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Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Bud Selig to create task force on blacks in baseball

Major League Baseball, alarmed by its historic low 7.7 % of African-American players on opening-day rosters this season, will announce the creation of a formal task force Wednesday to help reverse the decline, three MLB executives told USA TODAY Sports.

The executives spoke on the condition of anonymity because Commissioner Bud Selig has yet to announce it.

The 17-member committee will consist of owners, executives and coaches, including Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, Chicago White Sox vice president Kenny Williams, Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg and Southern University baseball coach Roger Cador.

Selig is urging them to find ways to increase the pipeline of diverse athletes to baseball, particularly African-Americans.

The African-American percentage in baseball this season is the lowest since the Boston Red Sox became the final team to integrate its roster in 1959, according to a USA TODAY Sports study that includes major-league players on the opening-day disabled lists. It’s a drop from 8.05% last season, a dramatic decline from 1995 when 19% of the rosters were African-American players, and far from the peak of 27% in 1975.

“I never thought I’d see anything like this,’’ Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan told USA TODAY Sports in a telephone interview from Los Angeles on Tuesday. “But I’ve seen it coming. There, for a long time, there were a lot of African-American players to look up to and emulate, but there’s not enough big stars now to dissuade them from basketball and football.’‘

...“I’m not sure there’s a way to stem the tide,’’ said Morgan, Cincinnati Reds senior adviser. “There has to be more involvement to attract athletes to come here. Let’s hope this committee will help. There’s no doubt the movie will open eyes, but after that, let’s wait.’‘

Thanks to Wreck.

Repoz Posted: April 09, 2013 at 10:36 PM | 359 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   301. BDC Posted: April 13, 2013 at 03:20 PM (#4413184)
it really bugs me when movies aren't true to their own internal reality

Right. I never enjoy the Cracked.com features about how an actual Death Star couldn't really function, or something, because in Star Wars they do; that's the premise.

The moment in a baseball movie I can't forgive (and won't stop going on about :) is in Field of Dreams, where Ray Kinsella throws a pitch to Joe Jackson, who hammers it. Jackson is batting right-handed; and that's actually not the problem; it would be pedantic to object to that. The problem is that Kinsella says "That's right: you were a low-ball hitter." The movie's own reality is invested in making Kinsella out to be this huge Joe Jackson expert, and then it punches a hole in his expertise, because he provides some small detail about his idol and misses the larger inaccuracy. It's like somebody meeting the ghost of Abraham Lincoln and saying: "That's right, you used Ol' Snuff cologne" while not noticing that Lincoln is 4'6".

   302. cardsfanboy Posted: April 13, 2013 at 03:25 PM (#4413189)
"That's right: you were a low-ball hitter."


Wasn't the pitch actually quite high anyway? like waist high?
   303. Ray (RDP) Posted: April 13, 2013 at 03:33 PM (#4413201)
Bud Selig to create task force on blacks in baseball


Someone should tell Selig there's no such thing as blacks. Problem solved.
   304. cardsfanboy Posted: April 13, 2013 at 03:34 PM (#4413205)
Someone should tell Selig there's no such thing as blacks. Problem solved.


just white leather and red string.
   305. Morty Causa Posted: April 13, 2013 at 05:39 PM (#4413335)
Maybe, Jolly, Old, you can get someone to fix The Hustler so Newman looks right. After all, Neil Degrasse Tyson informed James Cameron that stars in the sky over the ship Titanic in the movie as it went down weren't right. It mattered to may be as few people as the way Newman held a pool cue in The Hustler, but Cameron fixed it:

“Neil deGrasse Tyson sent me quite a snarky e-mail saying that, at that time of year, in that position in the Atlantic in 1912, when Rose (Kate Winslet) is lying on the piece of driftwood and staring up at the stars, that is not the star field she would have seen,” Cameron told to Discovery.
   306. Ray (RDP) Posted: April 13, 2013 at 06:00 PM (#4413356)
Re Newman movies, did anyone else find The Verdict overhyped and basically slow and boring?
   307. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: April 13, 2013 at 07:03 PM (#4413423)
And while it doesn't have any bearing on The Hustler (emphasis added for Jack and Morty's sake),...


Okay, that was funny.

Speaking of trial movies (also one of my favorite genres), I loved The Trial of Sgt. Riker when I was a kid. I'm leery of going back to it, though. What I liked at age 10 didn't always represent the finest in filmmaking (although, of course, even at that age I understood, "ah, they've given Newman an expressive stroke with the cue, one evincing his early, internalized conflicts rather than the smooth stroke of a true pro".

edit: @306: I can see why you might think that, but no, I found the times the camera held a face or a shot, or did a slow pan, to good purpose, and the quiet soundtrack (one of the quietest movies ever shot, I'm guessing) a good choice for letting us get into the skin and the guts of an alcoholic whose soul is on the verge of being permanently lost. Jackie Brown, on the other hand. Good god. I'm sorely tempted to make my own cut. Staring at Pam Grier's face for thirty seconds for no reason for the umpteenth time drove me bonkers.

Gah--Jackie Brown is two and a half hours long; at least a half an hour is unnecessary 'holds'; another half an hour is going to be fat. Valentines are often boring to those not receiving them

edit2: the second open (immediately post-credits) to Serenity, the tracking shot through the entire ship (five minutes with one discrete cut) where we meet each of the crew through Mal, is one of my favorites. Even the dialogue is terrific.

   308. zenbitz Posted: April 13, 2013 at 09:10 PM (#4413468)
Has there ever been a realistic hand of poker in film or tv?
Hmmm maybe there were s couple in rounders but it was mostly fluff
   309. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: April 13, 2013 at 09:51 PM (#4413477)
I was just thinking about why Serenity is so smart and enjoyable... part of it is because the dialogue routinely refers to the context in which it is spoken, to matters past and future. Another smart move is having that wide variety of characters: smart, quiet, quirky, horny, witty, subdued; there's always a character of whatever ilk from which you need something spoken of, which in turn lets various characters speak lines that reinforce or deepen those characters. Dialogue is also often spoken with three or more characters present which gives the dialogue additional depth.

There's never a bad time for this quote from Serenity:

Jayne Cobb: How's a man get so wrong? Ain't logical. Cuttin' on his own face, rapin' and murdering - Hell, I'll kill a man in a fair fight... or if I think he's gonna start a fair fight, or if he bothers me, or if there's a woman, or if I'm gettin' paid - mostly only when I'm gettin' paid. But these Reavers... last ten years they show up like the bogeyman from stories. Eating people alive? Where's that get fun?

Did someone erroneously mention The Hustler was promoted as a look into the world of pool hustling? In fact, most of the publicity barely referred to pool at all. You wouldn't even know the film's subject, looking at some of the original posters/artwork.

@308: not that I know of. It really screws up those scenes, too. It's not that hard to get it right.
   310. Morty Causa Posted: April 13, 2013 at 10:07 PM (#4413480)
The Cincinnati Kid? A lot of the drama peaked as the card game was played out, I remember, but I haven't seen it since it came out.

