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: Person of the Decade
ALL OF the discussion and debate about the players of the decade got me thinking. (Which is rarely a good thing!) Who was the person of the decade in pool? What was the story of the decade in pool?
The answer to both of those questions, of course, is simple.
Let's face it. No one made a bigger impact on billiards in the past decade than Kevin Trudeau and the ill-fated International Pool Tour.
Obviously, some will compare my selection of the infomercial king and best-selling author as Person of the Decade with Time magazine's selection of Adolf Hitler as the Man of the Year in 1938 a person of infamy as much as a person of greatness.
But, for all his faults (and there were many), Trudeau's foray into pool was far more positive than those of the numerous scam artists and crooked promoters the game has endured over the years.
Love him or hate him (and I'm guessing the only people who may fall into the former category would be designated fawner Mike Sigel and the still-IPT-employed Deno Andrews), Trudeau's mere presence elevated the sport even if only for a brief 16 months.
Who will forget Trudeau's initial announcement of a pro tour? At the time, Trudeau was riding a wave of success from his New York Times bestseller "Natural Cures." Trudeau had grand plans for the sport. He spoke of a big-money challenge match with Sigel and Loree Jon Jones. Then he spoke of a pro tour with multimillion-dollar prize funds. He spoke of job security, health care plans, pension funds, dental plans and dog-walking services for the players.
And Trudeau was genius about how this great tour would come together. Trudeau alone would pick the initial 100 IPT touring pros, and he asked players to submit resumes and letters explaining why he should offer them one of the coveted spots. I always pictured road-hardened pool hustlers sitting at the kitchen table, writing letters to Trudeau in pencil, their tongues sticking out from the corners of their mouths like they were penning a Christmas list to Santa.
That, to me, was the most lasting memory of the "Trudeau Era." The effect he had on the players was amazing. They hung on his every word, and with good reason. He boasted a tour that would launch with six tournaments and $8.5 million in prize money. Who will ever forget that first players meeting in Orlando prior to the "King of the Hill" tournament? Trudeau made attendance mandatory for all 150 IPT pros, despite the fact that only 40 would participate in the tournament. In a way, he was testing their commitment. Players were also instructed to wear suits. It was a sight to behold. Old-timers, young guns, the game's elite men and women all polished up and sitting at attention like school kids in church. And that's where he dazzled the players with talk of $100,000 guarantees to every IPT touring pro in the second season.
And what an impact he had. For a while, at least, pool players stood taller and walked straighter. They dieted and worked out.
Of course, the second season never came. In fact, the first season lasted just three tournaments. And, as was well publicized, the last of those events took 14 months to pay out. Trudeau blamed the government for queering a deal that would have guaranteed the IPT's future. Players were angry, and with good reason. The industry felt cheated as well. The list of unfulfilled promises was longer than the prize list.
Still, I can't help but thinking about all the things that Trudeau actually did. That tends to get lost in his pool legacy.
There is no debating the fact that from the summer of 2005, when he started the IPT and sent Sigel and Jones into battle in what will likely live on as the most extravagant pool tournament ever staged, Trudeau spent more than $13 million of his own money on the players and his events.
I'll never forget the Sigel/Jones challenge match. Trudeau spent nearly $1 million in production costs alone on what amounted to a three-hour event. He held a lavish celebrity-studded party in an MGM mansion the night before the tournament, had a red carpet, packed the stands with models. Then he paid Sigel $150,000 and Jones $75,000 for their three hours of work.
That was real.
And the King of the Hill? That nifty little event paid out $1.125 million to 40 players. And in one of the coolest gestures ever, Trudeau gave a spot to all of the living BCA Hall of Fame members, guaranteeing each $30,000 just for showing up.
Again, that was real.
What else was real? The $5 million that was paid out for the final two events. Were there problems? Yes. Do some players still feel shortchanged? I'm sure.
But I also know that Efren Reyes alone was paid $765,000 for playing in the IPT. How many years of winning every event in pool would it have taken him to earn that much?
I'm the first to admit that in many ways, Trudeau's unrealistic business plan ended up hurting pool every bit as much as it helped. A lot of air got taken out of the pool world when the IPT imploded.
But no matter how you slice it, I don't think there's much doubt that nothing in the last decade rivals the impact that Kevin Trudeau had on our little world.