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.
THERE'S SOMETHING I just don't get about professional pool players. From the day they go "legit," and trophies and titles become meaningful validation of their years of apprenticeship in the sport, they begin to quantify their legacy. Their resumes become lists of the titles they've won and honors they've earned. That's evident at the sport's largest tournaments, when the tournament director introduces each competitor prior to a match. The game's longtime stars get the royal treatment (as well they should). The newcomers and lifetime "B" players, usually identified only by their current city of residence, always seem to look on enviously.
Overall, there seems to be universal respect for the game's top players and elder statesmen. But is it genuine respect, or just window dressing?
I ask this on the heels of the 2010 Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame induction ceremony, staged during the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships in Chesapeake, Va., in October.
The 2010 ceremony featured the induction of Francisco Bustamante, as well as American Poolplayers Association founders Terry Bell and Larry Hubbart. The ballroom of the Chesapeake Marriott teemed with just more than 200 attendees. As could be expected, a large contingent of family and friends made the trip to see Bell and Hubbart inducted. And a good number of hardcore pool fans purchased tickets to see the three greats honored.
Not so much.
Aside from eight previously inducted Hall of Famers who attended the banquet, the number of current players in attendance could be counted on two hands.
What a shame.
Opportunity? There was plenty of opportunity. U.S. Open promoter Barry Behrman halted matches for a three-and-a-half hour period so that anyone who wanted to attend the banquet could do so. And a special price was offered to any player entered in the 256-player field. Additionally, the Marriott is spitting distance from the Chesapeake Convention Center, where the Open was being contested.
Yet only a few of Bustamante's contemporaries, like John Schmidt, Raj Hundal, Rodney Morris, Charlie Williams and lady star Belinda Calhoun were witness to what is the pinnacle of any player's career. There is no greater validation of a player's legacy than the permanence that comes with his or her enshrinement into the Hall of Fame.
If a player truly respects not only the game, but the greatest players in that game, wouldn't he or she honor the players they so admire by sharing their special night? What was so pressing that fewer than 10 players could make the time to attend?
It's interesting how many players keep one eye on the Hall of Fame as their victories pile up. They start measuring themselves against those who have been inducted. Surely, players like Morris and Williams, and Mika Immonen and Ralf Souquet, and perhaps even younger players like Corey Deuel and Shane Van Boening, secretly wonder if or when they will stand at the podium and accept that honor. I'll bet they've thought of what they'd say, who they'd thank.
To me, it's an honor just to stand in a room with Hall of Famers past, like Nick Varner, Johnny Archer, Mike Sigel, Ewa Laurance, Pat Fleming, Efren Reyes and Loree Jon Hasson, and now Bustamante, Hubbart and Bell. I think players who aspire to greatness would gain a lot just from being in that company.
So why, then, wouldn't more players show that respect for their brothers in arms by standing and cheering them as they're inducted? A room full of family, friends and fans is great. But I would think that there could be no greater compliment, no higher praise, than to have a room full of your contemporaries cheering your induction.
I wish the players felt the same way.