EDIT: How about A Big Hand for the Little Lady?
   311. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: April 13, 2013 at 10:20 PM (#4413486)
The last hand in TCK doesn't make much sense. Iirc, Lancey would have been making two very foolish bets to get to the point where he had a useful draw.

   312. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: April 13, 2013 at 10:22 PM (#4413489)
Here we go, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Screw it. Doesn't work. Go to

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cincinnati_Kid#The_final_hand

   313. Canker Soriano Posted: April 13, 2013 at 10:22 PM (#4413490)
Has there ever been a realistic hand of poker in film or tv?

The poker game in The Sting is entertaining, though since it's fixed I'm not sure it really qualifies.
   314. Canker Soriano Posted: April 13, 2013 at 10:32 PM (#4413496)
The last hand in TCK doesn't make much sense. Iirc, Lancey would have been making two very foolish bets to get to the point where he had a useful draw.

First up card - Howard has (J)-8 suited, Kid has (A)-10. Kid bets the Ace, Howard calls (this is the most questionable bet, but it's not much of a movie if he folds here - plus loosely suited connectors, why the hell not?).
Next - Howard has Q-(J)-8 suited, Kid has (A)-10-10. Kid bets what he thinks is the best hand, Howard raises, maybe trying to bluff that he's got QQ and get the Kid to fold 10-10-X. Kid calls.
Turn - Howard has Q-(J)-10-8 suited, Kid has (A)-A-10-10. Howard's got a monster drawing hand, and having the 10 makes it less likely that the Kid is sitting on 3 10s (2 pair is still a possibility of course, and you might think that's what he has when he bets, but it's worth a call).

Then the last card, and it plays itself out as you'd think.

Good movie - I haven't seen it in awhile.
   315. BDC Posted: April 13, 2013 at 10:34 PM (#4413499)
Has there ever been a realistic hand of poker in film or tv?

Alternatively, any game of checkers that doesn't immediately end with one player jumping the other's pieces five or six times to win, or any game of chess that doesn't immediately result in the dialogue "Check." "Checkmate."
   316. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: April 13, 2013 at 10:38 PM (#4413503)
Hey, it ain't hold' em! :) Loose suited connectors where you barely beat the board is a lousy calling hand in stud. In a fast game Lancey's much better raising than calling here. He's got fold equity if he raises, and he needs at least one more free card to have any kind of draw if he can get the Kid to check to him after three.

Even in a weak game a call here would be objectionable.

@315: don't get me started with chess. The chances that a even a weak master can be surprised by a checkmate are essentially zero.

So after the third card, with 1k plus the ante in the pot the Kid bets a thousand, and Lancey raises to 2k. So, he's basically betting the pot and as you say representing Queens. I was wrong earlier; this is a credible bet. You might win it right there, and you might get a call then a check check after four if you want a free draw at your flush or inside straight.

In fast games calling is almost never right. The raise is here is a perfectly decent option.

The 3k bet on the turn was a bad bet by the Kid. He want to knock out flush draws, and knows at this point that he has the best hand. If Lancey has just Queens I suppose you want him in the pot against your AATT, but if he just has Queens he isn't calling your 3k bet.

There's 5k in the pot when the Kid bets 3k. Lancey needs only 4 to 1 to draw here (less if he has what he has, though we can set that off against the Kid drawing a full house on the last card), and by calling 3k he only needs to anticipate the Kid calling a 4k bet on the last round to make it worth his while.

The Kid should have bet 5k to knock out flush draws, and should never have let Lancey's last 5k into the game. Not when he knows Lancey can see his AATT on the board. 5k isn't much of a bluff at that point, and since this is table stakes the Kid actually has by far the best of it, since he can simply refuse to allow the best to be made.

   317. Publius Publicola Posted: April 13, 2013 at 10:44 PM (#4413504)
The Cincinnati Kid? A lot of the drama peaked as the card game was played out, I remember, but I haven't seen it since it came out.


As I recall, the Kid had 4 of a kind while Yancey scored on an inside straight flush. So yeah, it was a little unrealistic. Karl Malden's character was also dealing from the bottom of the deck for a short spell, which Yancey surely would have picked up on after awhile.

Finally, the final (and famous quote) "You're good, Kid. Very good. But as long as I'm around, you'll always be second best." is absurd. One game does not mean you're better in poker. There's too much luck involved. Some nights the cards flop for you and some nights they don't.
   318. Morty Causa Posted: April 13, 2013 at 10:53 PM (#4413512)
Smart Money (1931) is also an Edward G. Robinson movie where poker has a decisive hand. In fact, the end of that movie is reminiscent of TCK. Cagney has star billing also, but he is really only a supporting player (between the time he made this movie and the time it came out, The Public Enemy had made a star).
   319. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 13, 2013 at 10:55 PM (#4413516)
Did someone erroneously mention The Hustler was promoted as a look into the world of pool hustling? In fact, most of the publicity barely referred to pool at all. You wouldn't even know the film's subject, looking at some of the original posters/artwork.

You might want to look at some of the other artwork.

Oh, and BTW here's the first review of the movie in the Times. I might add that the film was shot on location at a pool room (Ames) that was located one block north of the Times Building.

DAD always said stay out of poolrooms, and obviously he was right, to judge by what one sees in "The Hustler," which came to the Paramount and the Seventy-second Street Playhouse yesterday. For the characters one meets in the succession of sunless and smoky billiard halls (to use a more genteel term for them) that are tenanted in the course of this tough film are the sort to make your flesh creep and whatever blood you may have run cold.

Indeed, one character says in the beginning that a pool-room looks like a morgue and "those tables are the slabs they lay the stiffs on."

We're glad we took the good advice of Dad.

But this doesn't say the weird assembly of pool players, gamblers, hangers-on and hustlers—especially the hustlers—which they used to call "pool sharks" in our youth, are not fascinating and exciting to watch at a safe distance from the screen. They're high-strung, voracious and evil. They talk dirty, smoke, guzzle booze and befoul the dignity of human beings. At least, the hustlers' wicked betting managers do. They have a consuming greed for money that cancels out charity and love. They're full of energy and action.

That's the virtuous quality of this film....
   320. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: April 13, 2013 at 10:57 PM (#4413518)
A great mechanic is very, very tough to spot, but yeah, a player of Yancey's caliber would have spotted a mechanic's grip right away if he was paying attention. Honest dealers are careful to avoid that kind of grip, so Shooter would probably have had to have change the position of the hand holding the cards. I'd have to rewatch the movie to see if his grip changes. Still, Shooter and Lady are dealing precisely because they're trustworthy, and if you trust the dealer, all it takes is a few hands, even one hand, to bust you out of a table stakes game.

Actually, PP, that hand was an excellent test of who the better player was, and if that's your criterion for absurdity in film, I've got a few real howlers for you.

@319: eliminate the DVD and VHS art (which obviously didn't accompany the release of the film, which is what you were talking about upthread), and you've essentially made my point. Thanks!

I enjoyed the quote you provided, but it also doesn't have anything to do with the publicity for the film on its release.

