Sunday, March 20, 2011

Eccentric Strickland defying Predictions

Crowd pleasing star so far beating Van Boening

In defiance of the predictions, Shane Ban Boening so far is getting his clock cleaned in the 100-game shoot-out with the very much older, very much more volatile Earl Strickland.

The 100-ball challenge match, held in Youngstown, Ohio, has now finished its second day. Strickland leads 70 games to 60. At one time Strickland held a 16-game lead. The match resumes tonight and can be viewed online at

Shane Van Boening, considered by many as America's greatest player, nonetheless appeared somewhat flummoxed by the larger scale of the 10-foot table used in the $20,000 winner-take-all event.  The South Dakota Kid remained relatively impassive for the entirety of the evening, although a painful grimace would creep across his face after his failed shots, of which there were several.

Strickland, meanwhile, seemed mostly in command, if not exactly at ease. Wearing large green ear muffs to stifle out the crowd noise, and with weights on his shooting arm, the increasingly eccentric Hall of Famer would captain the cueball around the table clutter like a schooner in a busy harbor. Between games he would produce a magnifying glass to examine the racked balls, earning him the nickname "Earl-lock Holmes" by some of his snarkier fans. He also wagged his finger on occasion at a distracting crowd member -- and even complained about theactionreport camera operator. But through it all he never lost his cool, despite predictions by some that his famous volatility would be his undoing during the long event.

In fact, Strickland continues to defy predictions. An informal poll had fans favoring Van Boening over Strickland by 25 percentage points. In a separate contest sponsored by, Van Boening is nearly a 2-1 favorite. Fans calling the match for Van Boening predicted he would win by about 15 games (see the chart at right). The younger player did manage to close to as few as 5 games before Strickland again opened up a sizable lead. On balance, Van Boening picked up one game from the previous night's outing.

The evening's competition was characterized by plenty of safety play in which both players made use of the long table to force tough shots. Frequently, either Van Boening or Strickland would find themselves confronted with tough shots in which the cue ball was parked at the center on one end rail, and the object ball parked on the other.  The night's competition ended with a Van Boening scratch on the three-ball, just as he was reaching across the table using the bridge. The score then stood at 60-69, but Strickland followed up the error with a quick run-out, bringing the score to 60-70.

This means that in order to win the 100-game challenge, Van Boening now needs 40 games but Strickland only needs 30. The third and final set of the pay-per-view event can be viewed live tonight at

-- R.A. Dyer

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