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.
February: U.S. Cup Runneth Empty
Johnny Archer knows a little something about the Mosconi Cup. As America's top 9-ball player for more than a decade, Archer has proudly draped himself in the colors of Team USA in the transatlantic team tournament an astounding 12 times. And during that span of a dozen years, Archer has dropped several case 9 balls and has experienced the thrill of hoisting the team trophy nine times.
Over the last three years, however, Archer has not tasted outright victory. Team USA scrambled to a 12-12 tie in 2006, officially retaining the Cup. In 2007, on U.S. soil, no less, Archer and his teammates were passed up and trumped by the Team Europe, 12-8. And this past December, Archer and his mates were on the wrong end of the second-most lopsided decision in Mosconi Cup history, a 12-5 pasting.
So when Johnny Archer says American pool is dangerously close to an extended vacation from Mosconi Cup victories, you listen.
"We need to get our focus back," says the now-40-year-old Archer. "And we need to get our desire back.
"The Europeans have simply outplayed us the last three years. We've always been ready to play and we fight 'til the end. But the last two years have been embarrassing. And I'm to blame as much as anyone."
Archer still blames himself for the lack of unity that was so evident in Las Vegas in 2007. Instead of staying with the team at the MGM Grand, Archer stayed and dined with friends in another part of Las Vegas. The team was disjointed and combative.
Team USA has always been combative, but in recent years the infighting and general dysfunction has reached new lows.
"Two years ago, Mike Davis told me he didn't care to play on the Mosconi Cup team anymore," notes Archer. "It used to be something every player would kill to be part of. But that experience soured him so much that he just didn't enjoy it."
At the root of Team USA's internal problem is Earl Strickland, a Mosconi mainstay whose rudeness and combativeness have affected every aspect of the Cup. The self-destructive Strickland has alienated teammates and has offended opponents, fans, officials, TV viewers and hotel personnel. What was once mildly entertaining is now annoying and disruptive.
But whether or not Matchroom Sport officials finally pull the plug on Strickland's Mosconi Cup ventilator, Team USA will still face an uphill battle to regain its swagger and winning ways.
Team Europe appears to be deeper and younger, although Archer doesn't believe the balance of power has shifted all that much.
"We have plenty of good players in the U.S.," Archer insists. "But right now there are no tournaments, so we aren't playing as well."
"We just need to have fun again," says Archer, a huge golf fan. "The U.S. lost its edge in the Ryder Cup because the top players weren't having fun. You think Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are staying with and hanging out with the other players? No. It wasn't until Tiger was missing and they added a bunch of hungry young players who like to have fun to the team that Team USA won again. Guys like Boo Weekly, who doesn't care about the pressure or the opponents. He just went to have fun and play good golf.
"I'll tell you what," Archer offers. "Let me pick the Mosconi Cup team for the U.S., and I guarantee we'll have a great team. We might not even win, but we'd bring the fun back to the Mosconi Cup."
Given the opportunity, I believe Archer might be right.
It's worth a shot.