So what was the pull of pool for you? I dove into it one winter as an adult and found it fascinating, for the cameraderie, the precision, that there were layers of interest to it, that it was never quite the same for any two shots, that you won or lost pretty much according to whether you were better than the other guy, that the larger world ceased to exist for a while... I'd been playing with house cues for two weeks before realizing that if I wanted to get serious I'd have to plunk down 50 bucks for a reasonably straight cue. I bought one, took it out that night, and I'm proud to say that after my buddy broke and missed I ran the table and a couple more for the first time. We had found each other, that cue and me.

@318: great! I'm always on the lookout for a film with some legit poker in it. Robinson is a huge bonus, of course.

Wish I related to films from the 30s more. There's a distance to them I don't feel with some 40s and most 50s films.
   321. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 13, 2013 at 11:10 PM (#4413520)
Finally, the final (and famous quote) "You're good, Kid. Very good. But as long as I'm around, you'll always be second best." is absurd. One game does not mean you're better in poker. There's too much luck involved. Some nights the cards flop for you and some nights they don't.

For that matter, the George C. Scott role in The Hustler was melodramatized and exaggerated to the point of absurdity, but at the same time his character worked perfectly, in the sense of what people with his lowlife character would be expected to act like. That line of his about how the only way the "best" player is determined in pool** was the signature quote of the entire film, and it also had the virtue of being the most authentic line of all.

**"Look, you want to hustle pool, don't ya? This game isn't like football. Nobody pays you for yardage. When you hustle, you keep score real simple. At the end of the game, you count up your money. That's how you find out who's best. It's the only way."
   322. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: April 13, 2013 at 11:16 PM (#4413522)
Next - Howard has Q-(J)-8 suited, Kid has (A)-10-10. Kid bets what he thinks is the best hand, Howard raises, maybe trying to bluff that he's got QQ and get the Kid to fold 10-10-X. Kid calls.


That's an interesting shot by Lancey, as I mentioned, but it's an interesting call by the Kid, too. I don't know that it's a clear error, but I'd be sorely tempted to reraise or fold with the Kid's hand. If Lancey doesn't have a Q in the hole his raise is either a) pure bluff, b) a three flush or an off-suit J, to give him a backdoor straight draw and another card above the T to draw to (I might put someone on the DK at the table, or c) a hand that beats TT showing, namely a Queen. Trying to beat a raiser out of position who may have you beat with a pocket Q is a brutal time to be check-calling the hand down. It's also a lousy time to call in the hopes of improving TTA. Only 5 of 47 cards improve you, it's stud so you can't conceal another T or A, meaning that you can't slowplay or otherwise milk the pot... Ugh.

Yeah--hard to see why the Kid is calling there.

Against a) and b) you want to reraise to kill any draws, and against c) you want to get more info towards playing the last two streets. Calling doesn't do that, and a reraise also might win the pot.

edit:
For that matter, the George C. Scott role in The Hustler was melodramatized and exaggerated to the point of absurdity,...

Ah, so you do understand expressionistic character traits in film :) I was starting to worry, a smart guy like you...
   323. Morty Causa Posted: April 13, 2013 at 11:18 PM (#4413523)
Good old clueless and talentless and dull Bosley Crowther. That he could hang on to a gig with The Times for as long as he did tells you something about the state of movie criticism generally before the '60s (with a couple of exceptions). None of mainstream biggies (The Times, the Post, Time, Newsweek, Life, Saturday Review, including The New Yorker before Kael had much respect for movies and it showed in who they chose to review them. It was like, hey, you there, we don't see you as going anywhere here, so between sweeping the floors and scrubbing the toilet, you want to review movies? Hey, you get paid in free tickets and all the stale popcorn you can carry home.
   324. Publius Publicola Posted: April 13, 2013 at 11:26 PM (#4413527)
Actually, PP, that hand was an excellent test of who the better player was, and if that's your criterion for absurdity in film, I've got a few real howlers for you.


Come on. He had to draw the one card in the deck that would have given him a winning hand. And he started betting high two cards to go to win the hand. The odds of him getting them were very low. He took a longshot and scored. Most of the time he tries that, he loses.
   325. Publius Publicola Posted: April 13, 2013 at 11:29 PM (#4413530)
Yeah--hard to see why the Kid is calling there.


He'd been doing that all night and losing, seeing his bet to see his cards.

So maybe you have a point, he was setting him up for the big score.
   326. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: April 13, 2013 at 11:31 PM (#4413531)
Hey Jolly, thanks again to you and to Doris for the sage advice wrt used books. Over the last couple of evenings I've assembled four smallish boxes that list on abe (cheapest comps) for a total of a thousand bucks. Work's far from done, but it's a decent prospective haul. The other half I'd like to give to my local library but they tell me they don't have any room for another three weeks, so dogeared copies of the mass-market The Shining, and the like, are going into the dumpster. I've never thrown out books before; it's a little painful, but I have literally no room at the moment, and a zillion things to do.
   327. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 13, 2013 at 11:38 PM (#4413534)
@319: eliminate the DVD and VHS art (which obviously didn't accompany the release of the film, which is what you were talking about upthread), and you've essentially made my point. Thanks!

I enjoyed the quote you provided, but it also doesn't have anything to do with the publicity for the film on its release.


Jack, you posted one image. That wasn't the only one. The publicity package also included those stills of Gleason and Newman posed over the table. It wasn't as if they were trying to sneak pool in there on the sly, and considering that nearly every major scene centered around pool halls or conversations leading up to pool games, it would have been a futile effort to begin with. Piper Laurie's role was obviously one of the major components of the Newman character, and vital to the plot for that reason. But for the great part of the movie she wasn't even on the screen, a fact borne out by the Times review which didn't even mention her until way down the page.

So what was the pull of pool for you? I dove into it one winter as an adult and found it fascinating, for the cameraderie, the precision, that there were layers of interest to it, that it was never quite the same for any two shots, that you won or lost pretty much according to whether you were better than the other guy, that the larger world ceased to exist for a while... I'd been playing with house cues for two weeks before realizing that if I wanted to get serious I'd have to plunk down 50 bucks for a reasonably straight cue. I bought one, took it out that night, and I'm proud to say that after my buddy broke and missed I ran the table and a couple more for the first time. We had found each other, that cue and me.

I first discovered pool just before my 20th birthday in a series of black pool rooms on Pine St. in Cambridge, MD. It took about 5 minutes and I was hooked for life. Before I was in my mid-30's and had settled down to full time work I'd probably played in at least one room in over 40 states plus Toronto. I've always loved the atmosphere, the people, the fact that you can keep improving your game as you get older, the constantly changing demographic variety, the fact that in a pool room nobody gives a #### about what your day job is or how you dress, and of course the fact that in terms of the sport itself, it's as close to a perfect individual game as I can imagine, requiring the advance planning and concentration of chess along with precision hand-eye coordination. It shares a lot of characteristics with golf, but with two huge advantages: You can match yourself up against world class competition just about any weekend you're willing to put up a $500 entry fee, or against the best regional players almost any night for $25; and unlike golf, it's played at civilized hours---none of this having to get up at the break of dawn ####. The only disadvantage used to be that you'd have to fumigate yourself before your woman would let you back into the house (and rightly so), but with the advent of smoking bans even that minor drawback has been corrected.
   328. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: April 13, 2013 at 11:44 PM (#4413537)
That sound like my experience with the game, too. Are the best players' vision better than 20/20? Mine can only be corrected to about 20/25, a real drawback in games require extreme precision. I'd often have to back off and blink and get set again on long shots to be able to see it exactly the way I needed to.

