Saturday, December 3rd, 2022 –
Europe has taken the Cup. I'm sure you already know that at this point if you're a fan of pool. But we at Sneaky Pete Mafia plan to delve deep into many of the aspects of the game behind the game, the mental game, how big it is, and take a look at some subtle, nuanced things that happened at the Cup to swing the momentum one way or another – team Europe was an apparent heavyweight titan of pool team this year: To begin with, we had, Joshua Filler, Inaugural UK Open winner this year, young, confident, beast game, coming at USA full throttle; then, you had Jayson "Pulling -No-Punches" Shaw, coming out from the press conference, talking about how they were going to be running out and the balls going dead center in the pocket, and really talking up team Europe (Gamesmanship); after that, you have Albin Ouschan, consistently solid as stone, another grand champion; then, you had Francisco Sanchez Ruiz, and David Alcaide, the Spanish duo, World Cup winners 2022, and Ruiz US Open 2022 winner, and both now Mosconi Cup winners, having significant, pivotal roles, picking up team points, and individual points for team Europe, proving considerable assets to the event – Alcaide winning the crucial 9th point for team Europe against Woodward, up then 9-7, rather than tied at 8-8. That was the most critical point in the Cup, really – had Woodward not hit the cue so hard, sending the cue off the table, who is to say? Perhaps he miscued at that point, but that appeared to ignite in Alcaide that fighting spirit, and the match went south for Woodward after that, losing 5-3. Alcaide played a very solid, consistent match, and billiards is all about consistency.
The fact is, through the course of the Cup, after day one, the USA was up 3-1, with a great start, then, on day 2, it ended tied up 4-4, with the last match having to wait until the next day due to technical difficulties with the broadcast, which is unfortunate, but in a technological age, that kind of thing can and does happen, so Matchroom rolled with the punches, adapted, held the last match first on Day 3, which ended with Europe up 8-6, which put the pressure on the USA for day 4 – and then day 4 ended 11-7, however, when you look at it: SVB lost two matches and 2 points I believe, Woodward won 2 and lost one that I saw, and Strickland was up 3-0 on Shaw at one point as well – Had Strickland picked up that point on Shaw, which he was just two racks away…suffice it to say, USA was right there a couple of swing matches, and had Earl the Pearl Strickland won, then it could have been very ugly for Europe. Also, 11-7 isn't any kind of beatdown.
Additionally, I like how the USA started day 4, throwing up Woodward first, then SVB – come out banging! Go out with your big guns. I believe Woodward was within reach, and SVB had a shot, but if those two had gotten hot in their matches and won those two points, you would have a different Cup and a different outcome. The fact is the European players outplayed the USA counterparts – the key players like Woodward and SVB that team USA should put up there with the Cup on the line. Those players faulted, so don't blame Earl the Pearl Strickland for the USA team loss, or SVB, or Woodward, or Dominquez, or Styer – don't blame any single player on team USA – or blame them all, because they all lost matches, I think, so there's that. However, Europe had such an incredible team this year, and Strickland at 61? Kudos sir! My hero! What an incredible billiards story, my all-time favorite player in the history of pool, and certainly my favorite 9-ball player in the history of the game, and the GOAT of nine-ball from my perspective, but I digress. What a Mosconi Cup 2022! 2022! What a year for billiards as a whole, a year filled full of different champions, the tournaments worldwide picking up, the players making larger payouts, the fans buzzing about the game – Christmas coming in on a burning hot Christmas Tree in the sky, spiraling in at light speed, burning bright.
Hopefully, we'll have this story, this exclusive on the Cup – this report from the mind of a squirrel on the game of pool at large, namely the Mosconi Cup 2022 (I like saying 2022) – this year has been like the worldwide rebirth of billiards, nine-ball pool, worldwide breakout year, and the Mosconi Cup was the icing on the cake for so many, like my friends on Facebook Francisco Sanchez Ruiz, and David Alcaide, great guys, very cool, very positive – and they show what a positive mindset and attitude, with a great work ethic, strong, loyal following, they alone are bringing in many world fans of billiards into the sport – I thank them for being my friends, so I'm happy for them to win the Cup this year, to top off a spectacular Spanish class world invasion, winning the World Cup together, then the Mosconi Cup together, and Ruiz winning the US Open 2022!!! What. A. Year!
So, in summation, I feel like Strickland played great out there at 61 and is still one of the top-ranked players in the USA Fargo, banging in events and putting up some good numbers. I say to him: EARL THE PEARL, MY HERO OF ALL BILLIARDS TIMES, PUSH ON A FEW MORE YEARS IF YOU SEE FIT PLAYER! I HAVE FAITH. COME BACK NEXT YEAR. PLEASE 🙏🥺 (Please 🙏, to the pool Gods, I pray, let Earl stay just a bit longer, won't be the same without him, amen.)
What about the fact that Vegas packed in 2,500 fans rooting for Team USA, all painted up in Red, White, and Blue in celebration of Team USA and the United States and the 2022 Mosconi Cup being held at Bally’s in Vegas? What a crowd so proudly representing Team USA! When Team USA scored a point, all of Vegas could hear it! The crowd went wild!
