for some, winning is everything.  but how far do you go to win, and what is too far?

some pool players have this all-consuming desire to win.  if you’re a pro, the pressure to win is considerable; if you don’t win, you don’t get no bacon.  does that excuse the slightly underhanded, morally nebulous tactics?

for example, rewind back to the 2008 men’s 9-ball tournament.  (i think it was called bca open back then.)  specifically, the televised semifinal match between archer and ronnie wiseman.  yeah, espn had played the match numerous times, but every time i watch it i can’t help but feel a little queasy.

keep in mind that this was a televised, refereed match; steve tipton was the referee.  in the middle of the match, wiseman got out of shape, and left the cueball about 1/2 inch away from the five-ball, his next object ball.  wiseman studied the shot for a bit.  with steve tipton near him, wiseman elevated his cue to shoot.  before wiseman could pull the trigger . . .

. . . archer actually walked toward wiseman and tipton, interrupted the shot, and asked if the cueball was frozen to the five ball.

again, this was a televised, refereed match.  the referee was standing two feet away looking at the shot.  there was no need for archer to ask the ref whether the balls were frozen or not.  and even if archer really wanted to call for the referee’s attention, he could’ve done it WHILE wiseman was studying the shot, not when he was about to shoot it.  it seemed a pretty blatant case of sharking.  doubts?  let’s go to the video.  fast forward to the 2:00 mark if you’re impatient.

now, i understand that a world champion’s drive to win is second to none, but this was way out of line.  although archer apologized immediately after, wiseman commented that the damage was done.  indeed it was; archer had already robbed wiseman of his concentration with the antics.  although wiseman ended up winning the match, i think archer had himself inked a black mark on his otherwise stellar career.

of course, you can argue that archer didn’t try to shark ronnie, he was just checking the shot, a win is a win, no one cares how you win, and history doesn’t remember losers.  but can you live with yourself?  what is enough?  what is going too far?

archer was, and is, one of the greatest pool champions that ever lived, and this was just one of many tournaments that he’s played in his distinguished record.  but it’s hard for me to forget this.  and i hope i’ll have enough sense not to make the same bad choice if i’m in the same situation.

4 comments on “gamesmanship

  1. I’m undecided on this one. Was it sharking or not? As soon as the pevious shot was hit, Johnny got out of his seat. You can see him moving around in the background. Obviously, he was concerned about something from the git-go. It seems a little out of character for him to shark like that, but then again we all do stupid things sometimes.

    • this was a refereed match, & there was no need for johnny to interrupt the shot. like i said, johnny could’ve voiced his concerns while wiseman was thinking about his options, not when wiseman was about to pull the trigger. it all looked pretty underhanded.

  2. I don’t think Archer did this deliberately at all. I don’t think he had enough time to sit there and say to himself, “oh, this is a good chance to shark!”

    I also don’t think Archer was thinking at all about the ref. Johnny has been in so many events with refs and without refs, and imo he simply recognized he needed to see if the ball was frozen or not. He still needs to make sure of things and having a ref or not is not excuse not to make sure of things. Refs have been wrong before.

    Just my humble opinion.

    • let me begin by quoting the bca’s general rules of pocket billiards.

      3.41 INTERFERENCE – If the non-shooting player distracts his opponent or interferes with his play, he has fouled. If a player shoots out of turn, or moves any ball except during his inning, it is considered to be interference.

      again, this is a refereed match. johnny had no right to question the call, especially with the ref standing two feet away from the shot. if johnny was really concerned about the shot, he had plenty of time to voice his concerns before the shot, not when wiseman was right about to pull the trigger. watch the video again and you could see that johnny waited until the very last second to interrupt wiseman. honestly, tipton should have called a foul on johnny right there.

      is it possible that johnny didn’t mean it? sure. but the timing of the whole thing is too suspect, and i don’t believe it is a coincidence. your opinion may differ, but the reaction from the audience certainly reinforced my suspicion. you yourself said that johnny has been in a lot of tournaments. that means he knows the rules better than anyone. happenstance? i don’t think so.

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