Didn't know that about entry fees. I take it there's a regular tour, probably some minor circuits as well?

Jack, you posted one image


On the page I posted there are at least three if you scroll, and they're the art that went out to theaters and appeared in newspaper ads. Read the posters. They talk about love! heart! desire! The studio knew if they emphasized pool (definitely on a downswing at that time) the movie was dead in the water.

Hell, they had Paul Newman in a starring role. The rule beyond that was 'don't #### up the ads'. And Scott was nominated for an AA, but turned down the nomination. And that was before American rediscovered Indians.

Piper Laurie's role was obviously one of the major components of the Newman character, and vital to the plot for that reason. But for the great part of the movie she wasn't even on the screen,
Hmm--she's onscreen more than Fats, and she's probably on more than Scott, too.

There's the long scene in the bus station. She's there in Memphis and for some of the pool in Memphis. She's there when Newman recuperates from his broken thumbs, and there's the long stretch where they try to figure out how to care about each other....
   329. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 13, 2013 at 11:49 PM (#4413538)
Hey Jolly, thanks again to you and to Doris for the sage advice wrt used books. Over the last couple of evenings I've assembled four smallish boxes that list on abe (cheapest comps) for a total of a thousand bucks. Work's far from done, but it's a decent prospective haul. The other half I'd like to give to my local library but they tell me they don't have any room for another three weeks, so dogeared copies of the mass-market The Shining, and the like, are going into the dumpster. I've never thrown out books before; it's a little painful, but I have literally no room at the moment, and a zillion things to do.

Don't ever feel back about throwing out mass market books or common books of any kind, since there's always going to be an oversupply of them.

Along those lines, the one slogan I always carried with me when I was asked to give advice to prospective booksellers was this: It's not what you buy; it's what you don't buy. Before the internet came along and played Pol Pot on the entire brick and mortar used book business, I'd say that 90% of the business failures were brought about by dealers who just couldn't say no. I realize that this will sound harsh, but over the years I learned to literally hate bad books, and by doing so I wound up attracting the right kind of customers, who appreciated the fact that they didn't have to wade through a ton of crap to get to the good stuff.
   330. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: April 14, 2013 at 12:04 AM (#4413539)
Don't ever feel back about throwing out mass market books or common books of any kind, since there's always going to be an oversupply of them.


I feel like I've just been to confessional. Still, it's a shame.

It's not what you buy; it's what you don't buy.
Easy to translate for me into, it's not what you keep...

I'm in a rental house until I get my place built (which I'm hoping happens before winter, but I haven't even got the land yet) and the landlord, who I thought was a good friend, just told me I need to move out in August because his granddaughter is getting married on the property in the middle of the month. I'm still at the WTF?Who does that? stage, and it definitely screws up my schedule since I have the house currently set up to run a business. Plenty of stuff therefore to break down and move out, and then relocate at some point. The additional time and space needed for boxing nonessentials when I'm already paying $240 a month for storage just isn't there.

If I didn't know my nice local librarian I'd probably stop sorting and just leave 20 boxes of books under a tarp on her doorstep :)
   331. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 14, 2013 at 12:06 AM (#4413540)
That sound like my experience with the game, too. Are the best players' vision better than 20/20?

Probably not, and while great vision is a help on a handful of long cut shots, keeping yourself perfectly still and keeping your stroke fluid is infinitely more important. I got lasik about 12 years ago, but while my vision's gone since then from 20/15 to 20/25 and I've also acquired glaucoma, none of that has affected my game at all.

And anyway, the real secret of champions is never leaving yourself with long shots. To paraphrase St. Vincent, position isn't everything, it's the only thing.

Didn't know that about entry fees. I take it there's a regular tour, probably some minor circuits as well?

There are usually several weeknight tournaments in most major metro areas, and if you're willing to drive an hour or two you can get even better competition on weekends. The really big tournaments that attract the best Europeans and Asians probably number no more than a dozen or so a year in the U.S., but there are many, many more in Asia, which is where most of the best players now are from. The real money these days is in Taiwan/The Philippines/South Korea/Hong Kong, with mainland China coming up fast.

I'm going to drop our tempest in a teapot about pre-release Hustler publicity, since by this point we're both pretty much stuck in our positions and it's not something that can be proved one way or the other without having full access to the original publicity mailers.
   332. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: April 14, 2013 at 12:53 AM (#4413551)
Probably not, and while great vision is a help on a handful of long cut shots, keeping yourself perfectly still and keeping your stroke fluid is infinitely more important. I got lasik about 12 years ago, but while my vision's gone since then from 20/15 to 20/25 and I've also acquired glaucoma, none of that has affected my game at all.


Really? You mean I'm going to have to find another reason for my limitations? I thought the greats might have Ted Williams-like vision...

I get that it's not the only thing, but being able to run the table from time to time definitely put some bounce in my step that winter, and it had everything to do with learning the value of position. It was the result of going from clueless to maybe sort of just beginning to get it. Of the books I found, Essential Pool was a big help. There was one other I really should remember, and everyone in my group who got a copy took a big step forward, just as in high school everyone who worked with a copy of Kotov's Think Like a Grandmaster added 200 points to their rating in a couple of months. It's a primer on how to think, in fact. In my next life, when I'm the prez of someone's board of ed, I'll push it onto the required reading list in junior high.

And anyway, the real secret of champions is never leaving yourself with long shots. To paraphrase St. Vincent, position isn't everything, it's the only thing.

Add it to the list of things about pool I did not know (about long shots)--position I did grasp reasonably well. The concept if not the execution. I just thought the problem with long shots was that I had difficulty making them; not so much that they were difficult for great players.

Yeah, I think we've exhausted the possibilities with Hustler pub.
   333. Howie Menckel Posted: April 14, 2013 at 01:17 AM (#4413559)
"And anyway, the real secret of champions is never leaving yourself with long shots."

Love this about great players. Never seems to be a shot where, ok, made that one, and now I have to pull a rabbit out of a hat.

The string gets pulled toward the next ball even on the most difficult shots.

Had a pool table as a kid in our basement, hosted a lot of 'events.'

Just like golf, if you play a ton as a teen with your free time, it's an edge that never leaves.

I visited a friend a couple of years ago, deluxe table in a huge house, lots of neighbors there who like to play.

Hadn't touched a stick in 25 years almost, but was running 3-5 balls in a row on my turn, which was over their heads even though it wasn't even running the table.

Same way with me for golf - I've barely played in the last 15 years, but give me 10 rounds and I can beat almost anyone who started after age 25. Played HS varsity golf, and that's a lot of rounds...

   334. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: April 14, 2013 at 01:48 AM (#4413569)
I started playing golf at 13 and was obsessive about it for two years but I don't think its stayed with me. I'd bet you have some actual talent for the game, HM.

