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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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March: About Schmidt
March 2013
SIFT THROUGH the barrage of self-important, sanctimonious, instigating, insulting and sometimes just plain weird threads on most online pool forums and occasionally you'll come across an interesting discussion.

A recent thread (talk about your long runs!) revisited the age-old question of whether anyone will break Willie Mosconi's famed straight-pool high run of 526 balls. (Mosconi set the record in 1954 during an exhibition at the East High Billiard Club in Springfield, Ohio.) The debate has raged for years, but this recent discussion led to a pretty interesting challenge.

The contemporary pool player at the center of the current 526 debate is John "Mr. 400" Schmidt. Schmidt, who didn't start playing pool until he was 18 and rarely plays at all these days, still plays enough to have captured the 2012 World 14.1 Championship. He is, of course, the author of his own 400-ball run.

(Still, my favorite Schmidt 14.1 performance was in New York at the 2000 BCA U.S. Open when he drew Mike Sigel in his first match. It marked Sigel's - one of the game's all-time greats - long-awaited return. Schmidt ruined everyone's feel-good moment by besting Sigel. It was during that match that "Captain Hook" famously snapped his cue in frustration!)

Anyway, Schmidt, a generally likeable and easy-going guy, chimed in. As anyone will tell you, responding directly to a thread is a no-win situation. Banter went back and forth over the fact that Mosconi's record was set on a 4-by-8 table, whether it's ethical to occasionally wipe chalk marks off the cue ball and re-spot it (no consensus on that one), and whether Schmidt's 400-ball run was wind-aided. (OK, I made that one up.)

All in all a pretty uninteresting discussion until, that is, Schmidt offered the following proposition: "I would play 6-8 hours a day, five days a week for a year. I get $50,000 as a salary, and if I break the record I will split the grand prize with whoever put up the $50,000."

Now that's interesting!

Let's suppose someone was willing to post Schmidt's salary, an insurance company was willing to underwrite the contest for a $1 million prize, and a mini studio was set up to live stream the daily attempts. It would be like the movie EdTV, only with a purpose.

Personally, I love the idea, although a full year isn't going to happen. But let's say a billiard table company gives Schmidt a three-month salary, sets up the studio and hires a small film crew to document the sessions, stream them live and keep social media buzzing. Almost sounds like a plausible (and relatively inexpensive) marketing campaign. If Schmidt breaks the 60-year-old record, he did it on Brand X. (And don't forget, Brand X realizes a $500,000 return.) If he doesn't, the marketing angle is that NOBODY can make Brand X break! Win-win.

Of course, 90 percent of the campaign would be mind-numbingly boring - until Schmidt got into the 300s, or reached 400. Then what? Excitement would build. Social media would allow word to spread globally like wildfire. And when he hit 500? Bandwidth would need to be tripled! Servers would crash!

Seriously, you don't think this would have the potential to "go viral?"

I love this idea! Think of the explosion if he breaks the record. Better yet, think of the mental anguish if he continually comes close and then misses. The poor guy could crack up right there live on the Internet! Failure can be as compelling as success.

I don't see how this doesn't work for pool.

Let the forums chew on this one for a while!

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