What Credibility? Stop the Insanity!

Imagine this. Tiger Woods trails Ernie Ells in the final round of the U.S. Open by 3 strokes going into the par 5, 17th hole. He launches his drive down the right side of the fairway where it hits a branch and bounces through the trees onto the adjacent 14th green and rolls into the cup. The crowd oohs and aahs and then cheers because Tiger now leads the championship by 1, goes on to win by one stroke, claims the 1999 U.S. Open Championship and the $250.000 first prize check, and proceeds to make millions of dollars in endorsements, all as a result of one lucky shot off of the 17th tee. Funny? Ridiculous? Insane? Of course. Golf was designed to be a game of skill, in which the player goes for a specific, undisputed target. No self respecting golfer would make such a shot and award himself with a hole in one, let alone have the outcome of a prestigious professional event be determined by such ludicrous nonsense.

Why then, may I ask, do we allow such occurrences on the pool table, actually be considered successful offensive shots by the player who commits one? By “one” I mean a blatantly, ridiculously, astonishingly, agonizingly lucky shot in which a player fails to make the object ball into the intended pocket and it, as if it had eyes, meanders its way into one of the remaining five pockets on the table, Wow!! That took a lot of skill, did it not? Lets award this player by letting him continue his run and increase chances to win the trophy and the cash. That makes plenty of sense. As Bobby Hunter said about another rule, “Who’s responsible for this rule?” and, how can we, as intelligent people, keep using this rule for even one more day?

We talk about how pool deserves respect, credibility, and major corporate sponsorship, yet how will the game ever receive it as long as this rule exists (slop counts) and screams out “this is a game of luck which can be won by anybody who has the basic motor skills to drive the cue ball into the object ball and watch it fly around the table and hopefully land into one of SIX pockets, or maybe knock another ball or even the game winning 9-ball into any random hole.”

Pool will always be considered a joke as long as this is allowed. Thankfully, someone had the best interests of the sport in mind when making the rule to call the 9-Ball during the ESPN Ultimate 9-Ball Challenge. Unfortunately, this rule is cosmetic and insubstantial because they failed to realize that “lucking in” an object ball previous to the nine is usually just as good as lucking the 9, because the players involved are “run out players”.

Rule makers please hear my cry, POOL IS NOT PINBALL, SLOP RULES WILL FOREVER DIMINISH THE CREDIBILITY OF POOL IN THE EYES OF THE PUBLIC, and rightly so, slop just is not professional. Luck, as in any sport, will still be a factor, just not so unconscionable. In the era when Pocket Billiard Championships made front page headlines, the players had to call every ball and the intended pocket. I believe this is no mere detail, rather, a fundamental prerequisite to credibility, fair play and multi-million dollar marketing success. Why wait? The time for this sport to bloom is now.