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2008 IPT Ultimate 8-Ball Viewer’s Choice Challenge Match
Tuesday, April 29, 2008 – Hollywood, CA
I received a last-minute invite to this interesting — spectacle on Monday. (Merci beaucoup, Kansas City and JDR!)
As usual, I apologize for the blurry photographs. Although nothing was said regarding cameras, I was pretty sure flash photography was not allowed.
Let’s take a little tour.
Stage. The tall chica with the platinum hair was one of a half-dozen “filler” members of the audience. These very pretty girls, dressed in various degrees of fancy clubwear and stilettos, didn’t know very much about pool but more than made up for their lack of knowledge with boundless enthusiasm for every shot made.
Control Tower. I didn’t get to watch this facility in action, but dang — all those screens look very cool and very important.
Four Horsemen of this Apocalypse. Kevin Trudeau wears Gucci loafers.
Pockets. The popular question “How big were the pockets?” always arises. Let me offer you the photographic evidence and you may continue with your debate.
I will now give you my impressions of the five long hours I spent mostly sitting on a hard bench watching great pool.
John Schmidt vs Oliver Ortmann
14.1 to 125 points
I don’t keep up much with the IPT and its Natural Cures for Boredom, so I wasn’t aware of the complete details of the evening’s festivities. It was a very welcome surprise for me to find out that I would be able to watch a straight-pool match between German shootist Oliver “The Machine” Ortmann and American hotshot John “Mr. 400” Schmidt.
As some of you know, straight-pool was one of the first games I learned to play and I used to play to 500 points during the summertime with another pool hall junkie back in my little home town. I wasn’t very good and my opponent routinely beat me with a 2:1 ratio on the score. But hey, you don’t have to be good at pool to enjoy it, right? I am the incarnation of that statement.
The Stage Manager Dude (SMD) started us all off on the correct foot by asking the audience, third-grade class style, “Who can tell me the difference between Straight-Ball and Eight-Ball?” Straight-Ball? No more words need be said regarding this…
Mr. Ortmann was his usual reserved self during the match, and Mr. Schmidt was his usual highly-entertaining self, full of wisecracks and emotions. I’m very jealous of you, Mr. Schmidt. Not only do you play great and have an endless supply of hilarious wisecracks, you also have a much better tan than I could ever hope to achieve AND you look great in pink.
After the match was over, Mr. Ortmann and Mr. Schmidt joined the rest of us in watching the following challenge match. I was able to sneak a photograph of each of them. We’ve all been in both their shoes at one time or another, I imagine.
I call these two photographs Portrait Of A Final Score.
My neighbor offered me this bonmot: “When you win, you really do get everything. Money AND the chicks.”
Efren Reyes vs Austin Murphy
8-ball race to 15
This match was very nice to watch due, in no small part, to the fact that we, the studio audience, DID NOT have the luxury of Mike “The Mouth” Sigel and Kevin “Natural Cures Make You Jail-Proof ” Trudeau.
After SMD let us out to pasture for a little while, we were herded back to our somewhat preassigned seats in the hard-ass bleachers. I estimate the audience numbered somewhere around 75 people. Not too bad. Here’s a quick snapshot of The Other Bleachers and their inhabitants. I recognized a few. 🙂
If you are wondering what some of these folks are pointing and laughing at, it was my neighbor Danny “Reyes Special Translation Force” Petralba. During one of the breaks, an interview segment with Mr. Reyes was being shown and Mr. Petralba was his translator. According to Mr. Petralba, he had great difficulty keeping up with Mr. Reyes’ conversation speed and blundered through the whole thing. As Mr. Petralba watched his work being streamed live to who knows how many viewers, his reaction was…
Ah, Danny Boy, don’t take it so hard. 🙂
The table set up for the match was a Diamond Pro-Am. I very much liked the light (most likely an aftermarket upgrade) under the table. I imagine it would make a great, if somewhat eerie, nightlight for a home pool room.
You might walk by for a glass of water in the middle of the night and see its beckoning glow — eight hours later, there’s still water in your glass, you haven’t bothered to call into work, your kids are hungry, your dog needs to pee, and you don’t really give a damn, because you just pocketed ball #526 and #527 is measuring up to be, as Mr. Schmidt so eloquently put it, “like putting a basketball through a Cheerio.”
