I was having some toast and tea and came up with the idea to do posts where I ask a variety of peeps in the billiards world some questions.
It’s not original (I already did a ten-question interview earlier with John Bertone of Kamui), but I was only having toast and tea. I have very different, insanely brilliant ideas when I have steak and beer, or all-you-can-eat-buffet and unlimited Bloody Marys, but I don’t always seem to remember those ideas.
I now introduce: 10+1.
This series is just like it sounds — ten questions, plus one more.
|photo of Mark Griffin courtesy of OnePocket.org || Mr. Griffin is not missing an arm — he is playing one-handed one pocket.||Today’s guest is Mark Griffin, owner and CEO of CueSports International (CSI), the parent company of the BCA Pool League and USA Pool League. He is also a partner in Diamond Billiard Products.|
|Mr. Griffin has spent 45 years and counting in the billiards industry. He has owned pool rooms, most notably the Anchorage Billiard Palace in Anchorage, Alaska, and Gaslamp Billiards in San Diego, California. In addition to being a member of the BCA since 1988, he is a BCAPL Master player, a BCA Certified Instructor, and has served on the BCA Board of Directors.|
CSI affliate The Action Report will be presenting TAR 21, the highly anticipated rematch between “Alex “The Lion” Pagulayan and Shane “South Dakota Kid” Van Boening, starting this Friday, September 23, at 6:30 p.m. EST.
1. You are a major supporter of The Action Report (TAR). What made you decide to join the venture?
I was contacted about helping them out so TAR #1 [Corey Deuel vs. Shane Van Boening] could have commentators. Sounded like a cool idea — so I paid for Billy [Incardona] and Grady [Mathews] to show up. Buddy [Hall] had to cancel at last minute. I also drove 1,750 miles to go watch the event; Greg Sullivan went with me. Later on, I just jumped in with both feet because I think they can accomplish things others can’t or won’t.
2. Do you feel TAR has potential as a vehicle for the advancement of billiards into mainstream sports and casual players or is its main audience the serious pool player?
I think their main audience is going to be a combination of serious pool players and serious “students of the game” of all levels. There is a certain excitement that comes from watching two giants battle for a total of 20 hours. It might help propel pool into the mainstream, but I think it is geared for the action junkie in pool.
3. There has been some controversy regarding TAR as being an entity that glamorizes gambling in billiards and perpetuates the idea that billiards is a game of, and for, degenerates. What is your position on gambling in billiards? Do you feel it benefits or harms the image of the sport?
Gambling is more mainstream all the time — it is everywhere from Casinos, Indian Gaming, Bingo or state lotteries. My position is that everyone should have the right to choose what they want to do with their time and money. That includes gambling (or not gambling) on pool. I think there are many that feel gambling hurts pool. I do not agree. Does gambling hurt golf or poker? It is the actions surrounding the gambling on pool that can cause the problem. And that always comes down to the character of the players.
4. What kind of impact do you feel TAR has had on gambling in billiards since its inception?
Very little. All we have done is to provide a forum for top players to play a long set. We look at it as a two-man tournament. Pool is a game of skill, not of chance.
5. Is there any particular match-up you would like to see on TAR? What would the game and format be, and who would be the players?
I think it would be interesting to see how a lot of the Asian players would do in these long races. I know SVB [Shane Van Boening] does not do real well in the overseas events, but I think there are a lot of reasons for that. One of which is the shorter races.
It would be interesting to see Ricky Yang or Wu [Chia-Ching], or the older Ko brother [Pin-Yi], or [Francisco] Bustamante play SVB or a couple of other U.S. players. Another thing that could be explored is changing the format to two out of three races to 25 or 30. It changes the dynamics.
Among U.S. players, I would like to see [Johnny] Archer, Rodney Morris and SVB mix it up. And Earl [Strickland] never disappoints (but we need to keep him calm). I do not enjoy it when he gets “out there” but I really enjoy when he shoots!
A professional tour is a tour with the ability to send representatives to the World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA) world championship events.
In the United States, we currently have the Classic Tour run by the Women’s Professional Billiards Association (WPBA). The WPBA has three self-produced professional events on its 2011 schedule (the Masters, U.S. Open, and Tour Championships).
