Saturday, January 15, 2011

PoolSynergy 15: Earl, Willie and Team Pool

In the youtube video, above, Earl "The Pearl" Strickland illustrates why some believe pool should remain an individual endeavor. It was taken during the 2006 Mosconi Cup, conducted in the Netherlands.  Judging from the video, it appears that Earl's cue did not simply break, but actually exploded. I love the obnoxious air horns, the wiseacre heckler. I can't speak Dutch, but I imagine he's congratulating Strickland for a job well done.

Phoning it in
For this month's edition of PoolSynergy, we've been asked to write about pool as a team sport. I have to confess that I do not play pool as a team sport, and so have few ideas on the topic and no over-arching theme this month. In other words, I'm phoning it in. That's a picture of me doing so, at right.

I do, however, have two unrelated observations -- one from me, and one from Hall of Fame player Nick Varner.

Willie Mosconi: team player?
First Observation: Let's talk about the Mosconi Cup. It's a great event. I find it ironic, however, that what must be considered the most high-profile team event in pool is named for a man who, like Strickland, did not always play well with others. William Joseph Mosconi, one of the greatest players in the history of our sport, was famously moody, a man with little patience for fools. Mosconi would stomp about during tournaments, chastise overly loud audience members and once allegedly attacked a tournament promoter. But boy could Willie play.

Would you want him on your team? And how about Ralph Greenleaf? The legendary player was drunk more often than not. His out-of-control antics even led to an eventual ban from tournament play. Mosconi and Greenleaf played at least two exhibition tours together, but, as far as I know, were never teammates in competition.

Nick Varner
Second Observation (from Nick Varner): As you may recall, I asked Nick some time back about his ideas for fixing pool. The Hall of Famer is the first man in history to win back-to-back titles in the U.S. Open. He's been playing and promoting the sport for years. Varner said one key to future success could be team play. He imagined the possibility of a domestic tour, but with groups of players representing individual U.S. cities or states. In the Mosconi Cup, it's the U.S. versus Europe. With Varner's idea, it would be Texas versus New York, or Los Angeles versus Cleveland.

Varner calls the Mosconi Cup one of pool's most exciting events. He has participated both as a player and as the U.S. team captain. "To really make this game (successful) we need to figure out how it could be economically feasible to have teams like in the NBA or the NFL," he said. "We could have state teams. This creates a geographic fan base. Right now there isn't a whole lot of team stuff going on. But with a Georgia team versus Florida, say, that automatically hits us like a college sport. This (attracts) the sports fan."

Part of Earl's Strategy All Along?
And finally, a note about the video, above. After his assault on that poor defenseless cue,  Earl went on to win his match against Team Europe player Thomas Engert by a score of 7-4. The event that year ended in a 12-12 tie, a good enough showing for the Americans to retain possession of the Mosconi Cup.  It was the only recorded tie in the history of the event.

With Earl on the Mosconi Cup team, the Americans have amassed a record of nine wins, three losses and one tie.  Two of those three losses and the tie came after 2006, well after Earl's heyday as a player. Without Earl, the Americans have amassed a piddling record of two and two.

What does this tell me? First, that during Strickland's heyday the Americans were nearly unstoppable. Of course it's true that teammates like Johnny Archer and Corey Deuel had something to do with the team's winning ways. But it's hard to argue with the Americans' success during Earl's glory years.

Therefore I conclude that when Earl is at the top of his game, you want him on your side. Antics or not, The Pearl wins games. If I could create a dream team, I'd also want Willie Mosconi and Ralph Greenleaf. Imagine the mayhem! Imagine the chaos!

What do you think?

About PoolSynergy

Pool Synergy is an online collaborative effort by pool and billiard bloggers, in which each agrees to write about a single theme. PoolSynergy submissions are published simultaneously by each of the participating blogs on the 15th of every month. To read a list of the other fine contributions this month, check out the Kicks, Banks, Caroms and Combos blog, which you can find here.

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