It is a little eerie, watching great players play pool, the seemingly easy way one shot flows into the next. Getting somewhat to that point was one of the great pleasures of learning the game. Playing with a buddy and challenging each other with 'so, where's the cue ball going to be in six shots?' was a kick.

What's a deluxe table, btw? Does anyone play on a 5x10 any more?
   335. Publius Publicola Posted: April 14, 2013 at 08:27 AM (#4413587)
Same way with me for golf - I've barely played in the last 15 years, but give me 10 rounds and I can beat almost anyone who started after age 25. Played HS varsity golf, and that's a lot of rounds...


I think that's true about anything really. The things you learn when you're young, you learn the best. Your brain gets wired for the job or something and it never leaves you.
   336. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 14, 2013 at 09:09 AM (#4413595)
And anyway, the real secret of champions is never leaving yourself with long shots. To paraphrase St. Vincent, position isn't everything, it's the only thing.

Add it to the list of things about pool I did not know (about long shots)--position I did grasp reasonably well. The concept if not the execution. I just thought the problem with long shots was that I had difficulty making them; not so much that they were difficult for great players.


Well, long shots that require a lot of draw (backspin) are hard for anyone, and the power stroke required to execute them is absolutely essential for playing nine ball or ten ball at a high level. But in the classic hustler's game of one pocket, long shots requiring hard draw almost never come into play. That game is described as chess on a pool table for very good reason, as the ability to recognize patterns and previsualize the impact of multiple balls colliding with one another is what separates the swamis from the suckers, as is the ability to use your imagination to put your opponent in zugzwang position is just as essential as being able to see many moves ahead is on a chess board.

----------------------------------------

Had a pool table as a kid in our basement, hosted a lot of 'events.'

Just like golf, if you play a ton as a teen with your free time, it's an edge that never leaves.


Not all, but nearly all pool champions share two traits: They started playing at a very young age (12 or under), and they started playing against better players at every possible opportunity. In the U.S. and Asia another common trait of champions is that they often began gambling as soon as they developed a stroke. That doesn't seem to be quite the universal case among European champions. I consider it one of the luckier accidents in my life that I didn't get introduced to the game until I was nearly 20, since that negative impact on my game might well have saved me from any possible delusions of grandeur.

Another interesting development over the past 30-40 years is that whereas formerly you'd see ubiquitous pill popping and coke snorting as a way to maintain alertness in marathon sessions, there's very little of that today among the best players, and in fact many of them (Ralph Souquet, Mika Immonen, etc.) are now downright health nuts. It almost seems Un-American, and like the decline of non-tournament gambling, you can largely blame it on the Europeans.
   337. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 14, 2013 at 09:21 AM (#4413599)
What's a deluxe table, btw? Does anyone play on a 5x10 any more?

Actually there's just been a comeback of the 5x10 in the past two years, in 10-ball** tournaments. The tables are made by Diamond, and feature extremely tight pockets, which presents a far greater challenge than 9-ball played on a 4½ x 9 table. The first DC room I played in after college had a 5x10, and I'd love to see them brought back for tournaments, although for regular use it would likely destroy the attraction of the game for the average casual player.

**a variation of 9-ball, with 10 balls used instead of 9. That extra ball adds a much greater degree of difficulty to the game than that modest 11% increment might suggest, since balls are much less likely to fall on the break and navigating your cue ball around the remaining balls becomes a lot harder.
   338. Publius Publicola Posted: April 14, 2013 at 10:11 AM (#4413612)
Jolly, there's also a scene in The Hustler where he shows up for a game at the rich guy's house and finds a billiard table instead of a pool table but beats the crap out of the guy anyway.

How likely is that, if we assume the rich guy was a talented player? Isn't it kind of like the difference between baseball and softball? Can you just flip a switch like that? I would imagine the transition would be more difficult.
   339. PreservedFish Posted: April 14, 2013 at 10:31 AM (#4413621)
Have you guys played snooker? The table is so so big and the holes are so small and the rules seem designed to ensure that only excellent players can actually participate.
   340. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 14, 2013 at 11:33 AM (#4413650)
Jolly, there's also a scene in The Hustler where he shows up for a game at the rich guy's house and finds a billiard table instead of a pool table but beats the crap out of the guy anyway.

How likely is that, if we assume the rich guy was a talented player? Isn't it kind of like the difference between baseball and softball? Can you just flip a switch like that? I would imagine the transition would be more difficult.


That scene was quite credible, since the overall talent gap was still likely to be enormous between a seasoned road player like Fast Eddie and a good local player who was playing mostly country club amateurs at home. Despite The Hustler's use of straight pool as the game of choice between Newman and Gleason, the chances are that Newman would have been spending much of his road time in dives playing nine ball, a game in which the frequent necessity to use multi-rail positioning can be adapted to three rail billiards. But mainly it's the almost certain talent gap that would've enabled Newman to adapt and win. A great player like Fast Eddie can beat just about any shortstop** in a long session, no matter what the game of choice.

**the term for the best local players

----------------------------------------

Have you guys played snooker? The table is so so big and the holes are so small and the rules seem designed to ensure that only excellent players can actually participate.

I used to play snooker on an American 5x10 table down in Durham when I was at Duke, and I loved it. As you say, it puts shotmaking at a premium, and that happens to be my major strength on a table. (Long term position play and consistency, not so much.) Historically it seemed to have been easier for pool players to adapt to snooker than vice versa, but OTOH many of the best players in the world today grew up in England playing snooker on the English 6x12. There's a Nigerian whom I've played many times in the tournaments I go to near Baltimore every week, and as soon as I saw his extremely squared-off and bent-over stance**, I could tell right away he'd grown up playing English snooker back home.

And for gambling, the absolute nuts is a game called payball, which is 6-ball played on a snooker table, using the numbered 2 through 7 balls. It's usually played as a ring game with 3 to 6 players, and you get paid X dollars for each of the first 5 balls, 2x on the 7, and 14x if you run the entire rack in the same turn. This can lead to big winnings if the X is high enough.

Back in 1974 I was in total stroke and attending a really big tournament out in Dayton, when at midnight I saw a very good player named Denny Searcy whom I'd played (and lost to) in San Francisco a few years earlier. I knew his level and figured he wouldn't remember me, so I tried to talk him into spotting me the 8 for $50 a game. (That was as high as I've ever bet before or since, but I was loaded with movie cash and was playing the best pool of my life.) He gave me the once over and said "I might do that, but I've got a little (payball) game I'm getting ready to play."

So I duck in the bathroom for about one minute, stop to get a hot dog and soda on my way to watch him play, and by the time I'd gotten to the table he'd already won $8400 in the first two games. With 7 players in the game at $50 a ball, he'd run two straight racks without a miss, paying him 6 (for the number of opponents) x 350 ($250 + $100) x 2 (for the bonus of running the rack without missing) x 2 (for the number of games) = $8400. He wound up playing virtually nonstop for several days and nights, broke the game, and later had it written up in Sports Illustrated as a sidebar to a first rate story about the road life that's worth checking out. Needless to say, I dodged a major hail of bullets by not making that match. I would have been like Ray Charles batting against Nolan Ryan from a Little League mound.

