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.
March: Admittedly Biased
BACK IN 1974, right about the time I had convinced myself that I wanted to go to journalism school and eventually cover professional sports, legendary Chicago sportswriter Jerome Holtzman published a book called, "No Cheering In The Press Box."
I read that book over and over.
And I took its title to heart.
That is, of course, until I met Ewa Laurance.
I've covered pool tournaments for more than 30 years, and I'm not afraid to admit that there is only one player I've found it impossible to root against. Ewa.
In most instances, I'm Switzerland. I don't root for one player over another.
But I don't know if there has ever been a time I watched Ewa play when part of me didn't think, "Gee, it would be really nice to see Ewa win."
So I will admit when I saw she had reached the semifinals of the WPBA Masters in February, I caught myself cheering. I followed the action on various websites, chat rooms and on Facebook, waiting for results. And when I'd heard she beat Allison Fisher in the title match, I was delighted. It was, afterall, her first title in 14 years.
Sorry, Allie. No disrespect intended.
I've known Ewa since the day she set foot in the U.S.. It was 1981, and then 18-year-old Ewa Svensson was one of three Swedish players who had travelled to New York City to play in the World Straight Pool Championship at the Roosevelt Hotel.
Sure, she was beautiful and talented, but that wasn't it. It was getting to know her and watch her develop as a champion, mother and spokesperson over the next decade that cinched it for me. Every time I watched her and interviewed her it was apparent that she cared. She cared about her game. She cared about the game. She cared about image. She cared about growing the sport. She cared about building the WPBA.
She seemed smarter and more worldly with every passing season. She wasn't afraid to speak her mind, but never burned bridges.
It wasn't always easy for her, either. She was a single mom trying to earn a living playing pool, help the WPBA grow and fulfill her obligations to her longtime sponsor Brunswick when a New York Times Magazine feature thrust her into the national spotlight in 1992. The national media jumped on the pool bandwagon and Ewa became the defacto face of the sport. She didn't ask for it, and probably didn't even want it. But she took the sport on her shoulders with savvy and grace, always pushing to share the attention that seemed insistent on focusing solely on her.
Still, there was plenty of jealousy and sniping. She handled that the same way she handles everything...thoughtfully and with class.
Today, Ewa is 48 and admittedly not as committed to the practice table as she was when she was the No. 1 player in the world.
Actually, it's been that way for a decade, since she made the conscious decision to make money instead of focus on tournament pool. It's a shame that one must make that choice in this sport, but it is reality.
And so she still spends 100 or so days a year performing at conventions and retail stores.
She enjoys her down time with her husband of 18 years, Mitchell, on their 3-acre horse farm in South Carolina.
Ewa also operates a 136-team American Poolplayers Association franchise, which she says she thoroughly enjoys.
She has nary an enemy in the world, and is justifiably considered one of this industry's crown jewels.
And, apparently, she can still catch lightening in a bottle on Tour.
I have no trouble admitting I was rooting for her. And I always will.