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The 11th Frame: The vanishing Sweep the Rack podcast featuring me, and why FloBowling might not have had a choice in removing it

JEFF RICHGELS | Posted: Saturday, September 7, 2019 3:00 pm

The full picture of this post is at the bottom of this story.

If you’re a subscriber to 11thFrame.com, you undoubtedly read this story I posted Aug. 29 on a possible Bowlero acquisition of the PBA that many reliable and connected sources say has been in the works for some time and is close to done, though I noted that no deal is done until every "t" is crossed and "i" dotted.

“Big Mike” (Mike Weinert) of the Sweep the Rack Podcast tweet’d at me after I posted the story that he and “Brooklyn Rob” (Robert Piroozshad) needed to have me on their show, which airs on FloBowling, to discuss the story.

I liked Sweep the Rack from its start because while Big Mike and Brooklyn Rob sometimes are a little loose with the facts, toss some errant bombs, and can be overly profane for a show I recommend to all bowlers, they don’t shy away from addressing any topic and often are hugely entertaining.

I was skeptical that they could keep all of that when they joined Flo, and was more than a little surprised when they asked me to come on and discuss the potential Bowlero deal, which Flo hadn’t reported despite having more access to the PBA than anyone.

We did the interview on Labor Day and Sweep The Rack “dropped” (posted) the next day. You can see the full picture of my share of it on my Facebook page at the bottom of this story, and Flo and the STR guys posted it and tweet’d about it.

On Thursday night as I was watching the Packers-Bears game and doing some writing, Walter Pekovitch, one of my subscribers who also is a Flo subscriber, sent me a message stating that: “Listened to your interview on the Sweep The Rack Podcast earlier today, the whole podcast was gone a little later, now your interview is removed all together.”

I checked and Pekovitch was correct: My part of the STR podcast and any references to it were gone, other than my own post, which now obviously linked to the scrubbed podcast. 

Not surprisingly, none of the entities involved would comment, other than Sweep The Rack, which faces a decision on whether being with Flo is worth losing its editorial independence. Big Mike said in message exchange that he needed to talk with Brooklyn Rob about that and would get back to me.

I don’t know exactly what happened, but I’d imagine Bowlero and PBA weren’t happy that a PBA business partner was hosting a podcast that talked about their possible deal. (I think it's fair to conclude that the removal proves a deal is at least being talked about between Bowlero and PBA.)

And I don’t think it matters that most of what I talked about was the potential positives of the deal should Bowlero buy PBA — I even said it might be the greatest thing that could ever happen to the PBA if Bowlero were to invest money in the PBA and let PBA CEO and Commissioner Tom Clark continue running things.

I also gave what I have concluded is the most logical reason Bowlero might have for buying PBA: that it has realized it needs league bowlers at most of its centers, which means it needs to show that it does care about competitive bowling, and what better way to do that than to throw big money into the Bowlero Elite Series, sponsor and host the PBA Playoffs, and ultimately buy the PBA.

Remember the infamous statement by Bowlero CEO Tom Shannon at about the 2:45 mark in this 2011 interview with Bloomberg: "I don't think anyone takes bowling seriously. Why would you?"

Buying the PBA would show Bowlero now takes the most serious bowling very seriously.

And to be clear, I’m not mad at all that Flo would remove my interview: It’s their site and 100 percent their right to decide what’s on it, just as it’s my right to decide what’s on 11thFrame.com. (Whether the STR guys are angry is another issue, since it is their show — if they are, they should go independent again.)

Also to be clear: I love FloBowling’s work covering the PBA. XtraFrame did a solid job, but Flo is miles beyond XtraFrame and something worth the hefty subscription price for serious bowling fans. It's like comparing a 5-time PBA Tour champion to an all-time great. 

I think it’s possible that Flo as a business partner of PBA has a legal responsibility of some sort to not have discussion of a possible deal involving PBA on its site, since its partnership may be impacted by the deal. 

If that’s the case, someone messed up at Flo by not making sure STR cleared its topics in advance. 

If Flo didn’t have some sort of legal responsibility, I’m mostly sad that not everyone involved in the highest levels of bowling gets that the sport needs more professional journalists providing hard-edged coverage, and more discussion of controversial issues, because those are precisely the kinds of things that drive fan engagement. Some do, but they are a tiny minority.

It marks bowling as the kind of sport that prefers to sweep things under the rug, rather than understanding that coverage of major deals, franchises moving, steroids, suspensions, labor strife, etc. is not only the price you pay for media/fan interest that delivers huge money, but also a reason there is such media/fan interest.

Yes, as an example, the NFL has at times muscled ESPN, such as in the cancellation of the hugely entertaining dramatic show “Playmakers” that was just a little too true for the NFL, and the firing of Bill Simmons, according to media reports.

But when it comes to journalistic coverage of major news, it’s been ESPN that has been the leader in covering issues like the concussion crisis in the NFL, steroids in baseball, franchises moving, labor strife, etc. — things that stir passion in fans.