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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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October: Nostalgia
October 2022

Every once in a while, I get nostalgic for “the good old days.” You know, a simpler time: The 1 on the spot, smashing the rack and U.S. dominance!

But what has me thinking back to pool’s glory days of the ’80s and ’90s isn’t the typical, “It’s not as good as back in my day!” reaction.

No, this is more sigh of relief that pool is once again beginning to resemble the packed-field, gauntlet-hurling, tournament-a-month bloodbaths that used to overwhelm the annual calendar 30 years ago.

The global onslaught of tournaments in 2023, with promoters Matchroom and Predator/CSI both going all in with multiple big-money, high-production-value events, and a number of independent promoters latching onto whatever coattails they can, is producing massive fields of the top players the world over slamming into one another at every turn.

And that got me thinking that pro pool hasn’t been this flat-out competitive and exciting since those ’80s and ’90s slugfests in which 15-20 tournaments a year would routinely field dozens of players who could compete in any era on any conditions and with any format.

The nostalgia bug caused me to spend way too much time recently getting lost in back issues of Billiards Digest, thumbing through tournament results, player lists and yearend rankings. Say what you will about today’s players — and the sheer numbers and talent level of players today is admittedly off the charts — but the fields that made of the tournament charts in the ’80s and ’90s were loaded with Hall of Famers. The “pro tours” back then were relatively organized, as was the calendar. There were not competing events in different parts of the country. The top players all traveled to the same spots at the same time. The Men’s Professional Billiard Association, the Professional Billiard Tour and the Camel Pro Billiards Tour provided decent structure, if not always great leadership. Every month (and oftentimes more than that), the flow charts taped up to the wall in a hotel ballroom or convention center read like a wall at Cooperstown — Mike Sigel, Nick Varner, Earl Strickland, Buddy Hall, Allen Hopkins, Efren Reyes, Francisco Bustamante, Jim Rempe, Ray Martin, Kim Davenport, Steve Mizerak, Jose Parica.

And the “dead money?” Wasn’t much, with Grady Mathews, David Howard, Tony Ellin, Mike LeBron, Keith McCready, Wade Crane, Danny Medina, Jimmy Reid and others filling out the field.

Obviously, comparing players of different eras is fruitless, and that isn’t the point here. I’m just really enjoying tournament after tournament that feature all the top European players, many of the top Asian players and the best the U.S. currently has to offer. Fields are wide open, and the level of play is becoming mind-numbingly good. And it reminds me of years past.

That American players are no longer dominant shouldn’t even come as a surprise to anyone. In “the good old days,” international travel wasn’t nearly as prevalent or affordable, and pool in Europe was still cutting its teeth.

But by the late ’90s, the world was rapidly getting smaller, and the influence of foreign players was no longer limited to the annual pilgrimage of dozens of players from the Philippines. European players, starting with Oliver Ortmann, but more concentrated when players like Ralf Souquet, Mika Immonen, Darren Appleton and Thorsten Hohmann started dropping in with increased frequency, have long since been staples at events here — Immonen, Hohmann, Appleton and, later, Jayson Shaw all setting up permanent residency.

Players from Asian countries other than the Philippines also began making their presence felt, and the standard reached an even higher level.

The result? Today’s monthly mega fields, the kind that used to be reserved only for the annual world championships. Round after round of matchups dripping with anticipation and drama.

And, yes, as I’ve already admitted, American talent isn’t dominating fields like it once did. But don’t kid yourself, America is still king in pool, if only geographically. Every player in the world still considers the U.S. the place to go for tournaments, action and learning. And every promoter in the world dreams of conquering the U.S. market above all others.

My hope, of course, is that all these added events to the U.S. calendar will eventually accelerate an inevitable boost in talent in the U.S. After all, a rising tide lifts all boats, right?

In the meanwhile, I will gladly sit back and watch the growing legions of world-beaters pummel one another round by round on a regular basis.

And before you know it, these will be the “good old days.”

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