineup strategy will play a huge part in the success of all teams because we are all so closely matched. All of the captains are going to try to identify and play off of their team's unique strengths. The stronger the team, the more fun for the captain, but sometimes the advantages are not that obvious—mistakes will be made.
“I will try very hard not to over think the situations and really expose the players carrying a confident vibe, a hot streak or both. The main thing at this point is to get through qualifying so that we can be a part of the playoff matches later.”
“We need to establish ourselves to the cities of Dallas/Fort Worth where I grew up, and there is no better way than to come out on top the very first season alongside our owner Terrell Owens. This thing is going to be so cool!”
Osku Palermaa (captain), Martin Larsen, Dan MacLelland, Patrick Allen, Thomas Larsen, Anthony LaCaze (supplemental pick).
“I guess pretty much always when picking an order for baker matches there's strategy involved, and this will not be any different. There are a few things that you consider, like you want to put the guys that are hot after each other to improve your chances on strike strings. Also, want to put people to bowl at certain frames so they can "face off" a particular bowler on the other team.
“Our team is unique compared to the others by the number of internationals on the team. We actually have only one American. We do have a great variety of playing styles, so we won't be shut out if only one thing works at Thunder Bowl. Also, being pretty much all international people might see us as underdogs, which we internationals definitely can and have proven wrong.”
“Who wouldn't want to watch eight great teams full of talent face off in a totally new format? It will be action packed, top-notch bowling! I guarantee that there will be a lot of exciting, fun and amusing stuff to see!
Jason Belmonte (captain), Wes Melott, Andres Gomez, Parker Bohn III, Dave Wodka, Ildemaro Ruiz (supplemental pick)
“I think it will come down to who has the best look on the day. I want my strongest team on the lanes in the strongest position in the starting lineup as possible.”
“I think we have a great range of experience to draw from on our team. Bowling on TV is no stranger to any of my guys and bowling well on TV is second nature to them all. Plus, I felt like I picked a bunch of great guys. Our chemistry on the lanes will be relaxed yet very competitive.”
“It's team bowling at the highest skill level in the world. It's an element of bowling that has been missing for so long at this level and I think the crowds and bowlers will love this format. I can't wait!”
Bill O’Neill (captain), Mike Koivuniemi, Chris Loschetter, Mike DeVaney, Dick Allen,
Dino Castillo (supplemental pick)
"The order in the matches will all depend on how everyone is bowling at the time of the show. I have no problem putting any of the guys in the anchor position so it all depends how everyone looks.”
“My team is unique because all of the guys have significant TV experience. This wasn't done by accident either. I wanted to build a team that was solid top to bottom and with guys who wouldn't be new to the TV lights.”
“This is “must see TV” because this is unprecedented for the PBA. This is something so new and fresh and that I think people will really enjoy it. People can now have more of a rooting interest on the teams based on cities, the owners and their favorite bowlers.”
Sean Rash (captain) Ryan Ciminelli, Ryan Shafer, Walter Ray Williams Jr., Jason Sterner, Tom Hess (supplemental pick)
Led by the defending Player of the Year Sean Rash and one of the greatest of all time, Walter Ray Williams, the STyLES are a force to be reckoned with.
The action has already begun on http://www.xtraframe.tv/pba/ and will continue through Friday the 25th.
Join Mike Jakubowski, Mike Flanagan, The Bowling Guy Jason Thomas and of course Ashly Galante for live coverage of qualifying and match play for all tournaments.
ESPN coverage starts on Sunday January 27th at 12 Noon EST with PBA League round 1.
Catch the rest of the action on Sundays: Feb. 10th, 17th, 4th, March 3rd, 24th, 31st and April 7th.
Don’t miss Kimberly Pressler on Sunday February 3rd or the Chris Paul Celebrity Classic!