**Watch the British woman's champion Allison Fisher for a perfect illustration of that stance, which is quite distinctive from the stance used by most non-British pool players.
   341. Publius Publicola Posted: April 14, 2013 at 01:01 PM (#4413737)
Historically it seemed to have been easier for pool players to adapt to snooker than vice versa, but OTOH many of the best players in the world today grew up in England playing snooker on the English 6x12.


Funny. I played snooker in a pool joint for a few hrs and started getting the hang of it. Then, when I went back to the pool table, shotmaking seemed a whole lot easier. The pockets seemed gigantic in comparison, and unlike snooker, which doesn't have angled pocket cushions, it was a lot more forgiving.
   342. Publius Publicola Posted: April 14, 2013 at 01:09 PM (#4413749)
From the SI article:

Willie Mosconi once made 526 straight balls and he led Greenleaf in world titles, but he had a stroke in 1957 and retired to the exhibition circuit. Even Danny D finds himself relegated to the exhibition song and dance occasionally, and one of the best players in the world, Steve Mizerak, teaches school in New Jersey. Probably the only one who makes a good living from the game is Rudolf Walter Wanderone Jr., Minnesota Fats. Wanderone used to be called New York Fats, but he changed his first name after The Hustler came out, and he became a celebrity.


I remember Fats challenged Mosconi to a televised game and Mosconi mopped the floor with him and was openly contemptious towards Fasts and his reputation, playing him just to shut him up more than for the money.

It was like pro basketball players attitudes towards playground legends.

   343. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 14, 2013 at 01:38 PM (#4413767)
Fats and Mosconi had a long and stormy relationship that mainly stemmed from Mosconi's jealousy of the publicity that Fats had rather skilfully created for himself in the wake of The Hustler's release, by pretending that Rudolf Wanderone (AKA New York Fats) was the inspiration for the Minnesota Fats character in the book and the movie. The claim was of course completely bogus, but Fats was such a complete archtype of what the public thinks hustlers are like (or should be like), that Mosconi might as well have been Frank Grimes for all the good his complaints did. To this day, I'm sure that "Minnesota Fats" is still the name most widely associated with pool, even 52 years after the movie's release and 17 years after his death.

For most of Fats' life following the movie, stories claiming that his reputation as a hustler were wildly exaggerated were circulated all over the pool world, and it's true that he was never one of the best players in the world and that he was nowhere near in Mosconi's class. But OTOH he was most definitely a first rate con artist and matchmaker, and a great student of human psychology. His most famous certifiable victim was the late Ronnie Allen, perhaps the greatest one pocket player the world has ever known. One time out in Johnston City, Illinois, during one of the famous Hustlers' tournaments that used to be written up in SI, Fats talked a totally sleep-deprived Allen into giving him a two ball spot in one pocket (which was also Fats' specialty), and quickly jumped out ahead. After Ronnie had won part of his money back, Fats then stopped the match and went to bed, saying that he'd play again the next evening, but more important, knowing that Allen would just find another game and be twice as tired by the time Fats came back to play, fully rested. This cycle went on at least one more time after that, and by the time it was over Fats had taken down all the money. It was one of the few Fats stories that was actually backed up by outside witnesses, and it proves the old adage that most gambling matches are decided by the terms of the bet before the first rack has been broken. If these two had played without any spot under more normal circumstances, Fats wouldn't have had a prayer, but remember what the George C. Scott character says in The Hustler about determining who's "best" in pool---it's not about points on a scoreboard, it's about the amount of cash in your pocket.
   344. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: April 14, 2013 at 09:26 PM (#4414154)
Great stories. I do remember finding a book 'by' MN Fats when I was a kid, and while I vaguely recall something like 'as told to' on the cover, it was a terrific book, full of exciting stories. Especially back in the pre-internet era it was not difficult to sell a persona, and at least through this book Wanderone did an excellent job of doing so.

Well, long shots that require a lot of draw (backspin) are hard for anyone, and the power stroke required to execute them is absolutely essential for playing nine ball or ten ball at a high level.


Because... the smaller number of balls in play mean a greater proportion of your shots are necessarily long shots? I haven't played at all seriously in a decade and hadn't heard of ten-ball. What does it get you that nine ball doesn't?

edit: okay, you note it's a lot more difficult than you'd think the extra ball would suggest, but that's counterintuitive. Get the first ball of the table and you're playing... nine-ball. No?

Oh, btw, the link to Allison Fisher shooting doesn't show her very well. The overhead focuses almost entirely on the table; it's very difficult to get a sense of her stance.
   345. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 14, 2013 at 09:57 PM (#4414185)
Great stories. I do remember finding a book 'by' MN Fats when I was a kid, and while I vaguely recall something like 'as told to' on the cover, it was a terrific book, full of exciting stories. Especially back in the pre-internet era it was not difficult to sell a persona, and at least through this book Wanderone did an excellent job of doing so.

I've got about 30 or 40 books on pool, and next to David McCumber's Playing Off The Rail, the Fats book is one of my favorites, as long as you take it for what it is and not as a serious autobiography.

Well, long shots that require a lot of draw (backspin) are hard for anyone, and the power stroke required to execute them is absolutely essential for playing nine ball or ten ball at a high level.

Because... the smaller number of balls in play mean a greater proportion of your shots are necessarily long shots? I haven't played at all seriously in a decade and hadn't heard of ten-ball. What does it get you that nine ball doesn't?

edit: okay, you note it's a lot more difficult than you'd think the extra ball would suggest, but that's counterintuitive. Get the first ball of the table and you're playing... nine-ball. No?


What makes ten ball much harder is that the diamond shaped rack in nine ball is much more conducive to scattering the balls on the break (and also making a ball or two) than the denser triangular rack used in ten ball, which is like a full 15-ball rack with the last row left out, and the ten ball placed in the middle. In practice, when two pros are competing, it's typical for the break in nine ball to leave only seven balls scattered far apart all over the table, whereas with ten ball there are more typically either nine or ten balls remaining after the break, with the balls more likely to be somewhat more clustered together.

I'll put it this way: If I'm in dead punch, give me a good pro break in nine ball and I could run racks at a fairly strong rate. But give me a good pro break in ten ball, and while I'd improve I doubt if I'd run more than one rack in ten. In nine ball, the break is far and away the most important shot in the game. In ten ball, much less so.

Also, in the pro version of ten ball, all shots must be called, and the ten ball doesn't count if you make it on the break. That's not the case in nine ball, although spotting the nine ball if made on the break is a rule used in many local tournaments.

Sorry about the Allison tape, but there are several pool videos of her on that page that will better illustrate my point about her stance. When she was at her peak, virtually nothing other than the lack of a good power break shot separated her from the top men players.
   346. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: April 14, 2013 at 11:10 PM (#4414222)
What makes ten ball much harder is that the diamond shaped rack in nine ball is much more conducive to scattering the balls on the break


Ah, okay. Makes sense now that you pointed it out. When I played seriously I played exclusively straight pool so missed those variations. No idea why anyone would play anything else, btw. It's a great, great game.

