It might shock people to find out that billiards (pool) has been played in the United States of America since long before it was the United States of America. In fact, pool has been a favorite pastime since the mid 1700s. Today, the game maintains its popularity as both a participation and spectator sport.
If any sport can earn its way to get coverage from ESPN on a regular basis, it is certain to have enough of a television following to warrant the time and effort. The list of the world’s top pool players includes the #1 ranked Efren Reyes from the Philippines, #2 ranked Shane Van Boening from the United States and #5 Johnny Archer from the US. It’s quite common to see these and other top players on the table when ESPN schedules a broadcast of a top event from somewhere around the globe.
The question is, “If pool is popular enough for a regular spot on ESPN, what is the driving force behind the sport’s popularity.” The reality is the answer to that question is quite simple, pool or billiards is one of the top participation sports in the world.
While straight pool seems to be a lost art among anyone but the pros, who could ever forget watching some of the best pool movies ever with Paul Newman as “Fast” Eddie Felson in “The Hustler” or the “Color of Money”, for which he won the Academy-Award for Best Actor. The popularity and excellence of those two movies alone stand as a testament to the popularity of pool in most parts of the world.
People of shapes and sizes, races, religions, both sexes, and all ages play pool. Whether it’s in a pool hall, bar or tavern, elegant billiards room or in the basement at home, people enjoy picking up a cue and playing one of their favorite games. Almost anyone who has ever played a game of pool knows how to play 8-ball. At a higher competitive level, a lot of people also know how to play 9-ball.
The fact so many people enjoy playing the game might be the reason its popularity as a spectator sport is so surprising to the average person. In fact, it’s a game of great skill, concentration and strategy. It’s very easy to get caught up in watching how the pros are able to move the cue ball around the table and make every shot look automatic. Besides, what better way is there to learn the game than by watching the best players play it.
At some level, that’s the fantasy of every pool player, to be able to compete at the highest level. For the average Joe, nothing beats having a couple of beers with friends and/or relatives while playing a friendly, or not so friendly, game of pool.