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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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January: Mosconi Musings
January 2020

Listen, i totally understand the decisions of many pool fans who chose to stay home for Thanksgiving instead of attending the Mosconi Cup in Las Vegas. Families with children, families that live in different parts of the country and only get together once or twice a year, families that simply can’t stand the idea of an airport on the busiest travel weekend of the year… I get it.

And all I can say is, “I hope the turkey wasn’t too dry, and I hope the pumpkin pie you ate was as satisfying as the humble pie Team Europe and their fans noshed on in Vegas!”

Booyah!

But I will tell you all, you missed perhaps the single best pool event ever staged in the United States. And, yes, I’ve seen those old photos of 1,000-plus men in suits neatly seated in ballrooms watching Willie Hoppe or Ralph Greenleaf or the Matchroom event’s namesake. Good crowd, yes. But they looked like an oil painting. You know, like the U.S. crowds at previous Mosconi Cups in the U.S.

Everything changed in December. Of course, Team USA’s historic 2018 win in London whetted appetites that had not been whetted in a decade. But it was more than that. The Mosconi Cup is becoming what promoter Barry Hearn has spent more than 20 years (and millions of dollars) building towards. The Mosconi Cup is a happening. It’s must-see. It’s must-attend. Bucket list quality stuff.

The 2019 event at Mandalay Bay was slick. It was festive. It was loud. It was a party. For the first time ever, U.S. fans outnumbered and outdecibled their European counterparts. Heck, a smattering of U.S. fans even knew how to sing something other than “USA, USA!” The atmosphere that Matchroom has developed in recent years…DJs, contests, giveaways, jerseys and banners…it’s all making the event bigger than pool. People that don’t know a 9 ball from a grapefruit would have fun at the Mosconi Cup.

And that’s important because it is becoming the kind of event that may well draw the attention of people and businesses that don’t currently reside in pool’s zip code.


And for those that couldn’t be in Vegas, did you watch the event? On DAZN? Or did you spend hours on social media and the internet trying to latch onto a pirated stream? If you did the latter, shame on you. “Why should I pay to watch pool? I don’t pay to watch the NFL or pro basketball!” That’s my favorite retort! When pool reaches the status of having networks, cable or otherwise, pay a gazillion dollars for broadcast rights, then you may have a point. Until then, pony up. Pool will start moving in the right direction when everyone (and I mean everyone) that claims to be part of the family starts pulling in the same direction. Help the people who are trying to build and promote improve the product and improve the visibility. DAZN, with whom Matchroom has an exclusive deal for U.S. broadcast rights, is a whopping $19 a month (which gives you access to much more than just pool events), or less than $80 a year to watch all four Matchroom Pool events. Pool players are paying that for a tip and piece of chalk these days.


No matter where you stand on Germany’s high energy Joshua Filler, there is absolutely no denying that he is one of the best players in the world. He plays fast. He plays confident. And once a match has started, he has zero respect for his opponent or anyone else who wishes his game ill will. Johan Ruysink, perhaps pool’s top coach, says that introverts need to be extroverts at the table to maintain focus, and vice versa. That certainly holds true for Filler, who is quiet and likeable away from the table. His almost perfect Mosconi Cup performance was both electrifying and polarizing. He taunted the U.S. crowd (which was, at times, a little disrespectful itself) and strutted like a peacock. Did he cross the line? That’s a matter of opinion, although Ruysink, the Team USA captain, looked ready to send Filler back to the European bench in a body bag when he continued to taunt. One thing is for certain, he will wear Team Europe’s black hat for years to come.


Hats off and a fond farewell to Jim Wych. The former Canadian snooker pro has been Matchroom’s primary play-by-play man for all 26 Mosconi Cups to date, but the 2019 edition was his final call. A professional’s professional, Wych was adept at both play-by-play and color, a rare combination. He will be sorely missed in the booth.


The post-Mosconi fallout on social media was amusing. European fans, who in recent years scoffed at the U.S. and claimed that there were four or five disparate Team Europes that would be heavily favored against the best Team USA, were suddenly complaining about an inadequate selection process that prevented Team Europe’s captain from putting together the best possible team. In 2018, the Euros’ loss was attributed to “buckets” for pockets. With tightened pockets in 2019, complaints were made about inequitable racking.

The point? After years of withstanding smug comments and general chest-thumping, Team USA and its fans have finally gotten the Europeans’ attention.

In other words, game on!

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