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: Like 'Real' Sports
WHO SAYS pool isn't like big-time professional sports?
Why just a few weeks ago the "players," through the Association of Billiard Professionals (the latest incarnation of solidarity and brotherhood among cue masters) distributed a very ominous press release announcing their intended boycott of the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships in October.
Naturally, the "owners," in the form of U.S. Open promoter Barry Behrman, responded with a public statement on pool website AZBilliards.com defending their position and admonishing the ABP for its lack of consideration and avoidance of negotiation.
After sitting through a summer filled with posturing and public negotiating by players and owners in both professional football and professional basketball, I was encouraged by the fact that professional pool could act just as unprofessionally and boorishly as the big boys.
In the case of ABP v U.S. Open, the fledgling players' group only showed its naivete by making a blanket statement (see BD News, pg. 10) that even a neophyte follower of the sport knew it would never live up to.
Certainly Behrman's checkered payout history at the U.S. Open is no secret. The last four or five Behrman-produced events (the U.S. Open and Masters) have resulted in a handful of players (usually the top finishers) waiting weeks and months for full payment of their purse winnings. This despite Behrman's annual insistence that "this year will be different." In fact, Behrman opened the 2010 U.S. Open with a declaration that the top prizes ($75,000) would be in the tournament arena on the final day in the form of cash, and that armed guards would be on site to watch over the booty.
Of course, on the final day of the tournament there was no pile of cash in the arena, the guards had the day off and champion Darren Appleton left town with a promise.
Regardless of the fact that Behrman's personal dictionary offers a different definition of the word "guarantee" than Webster's does, the ABP's chest-thumping was borderline pitiful. Without so much as a single formal meeting with Behrman to agree on guidelines for 2011, the group publicly offered its regrets that its "general body" would not attend the 2011 U.S. Open. No "unless." No "if." No "until." Just "No."
I firmly believe in the players' desire to have more control of their futures. In fact, they need to be united.
But they also need to behave like professionals. Saber-rattling has rarely resulted in anything productive. There are already allegations that a number of the players were listed on the ABP boycott release without their knowledge.
In the end, the players came across looking like unreasonable bullies, when in fact they have been victims in the past and are simply trying to avoid the same result.
It's all in the presentation.
Behrman, meanwhile, comes across looking like the victim in this fight. The truth is that, despite his genuine love of the sport and its pros, Behrman is notorious for coming up short on his promises. If he needs to set less lofty goals to ensure full payout at the event's conclusion, then he should do so.
What makes this an entirely fruitless exercise top to bottom, of course, is that everyone in pool knows that the players will show up like clockwork come October. Behrman will insist that this year will, indeed, be different and will publicly profess his love of the players.
My suggestion is that this year both sides hire armed guards. Behrman's should watch over the prize purse, and the ABP's should keep watch over Behrman!