Interview mit Jerry Forsyth

In Luxemburg bei der EM Ende März wurde nicht nur sehr gutes Pool Billard gespielt, es wurden auch sehr interessante Kontakte geknüpft. Ich hatte das Glück das mir der US Amerikaner Jerry Forsyth über den Weg gelaufen ist und man uns kurz miteinander bekannt gemacht hat, danke dafür an Thomas Overbeck (EPBF Press Officer & Tournament Leader). Vielen wird der Name Jerry Forsyth nicht so geläufig sein, nun… er ist die amerikanische Stimme des Pool Billards. Er kommentiert zumeist den Mosconi Cup und die Weltmeisterschaften auf der ganzen Welt, sowie viele viele andere Events in den USA. Er begann Anfang der 80er Jahre als Pool Billard Journalist und einige Jahre später kam der Einstieg beim britischen Sender Sky um seine Karriere als Kommentator zu starten. Als großer Fan seiner Art zu kommentieren ist es natürlich ein Glück Ihn mit einigen Fragen auf den Zahn zu fühlen. Er hat eine unglaublich große Erfahrung und ist seit Jahrzehnten in der Pool Billard Szene unterwegs. Darüberhinaus ist er auch noch ein Teil des US Billardportals AzBilliards und betreibt in Georgia sehr erfolgreich seine eigene „Charity Farm“.

Viel Spaß beim lesen……

End of March during the European Pool Championships it was possible to watch excellent pool on one hand and to socialize with very interesting people on the other. The luck was on my side when I was introduced to the US American Jerry Forsyth by Thomas Overbeck (EPBF Press Officer & Tournament Leader). Many thanks Thomas! Most Europeans won’t be familiar with the name Jerry Forsyth. In short words…Jerry Forsyth is „US Voice Of Pool“. Most of the time he comments the Mosconi Cup, the World Championships around the world and several other events in the USA. Jerry started his career end of the 80’s as a Pool Billiard journalist and found the way to British television with SKY where he continued as a commentator. Being a big Fan of jerry’s style to comment things it was pure luck to me to sound him out a bit. Jerry is incredible experienced and a member of the international pool scene since decades. Furthermore he is part of the US Billiardportal AzBilliards and successfully leads his own charity farm in Georgia.
Have fun reading this……

Since several years i am a big fan of your style commenting Pool Billiard. So i wonder how your career started and especially how you earned that people watch you as „The Voice of Pool“?

Jerry: Actually a rather odd story here.  I had been a newscaster at a local TV station when I got out of college, so cameras and microphones are familiar to me. But I had given up broadcasting long ago and never thought about it. I was covering a Mosconi Cup event in London for Pool & Billiard magazine some 15 years ago and got to York Hall two hours early in order to set up my cameras and get the light readings that you needed back then. I was sitting in the stands, just fidgeting with gear, when a friendly fellow walked up and started talking to me. After about 20 minutes he introduced himself as Rory Hopkins and I knew that name as the Executive Producer for Sky Sports. He said he had a commentator fall ill on him and wanted to put me in the commentary box for one match. Sky liked what I did and I have been doing pool commentary ever since. I certainly do not consider myself the voice of pool. I think that accolade belongs to either Mitch Laurance or Jim Wych or both.

Treffen mit Jerry in Luxemburg

It was big Luck  to met you in Luxembourg. I know you should have participated at a WPA – meeting and several events across Europe are planned. Could you could give us a small Sneak Preview about that?

Jerry: Well, I was there as a BCA representative, not a WPA representative. We were there to learn from the EPBF how to run professional events on a national scale without breaking the bank account. Gre, David and Thomas were very helpful, shared a lot of information with us and I am now working on an information brief to give to the BCA. Both Europe and North America are concerned as we see the focus of the game becoming very Asia-centric and while we are delighted that the game is so popular in Asia we do not want that to mean that it loses popularity elsewhere.

How did you like the EM in Luxembourg from the point of atmosphere and sportive niveau?