That's interesting, your last graf. At some point, power on the break is a drawback, and since one is limited in how much power is a good, I wouldn't have thought a woman would be at a deficit in that regard.
   347. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 14, 2013 at 11:43 PM (#4414231)
When I played seriously I played exclusively straight pool so missed those variations. No idea why anyone would play anything else, btw. It's a great, great game.

Yeah, but it also takes forever to finish a standard race to 125 or 150, and even though it takes incredible position play to get to the top level, the entire game only uses half of the table and you never have to employ about 75% of your shot repertory. This may sound comical considering the source, but I've always considered straight pool to be a game for old men. I respect the particular form of skill (precision speed control of your cue ball) it takes to master it, but I like a game where you're forced to move the cue ball back and forth from one end of the table to the other with a wide variety of speed and spin, not just bunt it a foot or two with little or no english.

That's interesting, your last graf. At some point, power on the break is a drawback, and since one is limited in how much power is a good, I wouldn't have thought a woman would be at a deficit in that regard.

All things being equal, a power break is nearly always better than a softer break in any game but straight pool or one pocket, where the object of the break is to leave your opponent in zugzwang. This is why even the best women can seldom beat the best men in the long run. But if you don't hit the one ball dead in the face and keep control of the cue ball for the next shot, all the power in the world usually won't do you much good.

I've also often wondered why at least some women can't break as hard as the top men, because muscle mass has absolutely nothing to do with the speed you can impart to the cue ball. It's all in the technique, and many of the men and women with the strongest break shots would be in the flyweight or bantamweight divisions if they were to take up boxing. One of the loudest and most powerful break shots I've seen around here is that of a Vietnamese woman who may or may not weigh over 100. It sounds like a cannon going off whenever she breaks, but unfortunately her game usually goes downhill from that point.
   348. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: April 15, 2013 at 12:21 AM (#4414243)
This may sound comical considering the source, but I've always considered straight pool to be a game for old men.


Ah, there's the trouble. You've misspelled "real".

I've also often wondered why at least some women can't break as hard as the top men, because muscle mass has absolutely nothing to do with the speed you can impart to the cue ball.

I admit to bafflement. Past a certain point, the balls just fly off the table. I would have thought pool more than just about any other endeavour would put men and women on an even playing field.

How many women do you think are in the top 50 of, say, nine-ball players?

Follow up: if no cultural factors interfered, how many women would there be in the top 50?

One pocket is a game I'd love to take a crack at. I hope to be building my last house this summer and it'll be almost entirely living room. More than enough room for a table, even a 5x10 if I'm feeling masochistic.

At what point does age interfere with shotmaking ability? Are any of the greats over, say, 50?
   349. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: April 15, 2013 at 08:06 AM (#4414309)
Jolly, speaking of boxing films, the first hour of Micheal Mann's Ali is better than I remember it. It includes some of the greatest hits, sure, but it's more impressionistic than I remember, and Will Smith does as good a job of disappearing into the role as a major star can given the fame of his subject.

Mann frames a lot of the scenes in a very non-iconic manner, and uses a handheld to keep the camera from being too adoring (which is what it sounds like it does in 42 according to every review I've read, including yours). I think that had to be a conscious move, along with some choices in the script, to keep this from being an adoring biopic where the subject is shot from below, his head wreathed in a corona of holy biopic light. The camera stays very close to a face, or lets things or people wander in between; he shoots the call from Cosell to Ali telling Ali about winning the Supreme Court decision with Cosell thirty feet away and Ali one.

The boxing is well shot, too. The camera pans to follow fighters across the ring the way a spectator's head would track; it's the kind of shot a lot of directors avoid since it's hard to time the action to the moving lens and ten hour days of shooting a fight are already grueling.

There's a respectable emphasis on Ali the political man, and on the seriousness of his faith, but it's not overbearing. The relationship with Cosell is also well-played. Two men who used each other, sure, but also developed a real appreciation for and enjoyment of each others' outsized personas.

There's a terrific scene where Ali goes for his run before the bout with Foreman in Zaire and he ends up jogging through backyards and alleys. There is indeed a little slomo here, but it's to emphasize what he sees and feels, and not to remind us how great he was. It's a smart contrast with the comparable scene in Rocky that ends on the plateau, which is all about telling us the character an icon, a hero. The majority of the shots in this stretched out scene aren't even of Ali, and it's great to see his face when he ends up in front of a kid's drawing of him on a wall at the butt end of nowhere.

Then, before the scene has any chance to become idolatrous Mann cuts to Ali defending to his wife his decision to work with Don King and Mubutu.
   350. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: April 15, 2013 at 08:52 AM (#4414330)
btw, Mann does a great job of showing how Ali won in Zaire despite diminishing skills, and a great job of showing it for the brutal brawl it was. Rope-a-dope isn't a pretty or a cinematic way of fighting, but in the film the bout goes on for quite a while, with Ali unphotogenically slapping away Foreman's punches and leaning on him to make George carry him around the ring.

Mann even shows Ali telling King to #### off when King comes over to congratulate him after the fight ends, but keeps the camera far enough away that we can't hear it. The last shot is from something like fifty feet away, of Ali at the edge of the frame and leaning against the ropes and out over the crowd at the fight. It's an interesting shot, and a smart suggestion (like the shot of Ali looking at the drawing of himself on a wall) that he was very much a creature of the crowds and notoreity he sometimes craved. Oh, and the film doesn't shy away from his infidelity. Definitely not your standard biopic.

   351. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 15, 2013 at 11:25 AM (#4414444)
This may sound comical considering the source, but I've always considered straight pool to be a game for OLD men.

Ah, there's the trouble. You've misspelled "real".


Well, until the Europeans started reviving the game, I'd never seen it played in the past 40 years by anyone under 50, and never once locally since 1967. The world straight pool championship was discontinued in the early 70's and not revived on a continuous basis until 2006.

I've also often wondered why at least some women can't break as hard as the top men, because muscle mass has absolutely nothing to do with the speed you can impart to the cue ball.

I admit to bafflement. Past a certain point, the balls just fly off the table. I would have thought pool more than just about any other endeavour would put men and women on an even playing field.


There's been an enormous closing of the gap between the top men and the top women over the past 20 years, ever since Allison Fisher migrated to the U.S. and was followed by the explosion of the game throughout Asia. The Austrian woman Jasmin Ouschan came in third in an open division world straight pool tournament a few years ago, but until large numbers of women start playing at a very early age, it's unlikely that there'll be any real equality of talent at the top. It's not so much a question of chromosomes as it is a question of the sizes of the beginners' talent pools. You see women featured in beer commercials set in sports bar pool rooms, but on an average week in any given local open tournament with several men pros participating, you'll almost never see more than one or two women in a field of 20 or 25, and more often there are none.

How many women do you think are in the top 50 of, say, nine-ball players?

None, although in short races the top women can often compete. But although the U.S. Open has now been open to women for several years, none have ever placed in the top 50. There are men in every metro area in the U.S. who in nine ball could beat the top women in any kind of long range session.

Follow up: if no cultural factors interfered, how many women would there be in the top 50?

That's hard to say, but if equal numbers of women had had the historical background of gambling and road playing that men have had over the years, it's possible that there'd be at least a dozen or so. But this is one of those questions that's almost impossible to answer definitively.

