Snooker Fever Hits San Jose

Snooker fever has hit San Jose, CA and it's wonderful because it's very cold in the Gateway Ballroom at the Doubletree Hotel.

All over the hotel, smartly dressed men – some as young as 21, some over 40 for the Seniors' tournament – carry long, thin, aluminum cases filled with their snooker cues, sporting vests, bow ties and dress trousers. They have little clips with metallic chalk ready to use for each shot in their pockets. They come from England, Japan, the Isle of Man, India, almost every ex-English colony. Some speak English, some don't, but it doesn't matter. They're all proper gentlemen, and they're all sweet as all get-out. They communicate through the sport, and they communicate well. And of course there are 3 US teams and 1 Canadian team, to keep our North American presence known, lest you think snooker is NOT an American sport.

For indeed it is, and it's growing every year. Thanks to the work of Executive Director Alan Morris of the US Snooker Association, who aims to bring notice to the sport in the US. More on him another day

Indeed, as I watched matches today (there were 3 going on at one time; tomorrow and then on there will be, at certain times, 4), I saw some amazing shots, some amazing snookers, and some heartbreaking misses and failures to get out of snookers. Which, if the opponent chooses, makes the player stuck in the same situation again and again. Two subsequent misses and the player automatically loses. Talk about ruthless!

Of course not ever match is ruthless. One frame had an American player and a Scot battling it out until the final ball, when all of a sudden the game was tied, and a black ball ending had to occur. This means that the black ball is respotted on its opening spot and the cue placed in the opening circle.

The referee flips a coin, and whoever wins gets the first shot on the black ball. Of course it's nigh impossible to get it in from there, so he almost always just has to set up a safety. Which he did. But it was not safe enough. The Scotsman got the black ball in and won the match. Talk about exhilarating! I was holding my breath the whole time.

A few stragglers came in from the outside world, checking out the sport. They stick out, they do. Looking lost, as though in another world. As though completely bewildered. Maybe they'd heard that it was a sport like pool or 9-ball, and didn't expect the whopping 12'x6' table. Maybe they didn't expect the showmanship and gentlemanly nature (believe me, a woman's tourney is just as regal), unusual in most American sports. One guy was reading the rules of the game – so maybe he was really trying to learn. Whatever it was, it was enough to keep the sparse audience here, and I expect that as the days roll along, more and more people will come. And I'll keep you posted.

The DoubleTree Hotel in San Jose hosts to this international snooker competition, whose competition began today. Matches run at 10 am, 2 pm and 6 pm; admission is $5 for the regular matches, $8 for the semi-finals on the 25th and $10 for the finals on the 26th. For more information or to make reservations for the matches, please call Diana Slampyak, Press Officer, at 650.773.9633 or email her at