Jerry: The EPBF does a great job of producing their events. They have teamed up with Kozoom to stream them around the world and they have the experience under their belts to be able to fine-tune their events for very effective presentation.  I was, of course, very impressed with the way it was all done.

Like always i had the feeling that Europeans as player or audience have some difficulties to show their emotions. US players are much more emotional and so is the audience. Do you share that impression?

Jerry: I wish I did. When I was a younger man the American pool players were a lot of fun to watch. We had Fats talking up everything and very colorful players like Jimmy Mataya and Keith McCready who were just a lot of fun to watch. American players would wear their emotions on their sleeves and you could feel their pain when they missed and their joy when they made a good shot.  The fans really enjoyed the games.  Then the robotic playing styles of Asia and Europe took over the game and now the game is a lot less entertaining to watch.  The quality of play went up considerably, but it is not fan-friendly to watch emotionless players who never crack a smile or a frown. The game is desperately lacking excitement and I do not have a solution to this problem.

I really like the American way to play pool and many Guys over here would appreciate the more casual style on tournaments etc. Somehow you are closer to the roots, much more open and not so reglemented like we are over here e.g. in Germany. So i would like to know if you share the impression?

Jerry: Again, that was an accurate description of American players 15 years ago, but not now. Everyone has copied one of your players, Ralf Souquet, because the emotionless style works at the table.

Please describe the most important differences between Players from America and European players.

Jerry: I will comment on the top players. I know that Niels Feijen and many other European pros actually practice drills on the table. The ‘L’ drill, position drills, etc. They work very hard to improve and hone their skills. American players do not do a lot of drill work. They toss the balls out on the table and run them off. They practice their break and they run a lot of racks when they practice. What I am surmising (and could be very wrong on) is that the European ego is built upon the confidence that the practice work brings them while the American ego is built on the running of the balls in practice. I have always believed that a large ego is required to excel in individual sports. You have no business stepping out on the tournament floor if you do not honestly believe that you are the best player out there that day. If you think you could lose you up your chances of losing. So both groups reach the end goal of a healthy ego even though they take different routes to get there.

Jerry mit seiner Frau Fran und seinen beiden Hunden Strider & Winston

Many of us over here share the dream to start a professional career which goes together in many cases with starting new live in America. Do you think this became possible in our days or is it still a risky thing?

Jerry: It is MUCH worse now than 40 years ago. Adjusted for inflation our prize pools are shrinking very fast. The old 70’s tournaments like the Tahoe events paid out first prize amounts of $30,000. That is much more than is paid out today with very few exceptions. In fact, according to the inflation calculator at a tournament today would have to pay out a little over $154,000 to first place just to match that $30,000 in purchasing power. So there is nowhere near the money in the game today that there once was. When Greenleaf won $300 in an event in the twenties or thirties he was actually walking away with more purchasing power than the winners today get. As a personal testament to the power of inflation, I am getting ready to pay more for a riding lawnmower ($2,000) than I did for my first brand-new car in 1970. Back then I bought a new MGB off the showroom floor for $1800. And my 3-bedroom house back then cost me $17,500.

I make a case right now. The Americans have a pretty big problem finding new blood in pool. What’s your opinion about that?

Jerry: I agree. With the reduction in prize purchasing powers that we have witnessed most people now see pool as a recreation and would never pursue it as a career.  Take a look at the yearly winnings for the best players in the world. Now subtract from that their travel expenses. Not much left, is there? A player once told me that he played pool because: „What else am I going to do, flip burgers?“ Well, someone who flips burgers at McDonalds has a certain income and the potential to become a multi-millionaire by owning their own franchises. Pool players can never look forward to even a comfortable retirement. A condition that is made much worse by the fact that they do not pay Social Security on their incomes and will have no government pensions when they get old. Playing pool for a living is something that I think now belongs in the past unless you are ready to move to Asia. But we still do get some great new blood. Shane Van Boening and Mike Dechaine are both great young players. I hope that the game sees a turnaround that will enable them to make good livings but I am not optimistic about that.

