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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.


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Sept: As Good As It Gets?
September 2012
THERE IS a moment in the movie "As Good As It Gets," when Jack Nicholson's character, Melvin Udall, exits his shrink's office and, looking at all the depressed psychiatric patients in the waiting area, wonders aloud, "What if this is as good as it gets?"

[Slight diversion here his best line in that movie, of course, is when he's leaving his agent's office and the giddy receptionist asks how he manages to write the female characters in his novels so well. He replies, "I think of a man, and I take away reason and accountability." Classic. But I digress.]

The answer to the question, "What if this is as good as it gets?" is subjective. Each patient in that office would have to evaluate their own life and decide whether or not they could live with the notion that this might, indeed, be as good as it gets.

While walking the show floor at the Summit 2012, the annual billiard industry trade expo, I found myself pondering that same question as it relates to the expo.

And I decided that if this was as good as it gets, I'm OK with that.

My determination wasn't based on size. Summit 2012 wasn't dramatically bigger than previous years. In fact, both the number of exhibitors and total booth spaces were down slightly, while buyer attendance did jump to its highest mark in four years.

No, the positive vibes from Summit 2012 came from the mood that permeated the show floor, the philosophical direction of the expo and the show's physical location.

One of the biggest concerns for BCA brass heading into Summit 2012 was how exhibitors and attendees would react to the move from Las Vegas to Chicagoland. Historically, dalliances with locations other than Las Vegas have been met with resistance and consternation. (Recent detours to Houston, Baltimore and Charlotte were downright disasters.) But the move to a new convention center in suburban Schaumburg proved ideal from the moment exhibitors arrived. Accommodating hosts have a way of improving the demeanor of exhibitors, a lesson lost on convention authorities in Las Vegas. Don't underestimate how important "quality of life" is when you're spending tens of thousands of dollars participating in a trade show.

The hall itself, a cozy 35,000-square-foot bay in the Renaissance Convention Center, seemed to be a perfect fit. Gone forever are the days of 100,000-square-foot space requirements, but, to be honest, the billiard industry looks good in a smaller, more contemporary space.

What's more, the smaller footprint seems to have made the transition to a more educational expo easier. Seminars, particularly those on social media, were packed. Several overflowed with more than 100 attendees, which might have been a BCA first.

What struck me most, however, was the connection that Summit 2012 seemed to rekindle. The host Renaissance Hotel, attached to the convention center, bustled with conventioneers. The Renaissance, not surprisingly, is perfectly built for conventions, with conversation pits situated in every nook and cranny of the hotel's main level. Unlike years in which the billiard group is barely a ripple in the Las Vegas pool, the billiard industry was the only game in Schaumburg. Groups gathered for meals, conversation and cocktails.

It felt like the billiard industry again. It felt like the days when the hotel lobbies in Louisville and Kansas City buzzed with billiards. Business was being conducted. Friendships were renewed. New friendships were forged.

It was both relaxing and productive.

In terms of size, the BCA Summit may be as good as it's going to get. But if the expo continues with the same enthusiasm, focus and direction as it displayed in 2012, the entire industry might just gain a little steam as well.

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