Jakubowski to call PBA Tour on ESPN
by Mike Jakubowski
Mike Jakubowsi (right) will handle play-by-play duties for the GEICO PBA Team Shootout from Six Flags on ESPN.
When I began working for the Professional Bowlers Association as an announcer on PBA.com's Xtra Frame, the Official streaming video service of the PBA, I was looking for an identity similar to what Dick Vitale brings to college basketbal or Mel Kiper Jr. brings to the NFL Draft.
Growing up in Milwaukee as a big fan of the American Wrestling Association, many Saturday afternoons were spent with my father listening to Rodger "Ringside" Kent call the action with the "greatest professional wrestlers from throughout the world."
In my gig as the Public Address Announcer for the Marquette Golden Eagles men's basketball team, I introduce myself as Mike J. "Courtside" during halftime promotions.
One thing led to another in the sport of bowling and Mike J. "Laneside" was born.
In my first year with Xtra Frame, we doubled our subscription base, calling the action for the "greatest bowlers in the world." With ESPN pro bowling play-by-play man Rob Stone on assignment in South Africa covering the FIFA World Cup, I got called up to the majors and will be the play-by-play announcer for ESPN's coverage of the Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour.
Now, 13-time Tour Champion Randy Pedersen and I are waiting to ride Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, N.J., the tallest and fastest roller coaster on Earth. We are shooting a feature for the GEICO PBA Team Shootout hosted by Six Flags set to air June 27, July 3, 4 and 11 on ESPN.
"Mike, you look as nervous as you did for our first on-camera open", said Pedersen, who for the last nine seasons has served as color analyst on Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour telecasts.
ESPN segment producer David Foster has arranged to place Randy and myself in the front car of the Kingda Ka thrill ride as we wait to get propelled horizontally at 128 miles per hour via hydraulic launch which will shoot us into a 90-degree quarter turn up 456 feet then down into a 270-degree spiral turn for three seconds of weightlessness.
At that moment, a smile and calm came upon me as I enjoyed the anticipation before we zoomed 45 stories into the sky. "Don't forget to turn to the right as you get to the top", said Foster. "You should be able to see the Manhattan skyline from up there."
After the initial nervousness, I experienced a similar smile and calm as Randy and I opened the first show from Six Flags Great Adventure. This is my first opportunity to open a PBA show the same way that Chris Schenkel, Nelson Burton Jr., Phil Ferguson, Denny Schreiner, Dave Ryan, Stone and many others have done over the years. Randy and I rehearsed our first open a few times and are now ready to get one down on tape as last minute preparations are communicated into my earpiece by ESPN producer David Bruner.
The GEICO PBA Team Shootout is an amazing production. Sandy Hummel and his Strike Market Inc. crew of six spent the last three days building a two-lane championship bowling venue from scratch on a piece of concrete in a great theme park. The event team of the Professional Bowlers Association has insured that all the details are ready to go and the ESPN production team inside and outside of the TV truck have assembled all the equipment necessary to produce seven and half hours of national television.
While waiting for that first "3..2..1 and go Mike J," the history of the PBA Tour on national television is on my mind. I ran home after bowling junior leagues to watch the Pro Bowlers Tour and now I glance down to notice that my hand, adorned with my 300-game ring, is holding a microphone with the iconic ESPN flag, I get to set the stage for this competition for the great fans of professional bowling.
And what a competition it will be. For the first time, bowling ball manufacturers from Brunswick, Ebonite International, 900 Global and Storm Products have picked their All-Star teams and will do battle for brand bragging rights. Each team has specially-designed "home" and "away" custom Gemini jerseys to crisply capture a team look. The "Endless 10th Frame" will be used in every match of the qualifying and championship rounds, no match will ever be over, until it is over.
Six Flags Great Adventure opens at 10:30 a.m., the first match is set to begin at 10:35 a.m. Within minutes of the park opening, the grandstand is filled with pro bowling fans from as far away as California waiting for the start of the GEICO PBA Team Shootout.
3..2..1 and go Mike J!