Lately I've been watching a lot of the old 9-ball matches and Accustats stuff from the 1980's - early 1990's. Wow...what a refresher and much needed reminder of how far this sport has declined in terms of quality for the fans. First of all, there was a lot of great play back then. Contrary to the modern hype artists, this current generation did not progress the game a whole lot. Only in certain specific areas that are frankly, not that important.
Whatever progress was made, has been completely negated by the new culture of tournament match play which is painfully slow.
We live in an era of extremes because of this. Either it's the most painful, boring slow play, like race to 9 and race to 11 alternate break 9-ball that takes 3+ hours to conclude a match...or, because of this kind of absurd slow poke play that's simply impossible to televise even for a European audience, there's shot-clock pool which is also awful. Between the two evils, I take the shot-clock, but I do not enjoy it because it's not optimal play - more on that below.
The American and Filipino players from the previous generation did it better. No shot clock, but they didn't abuse and slow play either. This way...on the obvious shots, routine shots, easy shots, ones with clear position patterns ...they got up there and would shoot relatively quickly. Even a 'methodical' player of the past is faster than these guys these days. HOWEVER, whenever there was a legitimate tough shot, tricky position play, or something that had the player thinking to make a tough decision on a critical shot - they took their time. And that's OK. Because as fans, we're also brainstorming the shot possibilities and have the suspense of what might happen next. That's why that particular "time" doesn't feel slow or painful. There's almost a different "time dilation" given the scenario based on expectations. We don't do that on absolutely straight forward routine shots...that why these guys are murdering the sport. When the fans know the shot, know the pattern, and it's clear as can be, but watch some dood pace around and look at everything 3x over, and just stall it's death to the sport.
Anyway, it's not a big deal to watch an previous gen player like say Varner or Archer take a couple of minutes to figure out a shot in a tough situation, because they make up for it by shooting everything else at normal speed without delay. That was true of most all the players of that era. That's the beauty of those days. The faster over all play provided a "reserve" or "balance" of time players could dip into when the scenario legitimately called for it and it did not aggravate fans because the slow play in justified scenarios was in an appropriate context. This is what we saw in the Earl vs Efren race to 120 COM in 1996. They knew the shots, they got up there and shot them. No unnecessary delays. All pros know these shots. Just shoot them. However, in certain spots here and there, they would take a little longer. That's ok! You shot 8 out of 9 shots in the rack in seconds each, and so no one cares if you take a minute to look at one of them.
The previous generation we got the best of both worlds....a nice pace of play, and no compromising of the game due to silly shot clocks. That's the problem with the shot-clock, even with extensions for the tough situations, that's not enough time usually for pros to make the absolute most optimal choice and stroke in those scenarios. So we're cheated out of the best play. We get yet another "luck" component brought into the game that already has too much luck in it already - that is, a player has a tough situation they might have prevailed in but the clock got them. Certain tough kicks takes even a well seasoned pro time to size up and measure and visualize. Well, you lost the beauty of that with the shot clock. But hey, lot of great kicks are gone because they just pull out the overly abused jump cue (a rant for another thread, and I'm ok with jump cues too).
This of course is a trade off for not having to watch some slow-pokes stare for 3 minutes at a standard routine shot that an APA SL3 would know how to make within seconds and could do so. Those players ruined the game. Call Earl whatever you want, but when he says those players should have been quote "punished" he's right. Promoters of the game don't have to have to have everyone in there anymore than the NFL, WWE or anything else does. Boot this cancer out of the game. Don't invite them to tournaments. There needs to be discrimination. Pool does not need to be a democracy or truly "open" ... promoters are like employers and players are like employees. It's like that in all other sports. Sadly, there's no backbone to do that so instead they just enforce with the "lesser of evils" shot-clock.
That's what we're left with today....you can go watch a non-televised modern pro tournament in person and experience pool at the speed of tectonic plate drift with these troll players trying to ice their opponent to death, or we can watch this cringe worthy shot-clock pool with horrendous count-down warning beeps being played through loud speakers leading to circus style gimmick pool.
And yes, most of the blame is to be attributed to the Europeans for this. I really hope for a revival of American pool, not for any kind of nationalistic pride, but to reclaim the culture of the game and hopefully salvage it from this nonsense.