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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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September: The Boys in the Band
September 2019

I spend an inordinate amount of time each month stressing over the impending deadline to fill this page. Of course, there are plenty of months in which a nice, juicy, made-to-order topic arrives on my desk, neatly packaged and ready to roll…you know, like Grubhub. In those months I can barely contain myself. I close my office door, put the “Do Not Disturb” placard I heisted from Las Vegas’ Riviera Hotel & Casino before it was razed, on my doorknob and fire away at the keyboard, rarely even coming up for breath.

But for every month I feel like Hedley Lamar in “Blazing Saddles” (“My mind is aglow with whirling, transient nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapor of invention!”), I have two months during which I feel more like Lamar’s idiot sidekick Taggart (“Ditto!”).

And such was the case this month, when I struggled to latch onto a message, a gripe, a vision or a recollection.

Until, that is, I started feeling sorry for myself. Sometimes I catch myself looking back, which you should never do in this business. You want to get tired and feel defeated? Start counting all the monthly deadlines you’ve had to meet in 39 years of producing a magazine. Start approximating the number of stories you’ve written, features and columns you’ve edited, and typos you missed. That will make you want to push the keyboard aside and mutter, “Think I’ll just take this month off.”

But it was too late.

By my count, this is the 352nd consecutive issue in which I’ve penned a “From the Publisher” column. (And by my count, my opinions have changed someone’s mind exactly twice.) For some reason, that got me thinking about the other writers and players that have contributed to Billiards Digest over the years. This magazine has been blessed with some incredibly gifted and prolific writers. And they are, in large part, why Billiards Digest has been so respected in the billiard community over the years. At every opportunity over the years, I’ve tried to reinforce how fortunate this magazine has been to happen upon intelligent, gifted writers that just happen to love pool instead of, say, baseball or curling.

Longevity writing for a magazine isn’t easy, particularly when you are tied to a single topic every time you write. But this magazine has been blessed with people who love the opportunity to talk about the game — its history, its people, its challenges, its nuance.

The early years of Billiards Digest included a page each issue called “Billiards Superstars.” The contributor, an artist named Al Stinson, used to submit the page each month on a cardboard backing. He literally drew the superstar, say Willie Mosconi, in ink on a letter-sized sheet of white paper. Then he penned in his story around the drawing, every letter printed by hand. In other words, the copy was un-editable! The occasional typo or grammatical error seemed to add a little charm to the art. (How’s that for rationalization!) And, over a 12-year span, old Al sent in more than 70 pieces of art.

The late Robert Byrne, whose writing contributions went far beyond the pages of Billiards Digest (having authored eight novels and seven collections of quotations, in addition to several of pool’s most popular instructional books), penned more than 120 columns for the magazine over a 20-year period (1979-1999).

The genius of Dr. Dave Alciatore, whose columns delve deep into the physics of the game, has graced Billiards Digest since 2003. Dr. Dave is approaching his 200th entry.

And three current instructional columnists are zeroing in on 300 columns, which is an astonishing accomplishment. Nick Varner, who has treated our readers over several tours of duty since 1980, 8-ball wizard Larry Schwartz, who recently reached 26 years as a columnist, and Bob Jewett, who started a year earlier, all continue to provide fresh looks at a game that rarely changes.

Of course, Billiards Digest will always be identified with the late George Fels. We started with the magazine on the same issue, September 1980, and shared space in every issue until his untimely death in December 2016. Over that period, George authored more than 300 columns, each one more deliciously descriptive and entertaining than the last. So rich were his stories that I choose to reprint a past column in each issue, never wanting to deprive a new (or old) reader of the opportunity to experience his magical words.

Billiards Digest’s most prolific contributor, however, is Mike Shamos, the game’s preeminent historian. Mr. Shamos just submitted the 310th edition of his incredible “Chronicles” series. I hope readers realize what gifts his articles are. History is so important to billiards, and this game has precious few true historians gathering information, organizing it and giving it meaning. A collection of his always-entertaining perspectives on the history of the game is something I vow to compile before I pen my last editorial.

Admittedly, these great and dependable contributors make my job as orchestra leader remarkably easy. And, over the years, each has taught me the meaning of passion for the game. Now, if only one of them could teach me how to play!

In the meantime, thank you all for your contributions. And by the way, your next columns are due next week!

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