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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.

September: Fame Shouldn’t Be Fleeting
September 2008
In last month's column, which came on the heels of the annual Billiard Congress of America trade show and Hall of Fame inductions, I suggested that the industry's gatekeepers consider allowing the Hall of Fame to operate independently. That notion probably needs to be explained in greater detail.

The premise of the argument that the Hall needs some autonomy is based on the stepchild treatment that the Hall of Fame and its members have received in recent years. What once was a dress-up banquet affair has been reduced to a half-time show. True, attendance at the Hall of Fame inductions had slipped over the years, while costs kept rising, but the problem is deeper than dollars and cents.

Nearly twice as many living Hall of Famers (10) didn't make the trip to Charlotte as did (six). Sure, the BCA contacted (or attempted to contact) each Hall of Fame member and offered airfare and lodging to attend. But several of those who took a pass on this year's induction ceremony noted that the BCA's generosity has been trimmed to airfare, a single night's stay and $100 spending money. Try selling that to a Hall of Famer in any other sport. Odds are they'd stay home too. Heck, the $100 would get burned up simply getting to and from the airport. (Not many years ago the BCA sent drivers to pick up each Hall of Famer from the airport, and happily delivered them back to the airport following the show.)

At the expo itself, the Hall of Famers were pretty much on their own. No trumpeted autograph sessions at the BCA booth, no announcements that a deity was in the house. The BCA did stage a nice VIP reception prior to the 9-ball finals for event sponsors and Hall of Famers, and the BCA booth did feature two leather couches and a sofa table that qualified as the "Hall of Fame Lounge."

Can't understand why the 10 absent Hall of Famers didn't get the same goose bumps that the six who attended must have gotten when the BCA called!

I'm sorry, but the Hall of Famers deserve better, if for no other reason than the fact that they are virtually forgotten about the other 51 weeks each year.

This is the billiard industry, folks. The pro tour doesn't have a retirement plan. Our legends aren't flush with money. Is it asking too much of the billiard industry to go out of its way once a year to spoil these people? To treat them like real heroes for three stinkin' days?

But the gravy days are long gone, and the BCA is struggling mightily to lead the billiard industry through some pretty dark days. It's under enormous pressure to help its members survive. So I actually understand if the association is a little preoccupied these days.

I'm just asking that the BCA reassess its commitment to the people they themselves call "legends" and "heroes."

The solution? Several years ago, the BCA found itself in a similar position with the Billiard Education Foundation, the BCA's charitable organization. No one on the BCA board of directors discounted the importance of junior programs and scholarships, but the BCA office simply wasn't able to devote the time necessary to develop programs like the Junior Nationals and Pool-In-School. So the board decided to let the BEF run its own office. It hired former pro and BEF trustee Laura Smith to administer the office, and it agreed to fund the BEF for three years. But it is up to Smith to grow the programs, sell sponsorships and develop fund-raising events.

The BEF still has a long way to go before it becomes a self-sustaining, vital entity, but at least it's being tended to 365 days a year by someone who's passionate about seeing it grow.

The BCA should consider a similar move with the Hall of Fame. Set aside some funds and entrust the Hall of Fame to a passionate full-time curator. The curator's job duties would include fund raising and sponsorships for the annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony. He or she would handle the logistics revolving around the ceremony and the attendance of the living Hall of Famers. Not enough there to justify a year-round job? He or she could be charged with uncovering and collecting articles that a Hall of Fame should have - historic documents, programs, trophies, cues, balls, etc. I'm guessing there are former players and families who would agree to part with the game's treasures if they knew those items would be preserved for others to admire. I know, the billiard industry doesn't have a permanent Hall of Fame, but that doesn't mean these items shouldn't be collected. Over time the BCA may begin thinking about a temporary or traveling Hall of Fame.

One thing is certain. I guarantee a full-time curator would make sure that every year, when they convene for the induction of their new brothers and sisters, the living Hall of Famers would be treated like royalty.