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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.

June: Face Time
June 2010
I'VE ALWAYS said that one of the nicest things about covering pool as a sport (and billiards as an industry, for that matter), is the accessibility of the participants. It's something I immediately point out to my journalism contemporaries, particularly those covering sports. In the world of "mainstream" sports, writers deal with strict guidelines when it comes to interviewing players. Access after a game or match? Jam yourself into a rugby scrum of writers around a player's locker. Chances of catching a player outside the arena, say, at the hotel bar or restaurant? Slim. And full-on profiles? Good luck. Gotta go through the team or agent. Maybe you'll get a 20-minute window a few weeks from now. The player doesn't show up? Sorry. We'll try to reschedule. Have any additional questions after the interview has been completed? Tough break.

Cover a pool tournament and it's not likely that you're going to have to go through an agent or league official to get five minutes with, say, Johnny Archer or Allison Fisher. Pool players are almost always willing to answer questions, even immediately after the last ball drops.

Additionally, pool players have always been incredibly accessible to the fans. Players aren't ushered into the tournament arena through private entrances or patrolled tunnels. In fact, pool players usually have to squeeze their ways through fans to get to the arena. Sure, pro golfers squeeze through the gallery between holes, but there is usually a rope separating them from the fans and there is routinely a slew of tournament officials and security guards flanking them as they walk to the next tee. I think that accessibility is one of the strengths of the pro tours.

Admittedly, the accessibility of players over the years has made my job not just easier, but more productive. It makes coverage better and more accurate.

The only downside in the past has been that once a player leaves a tournament, he or she got a lot tougher to track down. In part because of their nomadic lifestyles, and in part because tournament checks don't always keep the bills paid, players can vanish for long stretches of time.

But even that tiny problem has gone away.

That's right. My job has been saved by Facebook!

Go ahead and troll through that quirky social media site. Virtually all of today's players have a Facebook page. And if you look them up, you'll see that they all have hundreds of "friends." Best of all, they're constantly online chatting or updating their whereabouts.

It's great. For someone like me, who covers the sport, it's like having all the pros outfitted with electronic ankle bracelets! Facebook allows me to track where they're at, what they're doing, who they're playing. Raj is in London playing in a GB 9-Ball event. Ralf just won a medal in the European Championships. Mika just went for great dim sum with some friends in New York. Facebook is the first thing I check when I get to work in the morning. It also allows me to get messages to them when I'm looking for information or quotes. Often times, it's a quicker form of communication than the phone.

I even play games with Facebook. My favorite is "Where's Charlie?" It's a reality show of sorts, in which I follow the exploits of pool's hyper-energetic class clown, Charlie Williams. Williams is a serial Facebook poster who loves keeping friends apprised of his latest adventures. From playing tournaments in Winnipeg, to promoting an event in Korea, to posting hilarious photos of himself and his pool-playing cronies engaged in grudge tennis matches or strutting at a beach, to describing what kind of dinner he cooked for his mother last night, Williams always lets you know where he's at.

Thanks to the cyber generation, it's Accessibility 2.0 when it comes to staying in touch with pro pool players these days.

I never figured Facebook would be my friend!