(November Issue 2001)

Have you noticed where the image of the pool player has been and is now going? Or whether or not the image has made any changes at all? In case you haven't notice then it's time you look, and while you're at take a look at yourself too! The older image of the pool player paints, a rather tainted picture. Although most of the champions were men of integrity, the next level players were that of a hustler's, thieves, con man, and others, giving out a bad image to the aura of pool.

The pooloom was a dark, quiet, mystical type of place. It was an action place.Things happened there! It was both an exciting and scary place to be. Nobody ever told another person not to gamble with someone. This was an unwritten rule! He didn't know whom to trust, so you didn't trust anyone! There were con men everywhere waiting for their opportunities, ready to pounce on the unwary, eager for a chance to fleece their opponent and take every cent he had! It was a time of confusion. The Vietnam War was going on. We had the lottery system in effect, drafting men into the military left and right! We were all afrad we'd be drafted, go overseas, and die for a cause we knew nothing about!

Pool, drugs, and everything else was heavy on the scene during that time. We wanted to experience all that we could! Fear of being drafted and dying was a driving force. Everyone gambled! Hustlers and con man made large sums of money lying, cheating, dumping stake horses, and so on. It was greed that checked many good players out of the championship level. Money was their friend. It came fast and was easy to make!

I'm not saying, don't gamble. Gambling is one of the greatest ways to test your ability under pressure. It also increases and creates the need for the player to improve, at an accelerated rate. Clearly, gambling is essential to pool. Image is also important. The gambling image of the past needs to become more dignified in order to insure the future growth and development of this sport. As executives all over the world are beginning to enjoy this sport more and more, we need to take on their style of attitude towards pool. They gamble large sums of money in order to produce the same kind of pressure a tournament would provide. In other words, the executive crowd is using the gambling as a tool to improve, rather than win the money. The money is just a way of keeping score. Evolution is inevibable. To evolve is to change. Pool is evolving from the hustler era into the player era and yet, still needs your help. Today's billiard rooms are much different than those of the past. They now have beautiful bright colored carpets, track lighting, vivid wall colors being spotlighted with soft lights, state-of-the-art music systems, and generally an atmosphere much like the disco's of the '70s. Gambling rarely exists anymore. The action seems to be headed in the direction of tournament play, and with the tournaments, notoriety. The tournament winners are in the spotlight, being closely examined and scrutinized by the public. The public is looking for reason why they would, or would not enjoy taking this game up as a recreational sport. Most tournament winners, aware of this experience, rise to the occasion, de-light the public and give pool a big nudge in the correct direction. Yet, the old hustler image hasn't totally left the game yet. Some players are going to tournaments conducting themselves with the old hustler image, crying, complaining, sharking, and generally doing whatever it takes to win. And when they can't win gambling, some of these people aren't even paying off. It's no wonder the public hasn't let go of this less desirable image.

These players desperately need to know the public eye is on them, ready and eager to judge their actions! Are they so unaware of their actions? Is this the image we want to present? And what about the rest of us? This problem is partly our fault too. After all, we do allow this crap to continue. Maybe, we could all try keeping each other in check from now on. It's time for every player, no matter what level, to begin conducting themselves in a professional manner. To be a champion is to compete with champions. You need to look like a champion, walk like a champion, talk like a champion, pack like a champion and respect others like a true professional. We need to lift the spirit of lesser players and encourage them to continue in their improvements. We need to promote pool as a fun game to play, no matter what IeveI of player a person is. This is the image we seek.

It takes a combined effort of all players, at all skill levels. Remember, you can be at the top of the heap, you can be at the bottom of the heap, or you can be in the middle of the heap. You're still part of the heap. It's a lot more fun to play a bad player with a good attitude, than a good player with a bad attitude. Its a more enjoyable experience to play a good player with a good attitude. You'll get a lot more games if your opponent feels honored to play you. Keep a good attitude. Represent the game with respect to your fellow players. Be a champion!

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