'Hurricane Earl' Rocks Cardiff
by Mike Panozzo Jul 20, 2002, 2:16 PM EST
Strickland took on the Cardiff crowd, then destroyed Japan's Takahashi, 11-3.
It was only a matter of time.
The inevitable Earl Strickland time bomb was detonated Saturday afternoon at the Cardiff International Arena, site of the 2002 Hasseroder World Pool Championship.
Strickland's quarterfinal match with Japan's Kunihiko Takahashi turned nasty in the second rack, when the volatile American began bantering with the Centre Court crowd. Strickland accused fans of heckling and cursing him, and at one point appeared to challenge a fan. Several racks later, trailing 3-2, Strickland challenged Takahashi's manhood when the meek former world champion reached for his jump cue following a Strickland safety. "Be a man," said Strickland, a longtime opponent of jump cues.
Takahashi responded by disassembling the cue in front of Strickland, and stuffing the pieces in his cue case. Takahashi promptly fouled on his kick attempt. Strickland seized the opportunity, running the remainder of the rack, and running out from the break in the next four games. Meanwhile, Welsh match referee Nigel Reese issued a warning to Strickland, telling him that any further outbreaks would result in game, and/or match, forfeiture.
Once Strickland turned his focus to the table, he roared through rack after rack with typical "Pearl-Ease." Takahashi had several more trips to the table, each of them ending in unforced disaster.
"I lost up here," Takahashi said, pointing to his head. "Strickland shows no sportsmanship. He played very well. But no sportsmanship."
Strickland defended his actions, saying, "I deserve as much respect out there as anyone. There's nothing wrong with a loud crowd, but you're not going to get away with insulting me. I mean, I'm out there playing for my livelihood. No fan can tell me to shut up. Only the referee can."
As for his remarks to Takahashi, Strickland was again unapologetic.
"He didn't have to put the cue away, but I'm glad he did," Strickland said. "The jump cue is a gimmick, and an insult to the game. You play a great safety, a great strategic shot, and the guy just jumps out of it."
Strickland will play another former world champion from Japan, Takeshi Okumura, in one semifinal. Okumura, a traditionally slow player, took more than two hours to finish off Sweden's Marcus Chamat, 11-5.
"They better put a shot clock on him," Strickland warned. "It takes Okumura three hours to watch "60 Minutes!"
Meanwhile, World Pool-Billiard Associaton sports director Thomas Overbeck planned to pull Strickland aside prior to tonights semifinal and warn him about his behavior.
"If he continues this way," said Overbeck, "we will pull him out of the tournament."
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