Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Weight, Speed, Amos and Mike Shamos

Mike Shamos. You got to love him. The respected pool historian gives Billiards Digest readers a bit of insight this month about the etymologies of "weight" and "speed" — two words that at first blush seem to be merely modern slang, but in actuality have long histories. Shamos' observations about "weight" are particularly interesting. As any pool player knows,  "weight" can refer to handicap points given to an inferior opponent to even the odds. In this month's Billiards Digest, in a small item in the Wingshots section, Shamos explains that this definition comes directly from a common handicap in horse racing in which younger horses are required to carry weights to even the odds with older horses.  I never really thought about this before, but it makes perfect sense.

Shamos is a longtime columnist for Billiards Digest and curator of the Billiards Archive, one of the world's largest collections of pool memorabilia and books.  He's also author of The New Illustrated Encyclopedia of Billiards, a must-have for any student of the game. In fact, you can find even more about "weight" in that book, including this gem:
"The term is used ... with great effect in the film The Color of Money. Fast Eddy, played by Paul Newman, is hustled by a chubby character named Amos, played by Forest Whitaker. At the end of the session, when Eddie has lost a considerable sum, Amos asks him, "Do you think I need to lose some weight?" (Meaning: "Maybe you could beat me if I didn't play so well.") The line is an inside joke to pool players, but taken by layman to refer only to Amos' girth."
In this month's Billiards Digest Shamos also penned a great homage to author Robert Byrne on the occasion of his 80th birthday. Bryne is one of pool's most successful authors, having sold more than 400,000 instructional books. He's also a Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame inductee. You'll have to pick up this month's BD to read the full take-out on Byrne, although you can read my short interview with the author here.

-- R.A. Dyer

1 comment:

Michael Reddick said...

Thanks for the education and background on the term "weight." Although I hate to admit it, I too did not catch the "inside joke" in Amos' comment. Thanks for the enlightenment!