During the Mosconi Cup 2011 i received the impression that except of Shane Van Boening the US Team was not competitive. On the first Point of view it looked like a lag of engagement but also technical deficits became apparent. Please give us your opinion.

Jerry: Well, I just thought the US guys had a bad week. They missed shots or position at critical points. They did not seem to have the confidence that winning requires. As for technicals, that is a very argumentative point. Every billiard instructor I know says you should never drop your elbow on a shot. But the pros drop their elbows all the time. So I do not know how to evaluate that. No one would say that Jim Furyk has a technically correct golf swing but it works very well for him. Bustamante has a nightmarish circular arm during his stroke but the balls fall away. So I do not put a lot of faith in technicals. European players do, however, and it is working for them. I cannot argue that.

For sure you have a close look to what’s going on in Asia. Many peoples opinion is that the Asians will become unbeatable in the future. Do you agree to this?

Jerry: Yes. They start very young and they work harder than anyone else in the world. But the question is will they be able to produce an entertaining playing style that keeps sponsors involved in the game? That is yet to be seen. Their playing styles are certainly emotionless and I find that to be a big problem for the game everywhere.

If you would meet the good fairy of pool which offers you three wishes for free to change US Pool…what would they be?

Jerry: 1. Turn the economy around so that people have enough disposable income to go out and enjoy pool again and so they will buy pool tables, cloth, balls, sticks, etc. This would help us get more sponsorship into the game. 2. Bring back the old playing styles of woofing at the table, exultation at making a great shot and messing around with the audience.  3. Change the demographic of pool fans from old folks with no money to youngsters with a lifetime of spending ahead of them. Again, to attract long-term sponsors to the game.

What do you think is needed to give pool a big media focus worldwide? Or will this ever stay a dream?

Jerry: I have to be honest and say I think this is a dream. Pool has too much to compete with now. It has to compete against Baseball, Football, Basketball, NASCAR, and not only at the pro level but more and more you see college sports taking up TV time. Folks thought that if poker could compete so could pool. But poker is waning now and may soon die off the TV as pool has done. Again, folks want to be entertained and excited. Very hard for pool to accomplish that the way it is played today.

Time to reminisce about some special moments 😉 May be you commented or experienced some of them live so they became unforgettable to you. What was the most fascinating, thrilling or even emotional moment of your career? Please detail all Jerry 🙂

Jerry: Well, one very exciting moment for me was during a Mosconi Cup at York Hall. Corey Deuel pulled off the most exciting shot I have ever seen in pro play. His cue ball was on the head rail at about the first diamond off of the right side. He was straight in on the shot and needed to go straight left off of the shot to get position on the next ball. Corey jacked up on the cue ball, fired down hard on it and the cue ball made the shot and then drew back to the head rail where the spin to the left that he put on it grabbed and sent the ball over to the left side of the table at around the side pockets. He was dead on with his shape. I would not bet that he could ever do that shot in competition again, but it was unbelievable to watch. As I remember it both Jim Wych and I fell silent in the booth. Then I think Jim just said „Wow.“ And that summed it up pretty well. The most emotional moment for me was at the World Championship in Cardiff the year (2003?) that Earl won his last WC. His opponent in the final was Francisco Bustamante. Francisco received a terrible phone call only hours before he was to play the finals where his wife told him that their infant daughter had died during the night. The whole room was devastated. Everyone, myself included, was crying. We expected Francisco to withdraw. But his wife said  that this was not what their child would have wanted and she asked him to play on in her memory. He did. He lost the match, but it was the bravest thing I have ever seen in pool. To this day I tear up when I think about it.

Was there a moment in the past you would describe as „scandalous“?

