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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: It’s All Right! (Almost)
September 2020

The last five months have been equal parts chaos and seclusion. We’ve all had to deal with the confusing and unnerving effects of a worldwide pandemic, social unrest and pattern racking in ghost tournaments.

It’s enough to make you question your faith in mankind.

Or, at least enough to make you forget what day it is.

That’s what happened to me when August 8 came and went. It wasn’t until two days later that I realized I’d missed the 40th anniversary of the day I was hired as editor of Billiards Digest.

(Seriously, how’s that for a segue?)

Not surprisingly, the realization that I’ve been at this desk for four decades gave me pause. (It also gave me a headache.) A lot has happened over those 40 years. Thousands of players have come and gone. Hundreds of industry acquaintances have come and gone. The game and the business have changed. And in many ways, the game and the business have stayed the same.

I began to think about all the things that are right with pool. And, of course, about the things that are wrong.

What’s wrong with pool:

Money. From prize purses to the business end of billiards, money has long been an issue. It is an industry and sport that has always had to fend for itself. There are no outside interests bankrolling our future. We deserve better because we have plenty to offer — a game without barriers and an industry that offers vehicles to better mental and physical health.

The Game. Competitively, there are simply too many of them! Straight pool, one-pocket, banks, 9-ball, 10-ball, 8-ball. The sport lacks structure. Snooker is snooker. Three-cushion is three-cushion. The rules are uniform. The game doesn’t change. Don’t underestimate the importance of that in marketing your sport.

Lack of structure. From players to retailers to room owners, pool (in America, at least) lacks organization. The revolving door of professional player associations has never produced anything sustainable (the Women’s Professional Billiard Association, current hard times notwithstanding, is the exception), leaving the players to continue their nomadic lives as cue-wielding mercenaries. As for the trade, the Billiard Congress of America does an admirable job promoting the sport and creating opportunity for manufacturers and billiard dealers. But its resources are limited, which, in turn, limits its ability to move the needle. And poolrooms? Totally on their own. And if they ever needed to be organized, now is the time. Room owners are in dire need of group leverage to get their doors open around the country.

What’s right with pool:

The Game. Pocket billiard games played at the highest levels are a joy to watch. Forty years later, I still never tire of watching the best players in the world stare down a daunting and pressure-filled table layout. The creativity, nerve and precision with which the game’s elite work their way through racks — each unique to any rack they’ve ever played — are things of beauty. The colors, the sounds, the pace. Anyone that watches pool played properly and doesn’t walk away convinced that it is among the most beautiful and difficult games on the planet simply wasn’t paying attention.

The Players. Hardcore devotees in virtually every sport have a special passion. (Except for cornhole. No one should be passionate about cornhole.) But pool players take that level of passion to a different level. The proof is in the pros. Unfortunately, pool is not a sport that takes care of its own. Only a few do more than simply survive on competitive pool. But they still put in hours and hours of practice virtually every day and are willing to travel halfway around the world to hopefully break even, just for the sake of testing their skills against top competition. What’s more, they are generally generous, supportive of one another and always have time for others. They are a brotherhood and a sisterhood. They are good people.

The BCA Hall of Fame. A personal favorite. Like most young boys, I grew up admiring the heroes in every sport I followed. As for pool, I don’t play a lick. But I have a sincere appreciation for those that played it better than anyone before them. And I have always felt that those players should be treated as heroes. Pool’s best-ever players rarely leave the sport with their futures secure, which makes it even more important that the industry recognizes their contributions and makes certain they will be memorialized for generations to come.

Matchroom. I know. We’re all, “Matchroom this…” and “Matchroom that…” But let’s face it. For more than 20 years, the British sports promoters have set and reset the bar for professional pool events in prize money, staging and television coverage. They’ve provided players with the events they most covet and fans with opportunities to feel like they’re part of a professional sport. And the company’s initiatives and efforts over the past three years have given player and fans hope for a bigger future. The industry continues to owe Barry Hearn and his charges a debt of gratitude. (Not discounting Predator Group’s efforts to follow suit. Could make for a very nice one-two punch.)

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