One pocket is a game I'd love to take a crack at. I hope to be building my last house this summer and it'll be almost entirely living room. More than enough room for a table, even a 5x10 if I'm feeling masochistic.

Objectively speaking, it's the best game there is, at least for strategizing, using your imagination, and the ability to disguise your true speed. That's why it's the serious gamblers' game of choice. I've tried it a few times, but I've always gravitated back to nine ball, for reasons I've mentioned above.

At what point does age interfere with shotmaking ability? Are any of the greats over, say, 50?

There have been several U.S. Open champs over 50, though not many. I had a front row seat to see Buddy Hall win it in 1998 at the age of 51, and it was as perfect a display of nine ball as I've seen in my life.

As you get older, it isn't so much the ability to execute shots that goes away as the ability to keep going strong for days on end and match after match. When I was in my 20's, I used to start playing in one room at 14th & Irving on a Saturday afternoon at 1:00, drive out to an all-night room in Silver Hill at 1:00 am, and keep playing till 9:00 or 10:00 Sunday morning. There were other players who literally wouldn't leave that all-night joint for days on end, and in fact the most famous action room of them all (Jack & Jill in Arlington) used to have a rotating coterie of road players who would sleep in the corner for weeks on end in order to avoid paying for a motel. You can see the attraction of such a place for anyone with an ounce of romance in his soul. (smile) But then for better or for worse, I never was bitten by the corporate bug or the lure of any sort of a conventional job, and I've never regretted it.
   352. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 15, 2013 at 11:26 AM (#4414446)
Oh, and as I mentioned in the other thread, you've convinced me to get that Ali movie from Netflix. I'm looking forward to seeing it.
   353. Ron J2 Posted: April 15, 2013 at 12:28 PM (#4414493)
#315 The only time I've seen chess (by good players that is) depicted reasonably is in "Searching for Bobby Fisher".

By and large they're about as close to reality as the depictions of computer hackers (or even the computer admins). And those always make me grind my teeth (at minimum)
   354. Ron J2 Posted: April 15, 2013 at 12:42 PM (#4414508)
Never seems to be a shot where, ok, made that one, and now I have to pull a rabbit out of a hat.


Once saw Steve Davis intentionally do this against Stephen Hendry several shots in a row.

Mind you it was basically him trying to play safe without going for a pure safety (back then nobody wanted to let Hendry to the table). So he was controlling the cue ball, not really expecting to make his shot and trying to leave Hendry a tough shot if he missed while giving himself something if he did make it (and he did make the shot. Which created roughly the same scenario 3 shots running -- after which he had a fairly normal run out which he executed)
   355. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: April 18, 2013 at 04:40 AM (#4417666)
Just occurred to me that the most accurate analogy re chess is that "pool is chess without an opponent".
   356. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 18, 2013 at 07:03 AM (#4417683)
Just occurred to me that the most accurate analogy re chess is that "pool is chess without an opponent".

That's crazy, since your opponent can often prevent you from even getting out of your chair, or he can leave you without a makeable shot for an entire game, or even for most of the day. If you've never had either of these unfortunate circumstances happen to you, then your opponents must have all been on an extremely low level.
   357. just plain joe Posted: April 18, 2013 at 11:04 AM (#4417844)
David McCumber's Playing Off The Rail


As it happens I'm in the middle of reading this book right now; I happened across it at the public library and knew that I had to read it. So far, about 100 pages in, I'm finding it fascinating reading. I haven't played any pool at all in 10-12 years, primarily because I switched back to wearing glasses from contacts and found it difficult to see, and I got tired of breathing all the second hand smoke. That probably wouldn't be an issue now but the glasses thing would be.
   358. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 18, 2013 at 11:43 AM (#4417884)
David McCumber's Playing Off The Rail

As it happens I'm in the middle of reading this book right now; I happened across it at the public library and knew that I had to read it. So far, about 100 pages in, I'm finding it fascinating reading. I haven't played any pool at all in 10-12 years, primarily because I switched back to wearing glasses from contacts and found it difficult to see, and I got tired of breathing all the second hand smoke. That probably wouldn't be an issue now but the glasses thing would be.


I stopped playing in the early 80's and didn't start again until the mid-90's. By that point I couldn't use glasses and the smoke just killed my contacts. So I wound up getting lasik and of course right after that they ban smoking anyway. But it was still worth it, and I'd recommend it to anyone who plays sports of any kind, indoors or outdoors. Getting lasik is like going from night to day compared to either of the two alternatives.

Playing Off The Rail is far and away the best pool book I've read out of several dozen. Part of it's because I've known and/or played a lot of the players mentioned**, but it's also because it's a pretty damn accurate depiction of road life in the post-Color of Money era, where money is scarce and pool detectives*** are everywhere. Very little glamour, very little sleep, and lots of cheap motels and fast food. You'll love it when the book gets to Vegas and football betting takes hold.

**In the chapter called "The Dew Factor", which centers around Baltimore and Washington, the focus is in great part on a head case (Danny Green) whose talent is matched only by his lack of an attention span. For many years he used to play in all the DC tournaments I played in, and around 2005-2007 so did the "Grady Seasons" character in The Color of Money, Keith "Earthquake" McCready. "The Keefster", as we used to call him, is one of the greatest nine ball gamblers in history and an unforgettable character with a unique stroke and an honestly acquired W.C. Fields nose. In the movie he was the one with the line "It's like a nightmare, isn't it? And it just keeps getting worse and worse." The pool world used to have people like that it every room in the country, and I'm glad that like a good anthropologist, McCumber's recorded part of that world for posterity.

***Meaning the sort of creepy spectators who specialize in outing road players who are trying to stay anonymous.
   359. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 26, 2013 at 07:32 AM (#4426094)
FTR, I just finished that 2001 Ali movie, and found it pretty good, even if Will Smith's body seemed more like a middleweight's than a heavyweight's. But the ring action was as good as any I've seen in a fight movie; the interaction between Ali and the NOI rang true to what I remembered; Smith did a decent impression of Ali's personality; and all in all, it seemed like an honest if mildly hagiographic movie, which is saying a lot for a biopic about an icon. And the scene with Linda Jones belting out her definitive version of "For Your Precious Love" at a dance when Ali met his first wife was one for the ages. Not only was it a nice tribute to a singer who died way too young, but apparently it was historically accurate as well. Scenes like that gave the entire movie a strong sense of time and place that few other movies of its type are able to match. I gave it an 8.5/10, which is about as high as I'd ever rate a biopic of any type.

OTOH a couple of scenes were, um, kind of weird:

---Ali and Frazier in a car together before their first fight was arranged, with Frazier asking Ali "Need any money?"

---Ali after he'd won the title riding the New York subway without a posse. Somehow I don't think so.

---And a minor chronological point: When Ali says, in response to a question immediately after receiving his draft notice, "I'm not H. Rap Brown. I'm not Stokely Carmichael", H. Rap Brown was an obscure nobody in a fast-dying civil rights organization. It wasn't until several months later that he became known to the world as the flamethrowing and riot-instigating thug that he was.
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