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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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February: In The End, We’re All One
February 2024

The dominant narrative in the pool world at the start of the New Year is “us against them,” with the “us” designation dependent on which side of the fence one stands — the sanctioned side of the fence or the non-sanctioned side of the fence.

Either way, pool now has a fence. Or a line in the sand. Or a fork in the road. Pick your cliché.

The fence, of course, is what now separates the pool world’s governing body, the World Pool Association (WPA) from any promoter around the globe attempting to conduct major international tournaments with the imprimatur of the WPA. The primary culprit is the ambitious, Matchroom-funded World Nineball Tour. After years of working hand in hand with the WPA, Matchroom has gone rogue, deigning to no longer work with a group that it feels brings little to the party.

The very public battle, with oodles of fanfare welcoming top players pledging allegiance to the WNT, has created a schism in pool just shy of the political war being waged in the U.S.

Ah, but this is not about the vast divide in pool. This is actually about something that, no matter how bloody the battle, can cause all combatants to lay down their arms and arguments and come together.

This is about pool as a community. Pool as a brotherhood. Pool as family.

The past three years have seen the pool community jarred by the news of heroes and legends in the sport facing the toughest kind of adversity — life-threatening illness. First, it was transcendent pool icon Jeanette Lee battling Stage IV ovarian cancer. Then it was the sport’s resident bulldog, Darren Appleton, teetering on the precipice after suffering a heart attack. And now, just before Christmas, we learned that Mika Immonen had been diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer.

Three Billiard Congress of America Hall of Famers, unflappable and indestructible at the table, all fighting for their lives.

And ask any of the three what has been the most potent, powerful and effective treatment, and each will tell you it has been the outpouring of support — emotional, personal and financial — from the pool world.

Within minutes of news being shared in each case, the pool world leaped into action, creating funding platforms to help with medical bills, creating personalized messages of support and encouragement, and offering help in any fashion necessary.

We all witnessed the hundreds of thousands of dollars raised for “The Black Widow,” and similar contributions to “Dynamite.” And now we’re seeing the same effort in support of “The Iceman.”

As Christmas approached, Immonen was inundated with video greetings from dozens of contemporaries and rivals. Each message was heartfelt.

“The outpouring of love and support from the pool world has been remarkable,” Mika said from Costa Rica, where he was diagnosed and had begun chemotherapy treatments. “I’m speechless. It’s healing. It really is.”

It is, in fact, the most powerful — and most admirable — side of the pool world. In many ways, the pool community is a subculture, and subcultures have a habit of being tight knit and supportive of their own. When someone in the community is in trouble, the pool world doesn’t ask questions. It responds, immediately and generously.

For me, the response by the pool world in each case further enforced my argument that this subculture is special and unique and something I’m thankful to be part of. It helps put topics like pool’s warring factions into perspective. It is validation that people who haven’t caught onto the things that make pool great are simply missing out.

So, while I wish for professional pool to find common ground and work together for the growth of the sport, it is hardly my top wish for 2024.

What is? That’s easy. It’s not choosing a side. It’s choosing health for three iconic members of the family. I know I’m not alone.

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