English Amateur Billiards Association

EABA : The Billiard Monthly : June, 1912

The Billiard Monthly : June, 1912

Things That Matter in Billiards

XX. ENCOURAGING THE YOUNG PROFESSIONAL

It is generally understood that the young billiard professional
has to encounter a perfect sea of difficulties before he
can hope to obtain recognition in his vocation. He has to
put up with numberless disappointments and am amount of
cold-shouldering, and, unless he possesses the grit and
determination of an Inman or some fortuitous event happens
which happily pitchforks him into public notice and
makes it impossible for him to be ignored, he may, although
a really talented player, go on for years eating out his heart
in obscurity.

The incidents immediately contributing to the penning of
those remarks have been the sudden rise into billiard fame
of two quite young men, in the persons of T. Newman, of
London, still only 19, and W. Smith, of Darlington, who
is understood to be 25 or thereabouts. A year ago both
were comparatively unknown. Newman was playing in
single session matches where he could obtain engagements
in what might almost be regarded as the third rank of professional
billiards, and Smith was still at work on a linotype
machine in a newspaper printing office. Newman has
grown up to billiards from childhood, as so many other
professional billiardists have done, through the channel of
the hotel room; Smith has turned to the vocation from an
industrial handicraft as Burns turned from the plough to
poetry. But both might have remained for many years to
come in comparative obscurity if something had not happened.

Exactly what did happen was this. Smith was wisely hit
upon to oppose George Gray (with a liberal start conceded)
in some local exhibition matches, and beat the hitherto invincible
young Australian actually on points, and Newman,
being selected by John Roberts to take the place of Gray,
when the latter backed out of an agreement to “star” with
the great player, put up a series of brilliant performances
against the veteran which greatly interested and impressed
the world of billiard covers. Thus each youth got his chance
of a lifetime at an early stage in his billiards career and
was able to render an exceedingly good account of himself.

Now Newman is to tour Canada with John Roberts in
lieu of George Gray, and Smith will also find himself in
first-class English billiards next season.

But what of the rest? What of the Breeds, the Tothills,
the Lawrences, the Hoskinses, the Peall juniors, and the
dozen or more of others, who are rarely given their chances
in London before anything like a representative circle of
onlookers or under auspices that really count?

It may be urged that the public will not pay to see anyone
play who has not already earned a “gate” reputation, and
that promoters of tournaments or exhibition matches know
from long experience that to bill any other than well-known
names means empty benches. But there are “publics”
and “publics.” There is the public that will only pay to
see the best, and there is another public that will pay to
see something short of the best if it is not expected to pay
so much. There are two other things, however, that the
public of both kinds desires to see and these are fairly long
breaks and keenly-fought games.

These considerations seem to us to indicate the key to
the situation. If younger and comparatively unknown
players who can make 100 breaks easily and breaks of 200,
300, and upwards on occasion can be afforded a real incentive
to give of their best, the result should not, we think,
prow other than attractive to a considerable section of the
public. All the second or third class players whom we have
named have closely touched or exceeded the 200 mark,
while some of them have reached 300, 400, and almost 500.

Cannot some scheme be evolved under which every young
professional player in the kingdom who fancies himself and
who has a good playing record may be brought forward and
given his chance to distinguish himself in some such classic
arena as that of Soho Square? Why not, for example,
have entrance to the great professional tournament of the
year competed for by all and sundry by means of preliminary
selective contests? If that were done some stern and
close fighting would ensue and there would be infused for
the first time into professional billiards a healthful sporting
element that has long been familiar, under the title of colts’
matches, in professional cricket.

To the names mentioned above others might have been
added of players who have already taken part in the Soho
Square Tournaments, such as Lovejoy, Elphick, Mack,
Cook, Harris, and Collens, while Osborne, Sparrow, and
Holliwell are well known at the centre of things, as are
Duncan, Falkiner, Nelson, Pearson, Pindar, Raynor, and
others in the provinces. Some of these hardly come now
under the denomination of the “young player,” but there
would seem to be no reason why each and all of them should
not compete for Tournament inclusion and so “make by
force their merit known.”

It is an irony in the professional billiard player’s career
that whereas the evidence of exceptional break-making
skill is required to give him his introduction to first-class
play, such skill (of the all-round kind) is rarely to be
achieved except by day-to-day employment in serious
encounters. The good engagements cannot be obtained
without the reputation and the reputation (unless something
fortuitous happens or a set stroke is specialized upon) is
only to be obtained as the result of the good engagements.

It consequently happens that the bright promise of youth
fails to fructify; other avocations have to be partially or
wholly resorted to; and the billiard world loses what might,
with due encouragement at the psychological moment, have
become high-class and even phenomenal expositions of the
game.

It is, therefore, the encouragement of the young player
that seems to be the most urgently needed, and there is
reason to believe that this revised attitude towards the professional
element in billiards might be so taken as to satisfy
the public whilst according a certain meed of justice to the
profession itself.


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