Professional Billiards Officially in Shambles

I’m just barely old enough to just barely remember when Minnesota Fats, Steve Mizerak, and Mike Massey did something on TV other than trick shots. They played real pool. They played whatever anyone wanted to play, but mainly, on TV, they played straight pool. They wore tuxedos. They playesd in rather large rooms. They had very polished announcers, and polite audiences. It was a respected sport. The times, they are a changin’, and it’s painful to see.

I love billiards. I hate what I’m watching on TV right now. Two punk kids in street clothes, playing in a gaudy, third-rate casino, to the whooping and hollering of people who look like they just came in from the bar. The announcers are poor and out of sync. The production work is shoddy at best. And to top it all off — in case you thought there might be a shred of class left in the sport, the players appear to be wearing, not sponsors’ patches (that would be a sign of class), but stickers. Stickers! Stickers that fall off during matches. Poor. Poor. Poor.

The announcers are Mitch Laurance and Jim Wych. Jim Wych can’t pronounce Efren Reyes for some reason, but seems otherwise knowledgeable about pool. Mitch Laurance doesn’t seem very knowledgeable about pool (in spite of being married to Ewa Mataya), but at least speaks fairly well. Both of them talk far too much about far too little in an attempt to sensationalize what should not be sensationalized.

Pool used to be announced in a similar fashion to that of golf. In my opinion, it deserves that respect, and to announce it in the way it is currently done is to demean the sport to the level of your average wrestling match.

Just stop.

Think about what the sport used to be. Think about why it was successful and popular. Think about who the sport appealed to and why. Yes — things have absolutely changed. I agree that there’s a demand for a more fast-paced game than straight pool, but I still think it’s the preeminent cue sport. However, the fast-paced game of nine-ball is still a chess game at the end of the day, and should be announced respectfully. I also agree that the days of wearing a tuxedo are probably done, though I also agree that there could be a more consistent look amongst the players.

Above all, I’m appalled by the use of stickers to advertise on street clothes. This is truly deplorable. I felt horrible for Danny Basavich when his fell off, which was followed immediately by a miss in one of tonight’s matches. These guys are playing for real money, and it’s an extraordinarily psychological game. A sticker falls, “did the camera see that?”, and then you’re conscious of the cameras, the audience, the world, and your head isn’t in the game. Get rid of those.

I’m disgusted. Later.