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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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August: Running Down a Dream
August 2019

There is a lot to like about the way the Brits speak. For starters, of course, there is that great accent, which can make simple statements sound either Shakespearean eloquent or Monty Python hilarious.

Then there is British slang. “Knackered” (exhausted). “Cheeky” (impudent) and “bagsy” (dibs). “Chuffed” (delighted) and “skint” (broke). “Dishy” (good looking) and “dodgy” (suspicious). And, of course, “tosser” (idiot) and “wanker” (beyond an idiot!).

My favorite, though, used to critical acclaim by enigmatic snooker savant Ronnie O’Sullivan, is “Numpties.”

A numpty is part tosser and part wanker; a confused, ineffectual arguer who generally doesn’t have a clue of what they’re talking about.

This term comes to mind virtually every time I log onto a thread on pool sites and pool-related social media. And it had been particularly evident as I’ve sifted through comments concerning John Schmidt’s 626-ball straight pool run.

In this era of knee-jerk comments (which I believe to be comments made by jerks with shaky knees), it didn’t take long for the numpties to come out in force.

The most common hate threads were criticisms of the manner in which Schmidt about topping the saintly Willie Mosconi’s 65-year-old record of 526 balls in an exhibition match. Schmidt, as most people know, made a very concerted and very public effort to top Mosconi’s mark. He embarked on monthlong assaults on pool tables in California and Arizona, pushing himself in a journey more of self-discovery than fortune hunting. He didn’t do it because he had been offered a huge bounty to do so. He didn’t do it because the record would come with international acclaim and celebrity.

“Mosconi ran 526 against an opponent,” went the typical rant. “Schmidt started with a break shot and, when he missed, started again.”

Even to the novice record-validator, this comment clearly transcends tosser-quality and even wanker-quality. This is pure numpty-quality rubbish.

For starters, Mosconi conservatively played in hundreds of exhibitions, giving him hundreds of opportunities to set records. Of course, most of the time he quit when he’d won the “competition.” Why? Because running hundreds of balls more is time-consuming, exhausting and of no monetary consequence. Hmmm. Same deterrents that Schmidt faced on a daily basis.

As for not facing an opponent, we’re not being serious here, are we? Someone will have to explain to me the vast difference that must separate the propped up guppy that misses his first shot by a diamond and a half, while at the same time sending the remaining balls of the opening rack into a spread that would make Stevie Wonder lick his straight pool chops, and John Schmidt opening a run with a set up break shot. If one insists on making an argument, I’d argue that Schmidt’s start is harder, given the unpredictability of leaves after a break shot.

And after that first rack, absolutely nothing separates the obstacles faced by either Mosconi or Schmidt over the next 43-plus racks.

Which leads me to the contention that “there are a number of top pros that would break that record given a week or two of trying.”

Line ’em up.

Do Hohmann, Filler, Orcollo, Shaw and others have the ability? Of course they do. But the odds are still heavily…and I mean heavily…against them. Let’s see how they handle a skid scuttling a 300-ball run, or a fluke scratch ending a run at 400, or having the cue ball nestle itself into a cluster after a break shot at 505. Time after time after time. How will they handle a run in the 400s that is considered a failure? How long before they throw up their hands and quit?

Pool-loving rocket scientist Bob Jewett figured that the odds of Schmidt running 527 in 1,000 attempts at one-in-three. Yet the numpties are convinced Josh Filler would break the record in a week. Numpties being numpties.

I’m convinced that much of the hating is a reflection of Mosconi worship, which is not uncommon. It harkens the vitriol baseball great Roger Maris had to endure after having the audacity to break Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record in 1961. Maris was a great player but had nowhere near the legendary and revered status of Ruth. How dare he leapfrog deity on the home run record list.

Schmidt is a great player, but he’s no Mosconi. I wonder what the reaction would have been had Shane Van Boening topped the mark. Not suggesting anything. Just wondering.

The most disheartening result of the numpties’ running down the likeable Schmidt’s achievement is that this should have been a moment that the pool world embraced and spread in unison to the world outside our little circle. It should have been a moment that saw pool talked about in newspapers, magazines and television.

But when the outside world looks in and sees an industry and “fan base” bickering over its own heroics, it should come as no surprise that it chooses to shrug its shoulders and walk away.

The numpties must be very proud to be pool fans.

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