From the Publisher
By Mike Panozzo
Mike became editor of Billiards Digest in 1980 and liked it so much that he bought the company. He has served on the Billiard Congress of America board of directors and as president of the Billiard & Bowling Institute of America.
April: What Happens in Alpine
LET'S START off with a disclaimer: I have never met John Rousseau. We communicated through e-mail last year when I was helping with preparations for the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame Banquet, at which one of Mr. Rousseau's close friends, Allison Fisher, was being honored. We have also spoken several times on the phone. All correspondence has been pleasant.
Why the disclaimer?
Because Rousseau, who is currently the president of the Women's Professional Billiard Association, has found himself at the center of an emotionally charged and dreadfully timed controversy surrounding the WPBA board of directors.
Rousseau, a respected and successful executive in the receivable management, debt collection and debt-buying/selling business, was elected to the WPBA board of directors back in November 2009. He's been a staunch supporter of the WPBA Classic Tour and its players for a number of years, holding particularly close his friendships with Allison Fisher and Jeanette Lee. Rousseau was part of a board overhaul that saw five new directors elected, including a lawyer (Mimi McAndrews), a sales and marketing executive (Tamre Rogers) and a software engineer (Tim DiMacchia). Through a series of resignations, including that of then-president Dawn Hopkins, the board shrank to four (Rousseau, Rogers, McAndrews and Belinda Calhoun), and Rousseau was elected WPBA president in January 2010.
Soon thereafter came whispers that the election was improper, although various interpretations of the process seem to prove very little. Then came allegations of a budding dictatorship.
Then came a contentious players meeting at the 2010 Classic Tour opener in Alpine, Calif. The meeting allegedly included accusations of board improprieties and a backhanded slam at a longtime tour sponsor. Details from the meeting were leaked to the press and soon found their way into cyberspace.
To me, it's all very un-WPBA-ish!
One of the WPBA's greatest attributes over the years has been its ability to deal with its problems internally. Heck, in the past I practically had to dress in drag and hang out in the practice room to find out even the most inconsequential details about board decisions. In the past few weeks I've had to put WPBA players and insiders on hold to tell other players and insiders I'd call them back!
Something is wrong here.
I've spoken with numerous people who were at the now-famous players meeting, and with numerous people who were not but are close to the situation. What I've come away with at this juncture is this: rules and protocol haven't been followed, and Mr. Rousseau may not be the most diplomatic leader in WPBA history.
And at this point I'm thinking, "Really? This is what has turned the WPBA upside down? Really?"
Am I the only one who's noticed that the WPBA Classic Tour is hanging by a thread these days? Am I the only one who's noticed that the WPBA is having a somewhat difficult time (tongue firmly planted in cheek) landing sponsors and tournament sites?
Is Rousseau, or the new board for that matter, the cause of those problems? I don't think so. Numerous changes over the past few years (the economy and several less-than-shrewd decisions by previous WPBA boards) have put the Classic Tour in its current position which is a "tour" in the loosest sense of the word - a grand total of two events slated for 2010.
Is this board the answer? Don't know. Hopefully we won't have to wait six months or so discussing protocol and board seats before we find out.
Here's the deal, ladies. You need to play the hand you've been dealt. You elected these people. Let the board decide who does what. And remember, these people are volunteers! Who wants to volunteer their time and business expertise to a group that's going to snipe at every decision? If Rousseau isn't the person you want negotiating your sponsorship deals, convince the board to assign the task to someone else.
Then move on, because as I see it, WPBA, you should focus all of your energy from this point forward on one thing: Your hours on ESPN. Why? When you get down to it, your ESPN contract is all that separates you from the mire that has become the men's pro tour.
You just signed a new three-year deal with ESPN, right? How many hours a year are you on the hook for? Twenty-four? Twenty-five? And how many hours did you tape in San Diego? Three.
Now, I'm no math major, but my calculations indicate that you have one more event scheduled for 2010, and more than 20 hours of obligation to the World Wide Leader. What are you planning on doing, taping practice sessions at the U.S. Open in July?
The WPBA is in existence because of its contract with ESPN. It has succeeded where many sports (including men's pool) have failed because of its ESPN contract. Lose that contract because you can't fill the hours and I can absolutely guarantee you that you will never see another ESPN contract.
Ladies (and Mr. Rousseau), put the "Avalanche in Alpine" behind you as quickly as possible and start working on the one thing that should be driving you for the remainder of this year