this past sunday ESPN aired three hours of the 2012 international challenge of champions in its typical fashion: two semifinal matches and one finals. (thanks ESPN dudes!) the first semis featured shane van boening (y’all know who he is) and jung lin chang, the 2012 world 8-ball champion from taiwan. i’m not familiar with chang, but apparently he won some big 8-ball tournaments in asia, so he was no underdog in the match.
a quick recap; if you know the rules for this tournament skip this paragraph. in the challenge of champions, the competitors play two sets of 9-ball, and each set is a race-to-five format. the 9-ball on the break doesn’t count, and you have to call the 9-ball to win the game. you don’t have to call balls one through eight. alternate breaks. jump cues legal. if the players win one set each, they go to sudden death and play one game to decide the winner; players are required to lag for break in the one-game tiebreaker.
so the first set chang just destroyed svb, 5-0. (in all fairness, svb’s break wasn’t working, otherwise he would’ve won a few games.) in the second set, svb managed to get a lead. in the last game of the second set, svb got a chance and ran out. however, when he got to the 9-ball he didn’t call the shot (at least in my eyes). i guess the referee missed it too, as well as chang, because nobody made a peep. i thought i had missed something so i watched that 9-ball shot routine at least 15 times. i did not see svb make any indication, gesture, or motion to mark the pocket. unless i misunderstood the rules, svb fouled on that shot. anyway, you guys decide; apologies for the uber-crappy video.
now granted svb did stare at that pocket for a bit, but he made no sign to call the pocket. so what in the world was the referee doing? that’s the puzzling thing to me. and because i have a wandering mind, my next question was how that referee was trained. (i’ve seen the same ref in other televised tournaments, so he was no newbie.) sadly, i don’t believe that the US has a pool referee training & certification program, and when i see refs, i have this doubt in my head about how well or how accurate that person could make the call. when there is no preparation, no standardization, no training, and no certification process, we can’t guarantee the referee will perform to a competent level, or that any two referees will make consistent and similar decisions due to their training. (when looking at snooker referees, i’m always amazed at how similar and consistent their actions are to one another. that to me is the benefit of a training program.) maybe i’m making a big deal out of this, but if the ref had called the foul, svb would’ve lost the match and chang would be in the finals. that’s a pretty big call. but the ref didn’t call the foul, and svb ended up in the finals instead. yes, i realize the ref is human. i am just surprised at the mistake; it seemed an easy foul to call.
for the record, i do not favor svb or chang in this match. i wanted the ref make the right call in a tightly contested match, or maybe svb call a foul on himself. (quick, somebody wake me up.)