Ultimate Ten Ball Championships - Bridges Burned?
I began my journey with the Ultimate Ten Ball Championships due to my love for the game. The skill and artistry required to make those stubborn spheres obey are both amazing and unique. The game has a history of storied battles and is filled with masters like Greenleaf and Mosconi whose very names evoke emotion in the hearts of those who have embraced the game.
The game of late has fallen on bad times. Sponsorships are down, tournaments are down, television seems like yesterday's dream. Only a handful of professionals can earn a living at their occupation. Pool rooms know more closings than openings, and retailers are finding a smaller audience for their offerings.
Admittedly, the game has found strength in Asia, but even that gem is a sore point as it has helped accelerate the decline of the game in the West. In the three years that I have been involved in the professional game by organizing and completing the Ultimate Ten Ball Championships series, I have met a lot of fine people and made some good friends. I have sympathy for all of them as it appears they have their fortunes tied to a floundering ship. And the problem is that not only is no one bailing the boat, no one even seems to know where the buckets are stored.
I have searched for lighthouses in the darkness and I see none. The WPA has as its reason for not organizing its own events the fact that it has no money. But I have not been able to discover a reason that they do not at least hire someone to seek funding for International events, events that they control themselves rather than awaiting the arrival of promoters with their own agendas who allow the WPA to tag their events. The WPA assumes weakness as a posture and then reacts to misfortune with the excuse that the canceled or late-paying WPA events are not their events after all and only the promoters are at fault for anything that goes wrong. They require no firm structure to their events and allow promoters to play fast and loose with schedules and even payouts. It is management by avoidance of responsibility. It is a weak position and one with no track record of success.
For the game to prosper it must have a central point that all may reference. There should be a single organization that shepherds the game along. One group with all of the responsibility and to where all would go for information and to partner with the game. The players and fans alike must agree that this organization writes all of the rules and enforces them uniformly. All promoters at all events should be required to escrow the prize funds with that organization. The very top players (at least the top 3) should have their travel expenses covered by this organization to major international events.
Of course the WPA is already in place and would be the proper body to oversee the game. But the President of the WPA appears hampered at most every turn by the politics of the member Federations. These politics paralyze the WPA itself as what one faction supports another opposes and so progress is frustrated before it begins. Most of the Federations are useless. Africa and Oceania cannot justify their own existence. South America is rudderless and activity there sporadic with very few events and no World Ranking events to offer. The EPBF is the most active body and is to be lauded for their efforts but their efforts have not led to a unification of pool in Europe nor to the progress of the players under their command. Their star players find it necessary to travel far afield to generate even a modest income.
The APBU seems much more interested in influence than in the game. Their actual activities seem to mostly consist of sitting by and watching promoters in China and the Mid-East conduct tournaments without any assistance from the APBU. This does not stop the APBU from collecting sanction fees even though, as with the WPA, what assistance that garners is limited to date protection and generally staying out of the way.
In North America the BCA is the Governing Body of Professional Pool. But the governance is limited to a Ranking System. No events, no player organization, no guidance for promoters. I ran two BCA Ranking events in the USA and never got a single phone call, email or any offer of assistance or support from the BCA. Again, they 'tagged' my events as points events, but no assistance or even suggestions were forthcoming. I am told again the reason for this malfeasance is the lack of money and staff. And again I ask: who is responsible for raising the money? If no effort at funding is made then this can not be respected as a valid reason. And plans to take the reins of the game and organize it are laid with great vigor and then lain to rest in committees. Committees will debate as the game crumbles beyond support. Action is needed now. Everyone knows it and no one acts on it.
The players I dearly love have been their own worst enemies for years. They will follow any carrot that comes along rather than doing the work required to right their own ship. When asked why the game is in decline they all have ready answers, but none of them even includes a glimpse in the mirror. No one wants to accept responsibility for a game that has evolved into boring showmanship that cannot attract an audience. No one will step up and organize a true players group that works to progress the game and its future rather than the agenda of some small group or even individual.
The latest incarnation of a players union is the ABP. It does nothing except raise its head every year at the US Open and coerce players into events promoted by members of their self-serving Board. Bonus Ball appeared with a totally unproven promoter and received no attention from the ABP and the ABP ignores that fact. The players sit silent, afraid of their masters. Many of them tell me they did not join the ABP but feel no need to ask that their names be removed from the membership list. They allow their names on that list to be used to attract and abuse sponsorship monies that never find a players' pocket. The players complain that the promoters are making a living off of their backs. Friends, if promoters were making even decent money there would be lots more promoters. Opportunities would be explored vigorously if they existed. There is only one promoter who is lightening the purses for his own reward and he is the one running your player organization. The ABP sanctions and applies the pressure to its membership to attend the Johnny Archer Classic ($8,000 added) and two events in Louisiana ($7500 added each) but lifts not a finger to fill the field at the $75,000 added Men's Ultimate Ten Ball Championship. They can encourage fields in Atlanta and New Iberia but not in Tunica even though the added money was much greater. You tell me. Is that politics or solid management? I take no personal insult at the lack of support for my events from the ABP. But the logic leaves me shaking my head. And the fact that the players actually follow such absurdities is quite sad.
The women have fared no better. In the mid-90's or so they had lots of their events on ESPN here in the states and they had a gentleman who sold those programs to countries outside of the US. They then lost key personnel and the organization went into reverse. Today they are down to less than a handful of events, one or two that are shown on the ESPN computer channel, none on television, and the overseas market lacks their former expertise to explore.
I came into this professional arena preaching the value of unity and now I leave it with the same message: You will get nowhere as long as you continue your current "protect my pie" policies. If you do not unite to pursue a common goal and become willing to actually do the work required to achieve your goals you will not advance. Your army is running amok at the very moment it needs to be joining ranks.
I cannot continue to waste my efforts. Had any evidence been shown me that the powers that be would be willing to unite their efforts I would have happily enlarged my tournaments to prize funds exceeding $1,000,000 each year for the next five years. But in the current climate that would be foolhardy. It would constitute making a decision based on emotion rather than logic.
My eyes will remain open. My ears will wait to hear the sounds of a game united in the pursuit of a common goal. My passion is not gone but reason demands a long pause and a wait until the leaders of the game decide to lead and the players begin to understand who should be followed and who should be ignored. I unfortunately doubt that I will be receiving any positive news. There is no sense of urgency on any front, be it player, federation or governing body, to rescue a drowning pastime from the chilling waters. All seem patient to wait and see if the lake evaporates instead. Because that would be easier.
My heart remains with you,