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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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March: Letís Make It Interesting
March 2019

The glut of major pool events scheduled for the U.S. in 2019 will be a boon to pool players, particularly American players who donít travel to the major international events overseas. The U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship, the World 10-Ball Championship and the International 9-Ball Open may well be the three biggest and most competitive events in the world in 2019.

But the players arenít the only ones that will benefit. Pool fans around the globe should have ample opportunity to gorge themselves on pool programming this year. Both the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship and the Mosconi Cup (which will also be staged in the U.S. in November) are Matchroom Multi Sport productions, with which comes live match coverage on cable networks in the U.K. and parts of Europe and Asia. Coverage in the U.S. has yet to be formally announced, but American fans can expect it to be carried live in some form. (The 2018 Mosconi Cup was carried on Facebook Live.)

The World 10-Ball Championship, promoted and produced by CueSports International and Predator Group, will also feature a live stream, and Pat Flemingís International 9-Ball Open Championship will continue to be available as a pay-per-view event through his Accu-Stats Video Productions.

Herein lies opportunity.

I mean, here we are showcasing the best players from around the world, competing for legitimate prize money and playing a sport that can dazzle and mesmerize. To me, this is an opportunity to draw in new fans and reengage fans that have drifted for lack of decent programming.

Of course, talk to 20 billiard enthusiasts and you will get 20 disparate ideas of what pool ďmust doĒ to attract new fans and with them, perhaps, new business partners.

Personally, Iím not interested in changes to the game itselfÖpush outs, three-point rules, shorter races, longer races, 9 on the spot, 1 on the spot, alternate break, winners break, shot clocks, exploding balls, bonus pockets, etc. It is unlikely that any change to the game itself will have a dramatic impact.

Iím more interested in what makes the sport and its players more compelling to the average viewer. Most televised pool is formulaic and boring. Certainly, giving some dimension to the players might help create fans. Itís not enough to simply have white hats and black hats. When was the last time you saw a short, taped vignette of a player during a big event? Klenti Kaci is a tall, rugged, handsome 18-year-old from Albania. Heís tatted up and drives a tricked-out Mercedes. Bring him closer to the fans an itís just possible he will develop a following. There are plenty of players out there whose stories would move viewers to like them. Or hate them. Either way, itís win-win for the sport.

I realize profiles on players take time and cost money. I, for one, think itís worth it.

Or, how about something that doesnít cost much?

Statistics.

Personally, I hate watching other sports that bludgeon viewers with stats ó ďSo-and-so is batting .312 in night games west of the Mississippi when facing lefthanded pitchers with beards.Ē

But it stands to reason that other sports programming continues to show numbers because viewers like them. So, letís give them numbers.

For starters, letís not try to reinvent the wheel. Accu-Stats was launched by Fleming more than 30 years ago as a way of keeping statistics during tournaments. Is it the most accurate method of analyzing a match or a playerís level of play? Maybe. Maybe not. But the fact is that Accu-Stats has 30 years of data from which it can draw comparisons and establish standards. Fans can understand a Total Performance Average, balls made on the break, run outs, etc. And being able to put things into a historical context adds credibility to the sport.

Iíd like to see these three events use Accu-Stats as a basic statistical system and constantly show those numbers on screen. If three events, run by three different promoters, each uses a different method for analyzing the action, fans will only be more confused than they are now.

In any event, give me more statistics.

Even better? Give me sports science!

The world seems to be very geek friendly these days. Even viewers whoíve never played baseball or basketball seem to love the science approach to the sports. When a baseball outfielder is tracking down a long fly ball, the networks detail the velocity of the ball, the degree of arch it is traveling at, the distance the outfielder had to run and the speed at which he had to run to track down that fly ball. Itís cool stuff.

Why canít we do that in pool? At the very least, can we track the speed of the break shot? How about the angle at which a jump shot was taken? And the cue speed and amount of force generated to get the cue ball off of the tableís surface? And the trajectory and distance the ball traveled?

We can do this. Itís not rocket science! (Well, it may actually be close, but still...)

This year will offer numerous opportunities for us to get pool to next-level visibility. Letís not waste them.

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