The most recent version of a men’s professional tour was the United States Professional Poolplayers Association (UPA) Tour which last held a self-produced event, their Tour Championships (the only event that year), in 2007.
6. Much has been said regarding the declining state of professional pool in America for both men and women. The men have not had a professional tour in many years while the number of events on the schedule of the Women’s Professional Billiards Association (WPBA) has declined in recent years. What do you think is the main reason for their decline?
Long and complicated answers. Now it can be blamed on the economy, but there are many other more basic reasons. The solutions have become kind of difficult. Without a patron sponsor, we are not going to see any huge upswings. What is needed is a sustainable plan. (Also see the answer for #10 which touches on a sustainable plan).
7. Do you think it would help to have both the men and women’s tours under the umbrella of the same governing organization? Should men and women compete in the same tournaments rather than in separate divisions?
I think there needs to be a re-organization of the professional cue sports in U.S. They [the men and women professional players] should be working closer together. They do have different products, however. I do not think most women would do well in the same division as men, but several events a year would be good (U.S. Open 9-Ball and U.S. Open 10-Ball, etc.).
8. Is it better to have a governing body sanction a selection of independent events to form a tour or should a tour establish and organize its own tour stops?
To be successful, a tour must work with existing events. There are only so many weekends and so many dates available. So, a sanctioning body will need to sanction existing events and probably combine with new events. Many think the U.S. has too many tours and stops. It fractures the market, and the expenses of going to events slowly bust out all but the very best players. But the professional side is very different than the amateur side.
9. A while back, I believe CueSports International had started the National Championship Series (NCS), which seemed to be almost a professional tour of sorts. The NCS featured qualifying tournaments held around the country culminating in a national championship tournament for the qualifier winners. There were to be tournaments for all the major games — 8-ball, 9-ball, etc. What happened to that series?
The economy pushed that to a back burner. We had a very successful 8-ball (winner Brandon Shuff will finally get his World 8-Ball Championships entry this upcoming year)*, and a pretty good 9- and 10-ball. We also did a 14.1 in July 2009, with winner Dan Louie getting a spot into the World Championship.
The NCS has not been forgotten — but we also have acquired U.S. Open recognition for all the disciplines except 9-ball. So, the concept will stay but the name may change. It was a monumental task with some basic hurdles; the room owner had to be proactive, and we needed more support from the “top” players. This also goes back to question #6 as to what can be causing the decline of the game. We could talk about this for a long time.
The National Championship Series was a very cool idea. I really do want to revive it in some form because it provides a format for pool for the whole U.S. It is needed to help give some sense of order to the game.
* The World 8-Ball Championships was not held in 2010 but was revived in 2011. Brandon Shuff will be entered into the 2012 event.
10. Although you are the main figure leading the BCA Pool League, one of the largest and most popular amateur pool leagues in the country, you have put on quite a few major events geared towards professionals (such as the U.S. Open 10-Ball Championships). Do you have plans, or even thoughts, about starting a professional tour?
I probably would not start a pro tour (as most think of it). We will be doing more things for pros — some of them will be in traditional events and others will be selected players for special events.
Please keep in mind CSI has two amateur leagues under its umbrella. The BCAPL is the oldest national league system (over 33 years old) and the new USAPL [USA Pool League], which is very different. USAPL is handicapped [BCAPL is not] match play and part of every week’s dues will go towards supporting pro pool. The only way our sport will be strong into the future is if the professional and amateur players work together. If the pro players would understand that, and if they would support the USAPL, they might get to see several events a year with $20,000 to $40,000 added. That would only take about 20,000 to 25,000 active league players.
Most of the answers are here. Many of the concerned parties are not willing to work for the solutions or there are so many conflicting agendas that nothing gets done. That is also a reason why a new organizational body needs to be founded, and it does not need to be run by the players. They have shown that they do not have the mindset or discipline to do an unbiased job. Maybe in time, we will take a shot at that [starting an organizational body], but only after some funding mechanisms are in place.
I also want to mention CSI is about to make some MAJOR announcements concerning CSI’s role in US amateur pool and also some statements that will address our role in some overseas events. If we are successful in making the overseas events happen, this will provide some funding to allow many of the top U.S. players to compete overseas. Hopefully that will help reignite the excitement in U.S. pool and its top players.
+1. Corned beef hash or chicken-fried steak?
Always chicken-fried steak.
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