I realize that there is an ongoing evolution in pool. Younger players, such as Archer and Coltrain, have always been emerging, and always will. Older players will continue to get older, and just fade away. There are no abrupt transformations where a group of veterans are simply replaced by youth. Each year is witness to one or two retirements, and the birth of a few new players on the tour. But for some reason, it seems that there are generations of players who emerge and fade away together.
Even in the sixties, one could find the occasional pool tournament on TV. I remember watching Willie Mosconi, Deacon Crane, Wimpy Lassiter, Minnesota Fats, U.J. Puckett, Jimmy Caras and others shooting it out on TV. I wish I had a tape of those events, but home VCRs were virtually unavailable back then. I also remember the newcomers, such as Mike Segal, Steve Mizerak, Nick Varner, Jim Rempe, and Buddy Hall. Today, Segal and company are the seasoned veterans being dispatched by the likes of Archer, Coltrain, Parica, Reyes, and Morris. Maybe one day my kids will remember the days of Archer. But, then again, maybe not. Maybe, with pool soon to be an Olympic sport, there will be so many great, young players, Archer will get lost in the traffic. Maybe. Maybe not.
I know that there was indeed a transition between Mizerak and Coltrain. Players like Earl Strickland, C.J. Wiley, Allen Hopkins, Jimmy Reid and Tom Kennedy were part of it. So why does it seem like I missed something along the way? Maybe, because I did miss something.
From 1980 through 1992, give or take a few years on both ends, I was too busy to follow the game. It is during this period that the players between Lassiter and Archer were raising hell, and I simply missed it. My loss. Those players are at the top now, and can look forward to many more years of success on the tour. However, now there is Archer and company. There are the Filipinos: Reyes, Luat, Parica and their team mates. And as if that isn't enough grain for the mill along comes, Michael Coltrain, Charlie Williams and Reed Pierce. Somehow I believe the age of the superpower is over. Future tournaments will be won by an ever increasing variety of players of all ages.
I attend the US Open every year. This year (1996) Nick Varner, Hall of Famer, and probably among the most endearing (and enduring) players on the tour, was in it all the way. He made it to the semi-finals, being taken out by the eventual winner, Rodney Morris. However, Nick was not about to go down easily. The other semi-final between Luat and Reyes was taken by the Reyes, who in turn lost to Morris in the final showdown. The final match was disappointing. But, that's another story.
Other older players who refused to go down early included Buddy Hall and Dallas West. Grady Mathews made a good account of himself too. Claude Bernatchez is one of my favorites. He is representative of the old guard, with polished shoes, creased pants and black vest. His has one of the smoothest strokes on the tour, not too unlike that of Dallas West, who makes love to the cue ball. Mizerak, while still a threat, lost to Charlie Williams, a young man fresh out of high school. Charlie Williams takes his time shooting, and seems to disrupt the pace preferred by more seasoned players. I overheard Mike Massey complaining about the pace last year when he lost to the Charlie. But, a win is a win. Charlie will play his game, as he should.
Speaking of the "stroke", it appears to me that older players stroke differently than younger shooters. Their position is achieved with a minimum of cue ball roll. Very little fancy stuff. Younger players tend be more aggressive with their positioning, taking more chances by going around the table to get a better third shot. Again, maybe it is just an appearance to me, and not a fact at all. I tend to see what I want to see sometimes.
I believe the new crop of whiz kids will have to share more honors than did their predecessors. I don't see a dominating player who can consistently better his peers. Reyes, Strickland and Archer come close. But Coltrain is hot on their heels. Morris and Luat are hot tickets, and of course, the old men are still a real threat. That's what I love about pool. No other sport makes so much room for senior players.
So who will be the next Mizerak, Segal or Varner. Email me and give me your best guess.
Happy Shooting! Jim & Pat