The 2018 Mosconi Cup is now underway in London, pitting US players against European players, and the question is, will this be the year the US breaks their seven-year losing streak? Actually the question I’m asking is, since the Mosconi Cup, now in its twenty-fifth year, is one of pool’s biggest events, why is it only US and European players?
A little background: the cup is named for Willie Mosconi who was, if not the greatest pool player ever, then certainly the greatest American player. The son of Irish and Italian immigrants whose parents objected to him playing pool—even though his father owned a pool room, or maybe because his father owned a pool room—Mosconi was also an ambassador for the game. He hated hustlers and cheaters. Willie Mosconi wanted to raise pool above its association with smoky back rooms and shady characters. When he played Rudolph Wanderone, better known as Minnesota Fats, in a 1978 televised match for ABC’s Wide Wide World Of Sports Mosconi insisted on wearing a tuxedo, and focused on the match, unlike his opponent who wore short sleeves and played to the crowd as much as the table.
It’s not just a matter of who Mosconi was, though. Thumb through any issue of Billiards Digest and you’ll find that there are great players from all over the world—not just the United States and Europe. In 2016 five of the top twenty players in the world were from the Philippines, which ain’t bad for a country with a population of a little more than a hundred million. Shutting out that level of talent just because of geography isn’t just unfair. It’s disrespectful to the memory of the man for whom the Mosconi Cup is named. It seems like cheating.
Even though it would make it even harder for the US players to gain and hold onto the cup winning isn’t everything. At least it isn’t if it’s not a fair win.