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.
July: Follow the Money
There are only three things in life that are absolutely certain: Death, taxes and the fact that pool players will always follow the money.
Like shooting-gallery ducks, pool players - particularly the men pros - have been known to change directions at the drop of a dime. (And, on occasion, at the drop of a nickel.)
From the days of the Professional Pool Players Association (PPPA), to the Men's Professional Billiard Association (MPBA), to the Professional Billiards Association (PBA), to the Professional CueSports Association (PCA), to the International Billiard Council (IBC), to the United States Professional Poolplayers Association (UPA), to the International Pool Tour (IPT) and back to the UPA, the men have thrown their allegiance around like Italians in wartime. (The Italians are famous for aligning themselves with whichever side happens to be winning at any given moment.)
Another about-face appears to be inevitable, although this time no one will blame the men for stitching a new acronym on their tournament golf shirts.
Since the demise of the IPT (at least in its full tournament incarnation), the world's top pros have floundered about, banging heads for 1985 prize funds. Not helping matters, the billiard industry is mired in its worst economic slump in 40 years. On their sleeves, the pros have proudly brandished the UPA logo, but the reality is that the UPA has provided little in terms of marketing strength, tournaments or leadership. The association has not produced an event in more than a year, and has sanctioned just three tournaments for 2008. Two of those events - the Pro Players Championship and the Billiard Congress of America's GenerationPool.com 9-Ball Championships - already enjoyed long-standing player support. The third, the inaugural Desert Shootout in Phoenix, failed to pay out more than $30,000 of the guaranteed prize fund.
Enter entrepreneur Mark Griffin. Griffin, who has owned and operated poolrooms in Anchorage, Alaska, and San Diego, is part owner of Diamond Billiard Products, and owns and operates the BCA Pool League, recently pitched the pros on a series of tournaments with a minimum of $200,000 in guaranteed prize money.
Griffin, long an advocate for the players, further demonstrated his commitment to the struggling pros by arranging for payment of 70 percent of the prize monies still owed players from the Desert Shootout.
Obviously, gaining control of the men's pro association in the U.S. would give Griffin a tidy little business empire, offering the opportunity to run pro tournaments alongside amateur league events, all the while utilizing the events to market Diamond pro and coin tables. He'd also be able to offer multiple marketing platforms to potential sponsors.
Too much control for one person?
Possibly, but in Griffin the pros would attach themselves to the coattails of one of the industry's hardest-working and most creative entrepreneurs. Griffin operates at one speed hyper. Anyone who has watched Griffin operate during the Diamond-promoted Derby City Classic (an endurance test if ever there was one) knows that the 61-year-old still has the energy of a teenager. And his energy is trumped only by his passion for the game.
There is still plenty of investigative work ahead for the players. Griffin has yet to give either an outline or a timeline for his proposed tour. To date, he's not even sure what the association would be called.
But when he's ready to move, the pros had better be prepared to move fast, because few businessmen go from concept to reality faster than Mark Griffin.
Just leave some space on your shirt sleeves, and follow the money.