Around the Mosconi Cup – Our Third Day

Day two has closed and the score-line has not suffered much change. The Euro's still have a two-game pad and sit with a 5-3 lead. But there is not even a hint of tension in the American camp. They are quite used to storming back in the latter stages of this competition and plan to do so again in day three. The matches did not begin until 8 PM again on the second day and so Jim Wych and Nick Varner and I spent the day on a walkabout of the area.

We walked around the outskirts of the city, slipping past small beaches and harbors until we came upon the massive casino that occupies a large point of land. This building was constructed in 1870 as the private residence of the Prince of Malta. The portion of the building that overlooks the sea still has the fortifications and gun turrets in place where the cannon pointed out to sea and protected the Prince from marauding pirates and foreign forces. Malta is in a very strategic position, located just south of Sicily, and the residents here have always been adept at holding invaders at bay. During WWII they managed to keep the axis powers away for three years even though a blockade kept any outside supplies from reaching them. It would not be easy to invade this place. The shore is lined with boulders and the surf would crash landing craft into these and hold them from the beach.

From the casino we could see a large resort complex on the next point of land and so we took out again and made it there in about a half-hour. We rested in the lobby of the resort and swapped lies for an hour or so before taking off again and heading back on a different route that took us through the city center. We seemed to find the narrowest of streets. There were no sidewalks and we shared the road with cars that are adept at avoiding pedestrians. We became a little less confident of this when two cars passed that had their rear-view mirrors dangling from their doors. From then on our elbows were more tightly tucked into our sides and our pace quickened around the corners.

Back at the Hilton Captain Varner had to go gather the troops and prepare them for the evening. He has very tough choices to make. When you lead a band of heroes who all wish to partake in every battle it is difficult to tell them who will sit out and who will be crossing swords with the foe. "They all want to be out there" lamented Varner. Day three will be even more difficult. During the Strickland loss to Immonen late last night the crowd got into the game by taunting the mighty Earl and the European team seemed to join them in their effort to push the American past the edge. There is vengeance on the Yankee plates today. They do not simply wish to win, they want to humiliate, and Varner has given them solid advice on how to frustrate the opponents cues. Day three should be very 'interesting'.

In the hotel bar after the matches last night the two camps sat at tables some twenty feet apart and began making plans. There is now no love between the opponents and they avoided all contact with one another. They did not linger long in the bar. Soon they all went to bed for a good rest as the matches today begin much earlier, at 3 PM, and they will all be ready. Strickland is now the oldest member of the team but he is not going to let father time rob him of much. He rises early each day and goes out for a long run. He has lost weight and now carries no belly to the table. And he has gained insight with time. He now speaks of the importance of balancing the core of the body properly when shooting so that the aim is not affected by imbalance. Love him or hate him, Strickland carries a lot of knowledge around with him and the team pays attention when he speaks.

Rodney Morris is ready for the fray. He is the inspirational heart of the team and his energy and emotion can be felt whenever he walks into the room. His ready smile has now been traded for the countenance of a battle-hardened Marine. He seems ready to pounce on any weakness and may God save anyone who gets between he and the winning point. But the Euros carry an attitude of their own. They are a fairly reserved bunch (with the extreme exception of Tony Drago) and they prefer to let their sticks explain everything for them. They have learned from the imposing concentration of Souquet that emotion is to be left at home when playing pool. They would rather calculate their way to the nine ball than blast their way there and thus far their strategy cannot be called into question. But it is obvious that their hearts are not quiet. Once the math has ended and they have scored their point their hearts break out to the surface and they celebrate with the abandon of huns sacking the city. Even the laid-back Immonen urges the crowd into the victory party as he raises his hands to welcome the win with a smile that tells the world that there was never really any doubt.

For the well initiated today will be a study of contrasting wills and styles. Will the American fuse find powder or will the European storm snuff the flame? We may well find the score still close at the end of day three, but there is the very definite possibility that one side will find the wind favoring their sails today and leave the other side in a dead calm. Stay tuned as the Cup is polished and ready to find whichever eager arms can hold its treasure.