I noticed the difficulty of playing in front of a camera. You break when SMD tells you to break, and, as such, it can be hard to get a rhythm going (especially for straight pool). At other times, you’re pretty much staring at some dude’s crotch (complete with giant electronic appendage) for every shot, crucial or not.
Rodney “The Rocket” Morris was also present for part of the event, and he even came bearing gifts — free bottles of his new energy drink (a joint-venture with fellow professional Raj “Look At Me, I’m British!” Hundal), Extreme Focus. I, being one of the unchosen few, did not get to try this drink, but general consensus deemed it similar to Gatorade. “Red Bull gives you wings!” “Extreme Focus gives you… eyes!” That would be a good selling point for pool players, no?
And finally, the sixteen-peso question: Real or fake?
The answer: Who cares? Enjoy the show. It IS free. 🙂
…it’s op-ed time!
Schmidt (125) d. Ortmann (74)
I haven’t seen a good straight-pool match played live and just ten feet away from me in ages. This match was incredibly enjoyable to watch. It is exciting to know that although the match score was 122-33 at one point in Mr. Schmidt’s favor, once Mr. Ortmann cut in that five-ball hanging in the corner and sent the cueball two rails to smash the stack open, it was very possible that the final score could be 125-122 in Mr. Ortmann’s favor.
There are few sports in the world where your opponent’s score could be at zero, or even in double-digit negative, and you could be one point away from winning when you miss and you KNOW the possibility of losing is huge. Oh, and you get to watch your opponent whittle away at your lead while you sit and try not to fidget too much. Ah, the beauty and brutality that is straight-pool.
Reyes (15) d. Murphy (6)
The final score was 15-6, so it wasn’t a complete blowout. Mr. Murphy started off a little shaky due to whatever it is that makes pool players shaky in front of a live audience, live internet streaming, their parents and siblings, the greatest pool player in the world, and Deno Andrews’ unflattering pink shirt.
Mr. Reyes was — Mr. Reyes. Crappy break or not, Mr. Reyes played the pool we have all come to expect from him. The safety Mr. Reyes plays late in the match, where he hits his object ball and then lets the cueball hit the bottom rail and curl itself snugly behind the eight-ball which is dangerously close to a corner pocket — well, that is just CLASSIC Reyes, isn’t it? That poetic little safety was worth the price of admission alone. (Thank heavens admission was free. I’m a cheap-ass that way.)
There is some controversy over this “Viewer’s Choice” match as many feel Mr. Murphy did not deserve to play in this match as he had been voted in after making a public appeal to the pool community. Let’s get something out of the way. As the oh-so-wise Clint “Unforgiven” Eastwood once intoned, “Deserve ain’t got nothing to do with it.” If your mortal enemy wins the lottery and is fat and happy for the rest of his life, did he deserve it? In your opinion, no (unless he gets all the fun drama that comes with being a lottery winner — but I digress). But, what are you going to do about it? C’est la vie. Mr. Murphy was voted in as a Viewer’s Choice. Whether the voting was rigged or not, whether his self-promotion and appeals worked or not — none of that matters now. The match has been played.
All that being said…
I don’t feel bad for Mr. Murphy. He got what he wanted. Whether or not he thought the match would pan out that way is irrelevant. He asked for a chance to play Mr. Reyes, in front of a live audience broadcast in real-time over the internet, and he got it.
I don’t feel good for Mr. Murphy. He got what he wanted. While there is no doubt he plays well, he did not play well in this match. Was it the pressure? The equipment? The choice of game (by his own admission, Mr. Murphy does not play much eight-ball)? It doesn’t matter. I do know I cringed on some of his missed shots out of empathy, and I know many of you did, too. We’ve all beaten rails into submission at one time or another.
In the end, he’s back at square one. This may have been the chance of a lifetime for Mr. Murphy, but as yet, he still has many years to go and many more chances for greatness. It’s up to him.
As for Mr. Reyes — goddammit, I’m going to take up shuffleboard. Screw you and your perfect pool.