So many stories could come out of this year's Mosconi Cup, but really and honestly, the main story now is Team Europe and their win. It does kind of suck as a USA fan such as me, down here in these Florida swamps, but suffice it to say, this squirrel does like that salt air breeze, coming in off that emerald coast nearby, and that the USA in its blood. Really and truly, team Europe's key players came through in the clutch, and, besides Woodward, team USA struggled in individual matches. Woodward, I say, would be the MVP for the USA. Even though he lost one match at the end, he still fought tooth and nail to the end, showing the team what level is needed in the future to take the Cup. Had SVB or one other player stepped up their individual match play in the Cup, the win could have quickly gone the way of team USA. SVB has had a bad run at the Mosconi Cup through the years. I believe he dropped two matches and 2 points for team USA to Europe, first losing to Filler 3-5 on day two, and then on day four, the final score against Jayson Shaw was 3-5. In an interview after the match with Shaw, Shaw admitted that both SVB and himself were playing a C game instead of their A game. It is critical for your top player to perform at their best, so not putting a hit on the whole team to carry the load. I feel that is something to consider.
Then, when you think about Woodward, having the weight of the entire team up on his back going into day 4, you may be a little more forgiving that he miscued and sent the cue ball off the table or whatever happened there – that was very bad luck or something that happened to Woodward at that point, and very unfortunate for team USA because that was another pivotal point in the course of the Cup. Kudos again to my friend David Alcaide for winning that, but it is harsh because I had to root for Woodward and team USA in that case. Still, I’m always a fan of pool, and Alcaide played consistent run-out nine-ball, and that's world-class nine-ball at that, so no skin off Woodward to lose to that level of the game either, having dispatched Filler and Ruiz prior to that, which is a tall task in and of itself. Woodward is such a grinder, though, with such grit and tenacity. Look for him to play top pool for years to come if he chooses.
But what a pleasure it was to see the Pearl in action again. He is such a legend in the colorful history of pool, and one we should all, as fans of the game eternal on that Simonis green, but we should all be fans of Earl "The Pearl" Strickland, one in a million, a "diamond in the rough." Sure, he can get heated and wears his emotions on his sleeve, a player you may see once every millennium if you're lucky, such a fiery, all-guns-blazing, full-throttle way he has always played, and in his prime, he'd have raced any and all of these players to 120 and beat a few I'm sure, but that's all hypothetical scenarios, but few have had such longevity in the game as he, Shaw saying in the press conference how he hoped he'd be on vacation on a beach somewhere at age 61, and not still playing pool, but would he? I'd instead still be playing top-level pool and still vacationing on the beach; why not have it all?
All in all, what an event for the ages, and the USA, I love it, even in loss. What an effort. You had a formidable team in Europe this year, perhaps the best they've ever had, so to get to 7-11 is a strong showing, and if a few shots had gone differently, then it could have gone the way of team USA. Europe can celebrate, but they know they came through a tough battle, and that's what the Cup is, isn't it? Are you not entertained? What a show, and what a fantastic crowd of fans! What a year for pool, Matchroom, Predator, JFlowers, Cuetec, Earl "The Pearl" Strickland, Francisco Sanchez Ruiz, David Alcaide, Jayson Shaw, Team Europe, and nine-ball pool worldwide. 2022 has been an incredible billiards blowout championship edition come to life. We here at SPM are lucky to have been able to witness and document this for billiards legends and lore, and to let you all also know that I got restricted from Facebook for 30 days for saying something like "Shoot their livers out, Earl!" So, in summation, and yet again, watch out for the touchy algorithm on Facebook, or you will be restricted for using pool slang the wrong way or in a way they dislike.
And Team Europe? Much love as always, and many of you I've talked to and/or considered friends, except I'm not sure if Shaw likes me or not, but he is an incredible player, and I love the gamesmanship, the walk-it-like-he-talks-it attitude. He comes with it, and you must respect that – but Team Europe? Watch for team USA in 2023, as we are the birthplace of 9 ball pool, and we lay claim to world domination of the game, which we will claim again in the future. This is the USA! Much love, and what a Cup! People should love it, win or lose. The fans on both sides, the USA and Europe – should be happy.
P.S. – Alison Fisher, the "Duchess Of Doom," also announced wonderfully in the matches with expert commentary, I've been told, and that also made the Cup better as well to have that insight from Fisher on the event, which was one of the highlights to an already star-spangled event!
In a Matchroom Interview, Barry Hearn, Hall of Famer and Matchroom OBE, stated that he would do whatever it takes to take NineBall to the next level! People love NineBall Pool, and as seen at the Mosconi Cup with 2,500 people every day and a sold-out arena, what more can you ask to take NineBall to the next level? NineBall Pool is a truly global game! Why is Pool not as big as golf? People’s perception is wrong. The idea is to change the perception of pool! This is what the Mosconi Cup did this year at Bally’s in Las Vegas. How much better perception can pool give to the public after the Mosconi Cup 2022? The event was sold out all four days! Matchroom is looking to expand the events to maybe 35 events that will be ranking events globally! For Matchroom to add some skin in the game, they want to add Matchroom as ranking events. Hearn states that his door is always open to the WPBA. 2023 is going to be a massive year with more significant prize money, more games, and working as a team. “More Tournaments More Money Sounds Great,” states Jayson Shaw, Mosconi Cup Winner, in an interview with Karl Boyes and Barry Hearn. Matchroom is creating that magical thing called atmosphere! If Emily Frazer had taken over earlier, Check out the interview here: https://youtu.be/DqUeA8DGRSE