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.
August: Livin' on a Prayer
YOU HAVE to admire Johnny Archer's passion and dedication to the sport. He's come a long way from the days when he was the up-and-coming young, impressionable star who followed the lead of his idols and mentors, guys like Nick Varner, Kim Davenport and Earl Strickland.
Today, Archer, 41, is considered the elder statesman of America's pool crop. And these days it's the younger players following Archer's lead.
And lead the Georgia native has, most notably all but willing Team USA to victory at the Mosconi Cup in Las Vegas last December.
His latest role? Norma Rae.
Archer recently organized a group of pro players and announced the formation of the Association of Billiard Professionals (ABP). In all honesty, the ABP's maiden press conference during the World Pool Masters in Las Vegas - videotaped and aired online - was borderline comical. Archer, flanked by fellow pros Rodney Morris and Stevie Moore, was ill-prepared for the big announcement, and the message quickly became diluted and confusing. Rhetoric ranged from control of points lists to health insurance.
But when you cleared away the clutter, the bottom line was this: Promoters need to have their announced prize money on hand at the close of the tournament, and the payout must be immediate and complete.
Doesn't seem like the pros are asking for a lot, does it?
The truth is the men pros have been fighting this battle for years. Unscrupulous promoters have "guaranteed" prize funds and instead paid out pennies on the dollar. Far too often players have limped out of town on the promise that their payouts would come soon. And far too many are still waiting. From the IPT's Kevin Trudeau to the U.S. Open's Barry Behrman to the World Pool Association and Filipino promoter Yen Makabenta, the pros have been lied to. Heck, even when the pros said "Enough!" and started their own association - the Professional Billiards Tour - they played and didn't get paid.
But the pros are now trying to make another stand, and who can blame them. Tournaments are sparse these days, and most players (Archer included) are struggling financially. Sponsorships have all but dried up, meaning most players have to come 100 percent out-of-pocket to attend a tournament. Travel, entry fee and expenses usually add up to $1,500-$2000 a crack. For them to get anything less than 100 percent of what's been promised by a tournament promoter is beyond unethical. It's just plain cruel.
"Players are uneasy these days," Archer noted in a recent conversation. "It's tough on these guys getting to tournaments, and there's been too much uncertainty."
And so Archer and his new group are trying to add stability to the process. They're asking promoters to have prize money held in an escrow account, and they've asked the Billiard Congress of America to facilitate that part.
Archer has been quick to point out that the new group is not interested in becoming a demanding adversary of the promoter. Rather, the ABP wants to work hand in hand with the promoters.
Archer has always been a logical, even-keeled voice of reason within the player ranks. He's never been one to hoist demands on promoters. He's always willing to listen, and he's always willing to find a common ground.
Hopefully, promoters will see the ABP for what it is, and hopefully the ABP will keep its mission simple and not try to re-invent the failed player associations that have preceded it.
The test, of course, will come when the first promoter fails to spot the added money, or, worse yet, fails to pay off following an event. Only then will we find out if the newly formed ABP has any unity.
Until then, I'm pulling for Archer and his boys to get what's coming to them. And that's respect and the promised payout.