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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.

January: Crowded Soapbox
January 2012
EVERYONE'S A critic!

I liked the pool community a lot better when I was one of the few with a platform from which to opine.

Not that I think I'm the only person qualified to have an opinion, but I like offering an opinion on a defined subject without hundreds of responses sent back and forth in a matter a minutes.

Then came "forums," and now everyone has opinions about other people's opinions! It's an exhausting volley of thoughts and summations that creates a never-ending "Point, Counterpoint."

Never has that been more apparent than in the days leading up to the Mosconi Cup, following the announcement that Charlie Williams had been tabbed captain of Team USA.

Now, Charlie Williams is a bit of a lightening rod anyway. The mile-a-minute player/promoter/tennis nut/court jester is a man of many opinions himself, and has become an easy target for bar stool conversation much in the way fellow promoter Barry Behrman has over the years.

Williams has been criticized plenty in the past. He's been questioned about his role in the United Poolplayers Association (UPA) and, subsequently, the Association of Billiard Professionals (ABP). He's been criticized for events he's promoted in the United States and Asia.

In reality, like him or not, Williams is a leader. He's not afraid to run out and make deals to stage and promote events all over the world. He's not afraid to confront other promoters on behalf of players he represents (despite the obvious perception of conflicts of interest).

So I found it somewhat amusing that the pre-Mosconi Cup criticism of Williams revolved around his inability to lead.

While the digital skewering that Williams withstood mostly concerned his leadership skills, his moral character and ethnicity was also injected into the venom. Some questioned whether Williams, of Korean descent but raised in Virginia, was American enough to captain Team USA. It was even pointed out that Williams represented Korea in his Dragon Promotions "World Mixed Doubles Championship."

Want my opinion? Bunk!

No one complained when Williams played for Team USA in four previous Mosconi Cups, three times helping hoist the trophy for the Americans. No one questioned his inclusion as an American representative to the World Pool Championships.

As for representing Korea in mixed doubles, let's be serious. This was a semi-imaginary, made-for-TV event aimed at a world market. No different than the early days of the Professional Billiards Tour, when New Yorker Frankie Hernandez played for Team Puerto Rico in the fabricated World Team Championship. The tournament simply needed more teams to give the appearance of a world event. Get over it.

The reserve of vitriol was aimed at Williams' leadership skills. Could he get his older contemporaries to listen to him? Could he motivate the team? Wasn't the team a mix of admirers and bashers?

I've been to most of the Mosconi Cups, and in the end the winning and losing comes down to the players and execution. To his credit, I thought Williams did a decent job of arranging his line-up and match-ups, the only tangible responsibility of the captains. (Look for full coverage in the February issue.) Would a different captain have had Shawn Putnam in better form? Would a different captain have made Rodney Morris miss less?

Of course the answer is "no." Yet everyone had an opinion on Williams, who, as best as I can recall, didn't miss a single shot during the entire tournament.

Still, everyone has a right to hoist their opinion onto message boards and forums ad nauseam.

I wish, though, that the posts wouldn't get so personal.

But that's just my opinion.

AND SPEAKING of Barry Behrman

The longtime U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships promoter is shaking things up again.

Behrman, who is long on tradition, is moving his event from its home of 14 years, the Chesapeake Convention Center, to the Holiday Inn Virginia Beach Norfolk Hotel and Conference Center. (I just hope the hotel doesn't become the title sponsor!)

Anyone who has attended the U.S. Open since 1997, when Behrman's event was the first to be held in the new convention center, knows that what the CCC lacked in intimacy, it more than made up for in inconvenience. The CCC was cavernous and cold, and had all the charm of an airplane hangar.

How will the Holiday Inn be? Don't know. Don't care. I just know that the most enjoyable U.S. Opens I can recall were the one's staged at the Holiday Inn Chesapeake, which in recent years served as the event's host hotel under the Marriott banner.

The new venue will feature action in three different ballrooms, which sounds like a great idea, a little like the different courts at Wimbledon or the U.S. Open Tennis Championships.

I like change. And I commend Behrman for daring to give the U.S. Open a new look.