clash royale hack
HomeAbout Billiards DigestContact UsArchiveAll About PoolEquipmentOur AdvertisersLinks
Tips & shafts
By George Fels
Consulting Editor George Fels has been writing for Billiards Digest since 1980, and his "Tips & Shafts" column is usually our readers' first stop when they crack open the magazine. For better or worse, pool has been his only mistress for 40-plus years.

• May 2021
• April 2021
• March 2021
• February 2021
• January 2021
• December 2020
• November 2020
• October 2020
• September 2020
• August 2020
• June 2020
• April 2020
• March 2020
• February 2020
• January 2020
• December 2019
• November 2019
• October 2019
• September 2019
• August 2019
• July 2019
• June 2019
• May 2019
• March 2019
• February 2019
• January 2019
• December 2018
• November 2018
• October 2018
• September 2018
• July 2018
• July 2018
• June 2018
• May 2018
• April 2018
• March 2018
• February 2018
• January 2018
• November 2017
• October 2017
• September 2017
• August 2017
• July 2017
• June 2017
• May 2017
• April 2017
• March 2017
• February 2017
• January 2017
• December 2016
• November 2016
• October 2016
• September 2016
• August 2016
• July 2016
• June 2016
• May 2016
• Apr 2016
• Mar 2016
• Feb 2016
• Jan 2016
• December 2015
• November 2015
• October 2015
• September 2015
• August 2015
• July 2015
• June 2015
• May 2015
• April 2015
• March 2015
• February 2015
• January 2015
• October 2014
• August 2014
• May 2014
• March 2014
• February 2014
• September 2013
• June 2013
• May 2013
• April 2013
• March 2013
• February 2013
• January 2013
• December 2012
• November 2012
• October 2012
• September 2012
• August 2012
• July 2012
• June 2012
• May 2012
• April 2012
• March 2012
• February 2012
• January 2012
• December 2011
• November 2011
• October 2011
• September 2011
• August 2011
• July 2011
• June 2011
• May 2011
• April 2011
• March 2011
• February 2011
• January 2011
• December 2010
• November 2010
• October 2010
• September 2010
• August 2010
• July 2010
• May 2010
• April 2010
• March 2010
• February 2010
• January 2010
• December 2009
• November 2009
• October 2009
• September 2009
• August 2009
• July 2009
• June 2009
• May 2009
• April 2009
• March 2009
• February 2009
• January 2009
• October 2008
• September 2008
• August 2008
• July 2008
• June 2008
• May 2008
• April 2008
• March 2008
• February 2008
• January 2008

Best of Fels
April: When Jack Played Mizerak
April 2019

By George Fels
[Reprinted from February 1994]

[Reprinted from December 1994]
Hey, Jack. You wanna play Mizerak?”

As either of my late parents would shriek in bitterness if they were able, I was a speech major in school and therefore attuned to how something is said as well as to what. And there was something I heard in my best friend’s obscenely proud “Yeah!” that gave me unrest.

The setting, in the early ’70s, was innocent enough: Open a commercial billiard rooms with Brunswick tables and among the perks was an exhibition by one of their advisory staff as part of your grand opening. At the time, that staff included Steve Mizerak, and while it’s sheer conjecture as to when the great player’s game might have peaked, the rolls weren’t exactly going against him back then. Four consecutive U.S. Open straight pool crowns, two World Championships not long after that, plus newfound television advertising stardom. Big Miz had Big Mo. Jack Gunne sounded all too eager to thwart that momentum and I leaped into the breach to lend what I must have thought was assistance.

“Now I hope you understand, Jack,” I tried, “that there’s a sort of protocol to this. The challenger is expected to play wide open — no defense — so that the champion can show what he can do; and the champion is expected to give the challenger some turns at the table, so he can do some scoring too. The theory is that the challenger can’t win anyhow, so they might as well put on a good show. That’s how it’s supposed to go.”

“Bleep that,” Jack Gunne reflected thoughtfully. “I’m playin’ t’ win!” “No, ox,” I said with miraculous patience, born of utter despair. “There is no winning. It’s 150 points and he can run out. You can’t. It’s just that simple. He can take it easy on you, or he can pulverize you.” Now Jack had two favorite sextets of words. One was, “I can’t play; I’m too upset.” And the other was, “I don’t want to hear it.” On this occasion, he chose the latter. While it is well beneath me to propose such a stereotype as all Irish are stubborn, I can assert with certainty that this one was, who made up for a great many who are not.

But it would be just as easy to judge him by his competitive streak, which was at least a kissing cousin to his stubbornness. Win or lose — usually lose — Jack was still ready to play every day without fail. His theory was that pool was the only aspect of his life where bad luck evinced itself at all, so it might as well be exorcised. And his luck at pool was genuinely horrible, almost as if predestined. He was easily capable of running 30 or 40 balls, but it was much more like him to luck into a way not to run the balls and jovially broadcast his misfortune to everyone else. Opportunities got away from Jack, who played pool very much as he lived, which frequently seems to be the case.

On the night of the exhibition, however, he was the champion of uncharacteristic conservativism. And when he ducked his cue ball behind the stack after sinking the match’s first six balls, with other shots still available, I distinctly heard one of the several hundred spectators mutter, “Aw, Jesus.” Mizerak gave Jack a studied stony stare but returned the safety in silence. Jack proceeded to take all the pace out of the match. Run a few, duck; return a duck; duck again. Brought to the table all too often merely to roll out of safeties and back into them, Mizerak was showing his lower teeth within the match’s first four racks, no sanguine sign. By the eighth rack, he was talking to himself, even more ominous.

However, just as it is said that the elephant schleps through the jungle but gets where he’s going all the same, the game did make grudging progress. Down 90-60 or thereabouts, Jack was still within that attainable 30-ball run when, to add a bit of local color, he maneuvered the Mighty Miz into the game’s ultimate humiliation, three consecutive scratches. Mizerak and the 3 ball were the same shade of red. He rebroke the full rack of balls; Jack disdained safety play for once and vaingloriously slammed an object ball into the rail, breaking open many others.

Having watched his worthy adversary flush billiards exhibition decorum down the tubes long since, Mizerak was not about to restore any. Speaking directly to Jack but clearly meant to be heard by one and all, Mizerak orated grandly, “Well, you can just siddown now!”

True to character, Jack remained standing through the first 45 or so of the inevitable 75-and-out, as though he were in his regular lunch hour sessions with me; and Mizerak made it a point to make eye contact after every one of those balls. “Six!” Plop. Stare. “Thirteen!” Plop. Stare. And he began to swagger and call his next shot position while the balls were still rolling; his A-game moves. “I can’t play anyway,” Jack confided to me at one point, enlarging his customary utterance by one word. “I’m too upset.”

Finally, he melted back into the chair for the run’s last 30 balls, and circulation returned to the audience’s collective buns. The next day, the Chicago Tribune primly reported that “Steve Mizerak, Perth Amboy, N.J., defeated Jack Gunne of Chicago, 150-58, in a pocket billiards exhibition.” Jack had the clipping laminated and mounted in a professionally drawn caricature of himself; his “thought bubble” read, “Brutal. Just brutal.”

Jack’s gone now, dead at 46; it’s probably only Mizerak and I who remember the game, and maybe not even that many. What I remember most was thinking just how much of you ultimately shows up in your pool game, whether you plan it that way or not; and how watching Jack lose like that was probably the hardest thing our friendship would ever ask me to do. Until I lost him too. As things turned out, his luck wasn’t that terrific outside pool either.