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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.

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November: Release Me
November 2012
ADMITTEDLY, I confuse more easily than the average American.

(I'm still trying to figure out why there's Braille on the ATM machine in my bank's drive-thru lane!)

And one of the most perplexing conundrums I'm dealing with these days is deciphering the meaning of the Association of Billiard Professionals' constant media blitz. The ABP churns out press releases like the Republican National Committee. I keep waiting for the TV commercial blitz, with ABP mouthpiece/promoter/player/spin master/tennis junkie/serial Facebook poster Charlie Williams announcing, "I'm Charlie Williams, and I approved this message."

What I still don't get, however, is exactly who the ABP is and what they stand for.

The ABP formed several years ago, at the urging of respected longtime pro Johnny Archer, to great fanfare after a string of unfulfilled promises and shaky tournaments caused a dozen top pro players to throw up their hands and scream, "Enough! The players are tired of being used and taken for granted."

At the time, that simple, singular message sounded like a great premise for a unified front. The group wasn't starting a tour, demanding more money or threatening to become an exclusive club. The original idea was to better relations between players and promoters to ensure a sense of stability in the pro ranks.

A noble cause, indeed. But as is often the case with professional pool players, the group quickly got ahead of itself. Soon it was claiming "membership" and unwavering support from players across the globe, young and old. It began pushing its own rules, insisting on seeding based on its own rankings and started throwing around terms like "health coverage" and "401K."

Most notably, the ABP continually intimated that it spoke for numerous players without reservation.

The truth is, the ABP, by its own admission, has less than two dozen paid members. On countless occasions, the association has claimed to speak on behalf of players who later claim no registered affiliation with the group.

Not that those instances are of any real consequence.

In an age of dwindling tour stops, dwindling prize funds and dwindling exposure, the ABP seems hell bent on establishing relevance. Its proprietary ranking system is at the forefront, for obvious reasons. A recognized ranking system is leverage. If ABP rankings had value, ABP-sanctioned events (and any event with $7,000 added qualifies), by extension, would have value. The problem is that with previous few events taking place in the U.S., rankings matter only for exclusive overseas tournaments. And so long as the Billiard Congress of America is the recognized national federation of the World Pool Association, the BCA rankings are trump.

Still, the ABP goes to great lengths to promote its rankings. In a recent release, the group cheered the fact that its rankings would be one of three sets of rankings used to seed players at the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships. Now there's something to hang your hat on.

The ABP also suffers from the widely held perception that what's good for the ABP is good for both the promoter and players who play under the Dragon Promotions banner. At least half of the ABP's board is made up of players in William's Dragon Promos lair. The natural argument is that a recognized ABP will make Dragon Promotions tournaments more important, and more profitable.

Whether the argument has merit is irrelevant. Perception is reality. Most industry insiders agree that Williams' ink is all over ABP press releases. As long as he's an independent promoter, Williams would be better off distancing himself from the group.

When it sticks to its original mantra, the ABP has done good things. Last year the group initially threatened to boycott the U.S. Open. Cooler heads prevailed and the ABP instead enlisted the BCA to oversee the collection of entry fees for the event, which has had a history of falling short on payout day. And the group gave players fair warning of potential problems with an announced World 10-Ball tournament in Asia just weeks before the promoters postponed the event. (But even in that instance, the ABP seemed to take joy more in the demise of the WPA-sanctioned tournament than in trying to work with the WPA to ensure better communication and increase the potential of a successful event.)

The ABP should stick to its original mission and establish its credibility that way before it pushes ahead into universal control mode. It should work on becoming a true players association before it portends to speak for all players. As it stands, the ABP is little more than a handful of players with a logo and a penchant for knee-jerk reaction.

And it should pull back on meaningless, attention-seeking press releases filled with monumental boasts.

They're confusing.