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Practice Room 107

Itís All About Respect As Johnny and Earl

Take It On The Road

Reporting and opinion by John Woods

If anyone wants to know why you enthusiastically play the game and love the sport, take them to see Earl Strickland and Johnny Archer present themselves as ambassadors of the history and greatness of the sport.

It is a fantastic floorshow, entertaining, and truly representative of the respect we share for one of the most challenging and difficult of all sports.

 But when considered altogether, rather than simply a great two-day event at Starship Billiards in Decatur, Illinois, the Legends and Champions Pool Tour makes a broad and profound statement. 

Earl Strickland has it exactly right.  People in the industry should listen to him. All they have to do is bring their friends to a tour event.

 In contrast, Archer quietly makes everyone feel like a neighbor visiting friends. While Earl speaks about his life as a professional pool player and makes his points with common sense sincerity, the LCPT originated with Johnny and friend Mark Cantrill trying to come up with ideas about how to promote the sport.  Now, they are making their point by taking their shot. 

Together, the three are on a quest that harkens back to the days of gypsy professionals who entertained small crowds around the country with trick shots, jokes, and stories about the game. But thatís not the only thing happening on this tour. This tour isnít about taking; itís about giving back.

Surely there are many others out there booking one night or one afternoon stands, representing themselves and offering their insight and appreciation for the game.

What makes the LCPT a different quest is the goal, which is not at all like a hustlerís at times desperate need for a safe place to sleep and for food tomorrow morning.

Earl and Johnny are instead proving their dedication and respect for the sport that made them champions and legends.  These guys are out to make a dent in the industry by certifying their vision of truth. Just the fact they are out there is proof in itself.

Their confidence becomes the confidence of everyone who shares their vision, and at Starship Billiards November 16, 2008, that seemed to be everyone around the main table, as regulars and out-of-towners began laying claim to choice seating about two hours before the crusaders expected arrival.

JR Winningham of Auburn, Illinois, who drew Earl Strickland in the third scotch doubles match, traveled seventy some miles to get there.  Earl and JR lost to Danny Stone and Johnny Archer.

Brian Kyle and Jim Connelly, who had not seen each other in twenty years until a few days before, made the 140-mile trip with cue maker Mike Zimmerman from OíFallon, Illinois, (outside St. Louis), then amazingly, were drawn to play as opponents in the first match.

Michael Doza/Earl Strickland defeated Danny Deiters/Johnny Archer in the second match.  Mike Dunklin and Earl Strickland won their match against Johnny Archer and Chris Esker. Later, Butch Austin and Tom Fankhauser lost their challenge matches against Archer.

By 5:30 pm, the room was about half full.  Earl and Johnny were scheduled to begin the show at 7:30. By then, the room was noisy and packed.

Sometime close to 8:00, Team Legends and Champions arrived and calmly went to work. Starship owners Chuck and Dave began liaison and stage management with Johnny and Mark while Earl began testing center stage by slowly rolling balls across the table.

Within minutes, the microphone was checked out and Earl began talking to the crowd.  He just started talking, telling stories and relating it all to pool and the LCPT, where heíd been and whatís going on in the sport, sort of like, filling in off script while everything gets ready for the show to start, then bam, he slams a trick shot and the crowd is shocked out of history into right now.  Wow!  Howíd he do that?

Then a few seconds later, as applause and banter subside, Earl starts telling another story while setting up a shot. He talks with respect about Mizerak, Fats, Mosconi, and Massey. 

Everyone waits in anticipation while he taps balls, checks the alignment, picks one up, resets it with a tap, then another, each time walking around checking the alignment, all the time talking to the crowd, telling it like it is. 

Then wham, he does it again. Fourteen balls in one shot!  How does he do that?

When Stephanie Bender, Starship GM, learned about the Legends and Champions Pool Tour she told ACS/BCA league operator Tom Fankhauser and asked him to help bring the Tour to Starship.

Tom brought the idea to Bruce and Kim Jones, local APA operators, with 200 some adult teams and a youth league, and with Chuck, Dave, and Stephanie they formed Team Starship.

The effect was magnetic and cosmological.  Everything came into alignment and as Team LCPT intended, a dent was made and lives changed.

But that, and all that above, was not by itself the best part. To top it all off, nine-year old Warren Patton totally wowed the crowd by smacking Johnny Archer with authority in a nine ball challenge game.  Pow, pow, pow!

Anyone who thinks this sport has no future hasnít seen this kid. And no doubt there are others like him. Thatís what the Legends and Champions Pool Tour is all about. 

Itís about respect for the past, appreciation of those currently certified the best, and about what it takes to move pool into the future. 

It takes getting out there and doing it, being somebody. Itís takes being there to help make it happen, and being there to help others go even farther.

So go, go, go Team Archer/Strickland!  Check out upcoming LCPT events and if you can by any means attend, be there.

All copyrights held by John Woods

 

 This article originally appeared in the December 2009 issue of Inside English. Note that since then the Legends and Champions Tour has upgraded to Team CSI American Grand Masters Tour.

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