NO GOOD PLAYERS

IN THE USA?

     


Snooker and Pool player Jim Rempe

 

   

One question about snooker is: why are there no good Snooker players in the United States?

Well, the answer is that there are good Snooker players and very good players in the USA. They may be few and widely spread around (it’s a big country) but on my visits to North America I have met good players and keen fans. There are many world-class Pool players who have the skills to convert to Snooker.

  

Giants of American Pool: left to right Lou Butera (born 1937)

Rudolph Wanderone [Minnesota Fats] (1.19.1913 - 1.15.1996) 

Willie Mosconi (6.27.1916 - 9.12.1993)

 ****

 

Right: 'The Man' - Jackie Gleason:

In this case fiction came before fact: Jackie Gleason played the fictitious character Minnesota Fats in the 1961 movie 'The Hustler', from the Walter Tevis book, and Rudolph Wanderone very smartly adopted the name.

Jackie Gleason's performance in the film had a wonderful and lasting influence on all cue sports.

 ***

A principal point of contact between very good amateur Snooker players in North America and the rest of the world is the International Snooker League. I’ve just had a look on Google to see how it is getting on these days – or if it still exists.

I am pleased to see that it seems to be thriving. The International Snooker League, whose former president is my old pal Noel Miller-Cheevers, holds its tournaments in exotic places around the world.

 

It is sometimes called ‘a millionaire’s club’ but they have top amateur players, like Noel himself in his day, and my friend Richie Dunne of Ireland. And Richie's not a millionaire – or at least he wasn’t the last time we met in Dublin.

Pictured in 1980: the late Connie Falkiewicz of New Jersey, USA. Founder of the International Snooker League

Anyway, to return to the question: If you mean great cue game players, capable of making a professional career, then the answer is usually about time and money.

For example, Jim Rempe, of Scranton, PA, was very popular in Britain and had successes there in the eighties and beyond. He was a very successful Pool champion in the USA and this gave him certain problems in joining the professional Snooker circuit.

For example, the dates of Snooker tournaments often clashed with his Pool bookings and he couldn’t give up lucrative dates in New York or Las Vegas for the delights of Bolton or Preston in an English winter.

Financially, too, he could lose out because in American Pool tournaments he could usually count on getting some high prize money, whereas a trip to Britain could be expensive and the Snooker tournament outcome far from certain.

Then again, for Jim to move from being a distinguished ‘cuemeister’ and welcome guest professional to the nitty-gritty of championship snooker, he would have needed to play through qualifiers like all unranked players. This is usually a long drawn out process and it would simply have taken too much of his time.

Jim Rempe was certainly in the top professional class and could have ‘made it’ in snooker, if Pool had not been so profitable for him.

He played many big exhibition bookings in the UK: I remember being with him at a Pool match in a north London theatre with six hundred fans cheering as he entered the arena wrapped in the United States flag!

So, these are some of the reasons why the American ‘greats’ don’t enter the professional Snooker circuit.

As to why regular good or very good players of Pool, and masters of cue skills, don’t play more snooker in the USA, that’s usually explained on the basis of ‘cultural differences’, but I have my own theories.

These theories are based, to some extent, on booze. The USA had the Volstead Act (Prohibition) which led to Al Capone and all that, while the British had the Temperance Movement, which led to Lucania Billiard Halls.

But that’s another article….

 

 

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 Photo: Tony Drago (Malta) winning a Pool title.