Jerry: Sure. Several. Jim Wych and I went into the comm box one year at Cardiff knowing the final scores of three matches that were on the TV table before they started. This was the year that the players and some backers decided to take down the bookmakers. It was a round-robin format so players who had already won enough matches to make it through to the finals could throw matches with no penalty. And they did. They would bet exact score lines on the underdogs and they won a lot of money. And you no longer see round-robin formats as a result. Same deal happened at an event at the Stardust in Vegas.  Buddy Hall was playing Mike Lebron in the finals and Buddy was about a 40-1 favorite to win. They were taking bets at the sports book. So all of the players lined up to bet on Mike. Long story short, Mike won and the sports books in Vegas have never made a line on pool since. Of course, the whole IPT thing became a huge sham and there are still a lot of „qualifiers“ out there who paid $2,000 to qualify for events that never happened.

You met all of the pool legends like Nick Varner, Jim Rempe, Steve Mizerak, Rudolph „Minnesota Fats“ Wanderone,  Lou Butera, Mike Massey, Allen Hopkins, Mike Siegel or Efren Reyes when they were young. Who was your Favorite and why?

Jerry: I have many favorites. I have always liked and respected Nick Varner because he always kept things in proper perspective. In Nicks life his family comes first. He put who kids through college and will do so again. He has maintained his side business ( that ensures him a steady income and he does not hold any fantasies about the future. He prepares for it instead.  I cared a great deal for Steve Mizerak. Again, he knew pool was not a lifeline and he had his billiard supply business that made him his money. Fats was fantastic because he gave the game the color it needed so badly at the time.  But I like most of the guys on the tour. They are a fun bunch of folks and all of them have their own war stories to enjoy.

Thomas Overbeck, Jerry Forsyth und Marco Takis

Ralf Souquet, Oliver Ortmann, Thomas Engert und Thorsten Hohmann!!! What comes in your mind first regarding these names?

Jerry: They are machines. They have enjoyed great success due to their personal discipline. And I would enjoy them all a lot more if they displayed some emotion at the table. Engert does a bit, so he is more fun to watch.

Name the best pool player ever from your point of view.

Jerry: I can’t. There are too many who deserve a spot at the very top. But among these are Ralph Greenleaf, Willie Mosconi, Jean Balukas, Earl Strickland, Johnny Archer, Mike Sigel, Ralf Souquet, Allison Fisher, Efren Reyes and Nick Varner. Really I would need to list about fifteen players as being the best. The only way to know for sure would be to pit them against one another in their prime and we cannot do that.

What are the upcoming „projects“ and where will you pick up the microphone next? Will we have the luck to see you back soon in Europe?

Jerry: Actually, I plan to continue with AZBilliards and the commentary. I will be back for the Mosconi Cup in London again this year.  But my wife and I have become “charity farmers” where we grow crops to give away to food banks. And that is where a lot of my attention goes these days. Like Europe, America must stop spending so much money as a government or the country will go broke. So private citizens such as ourselves must take up the business of feeding the hungry and housing and clothing the needy. We want to be a part of that effort as it is only proper that people take care of one another and not expect that to be done by government.

To come to an end i would like to ask you for a statement about!

Jerry: I find the site to be attractive and easy to navigate. I wish all pool sites a great deal of luck as mere survival in the world of pool news is a tough nut to crack. I know that you share the dedication that my partner, Mike Howerton, and I do about keeping the game in the spotlight. It is certainly not a road to riches and requires a passion for the game that is rare.

Jerry, it was a big honor for me to met you in person. I give all my best wishes to you and especially hope you keep your health.  

thanks a lot Mr. Forsyth  🙂

Ich möchte mich nicht nur bei Jerry Forsyth bedanken, sondern auch nochmal bei Thomas Overbeck, Mike Howerton sowie Volker und Sebastian 😉

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4 Kommentare

  1. Hi Florian,
    I enjoyed your article very much-keep up the good work!
    I know Jerry and his words and wisdom are sound guides.

  2. Super-Interview, vielen Dank dafür. Mich hätte interessiert, was er zum TV-Erfolg von Snooker sagt. Gerade in Bezug auf seine Kritik am technischen, unemotionalen Spielstil der Europäer und Asiaten. Das haben wir ja im Snooker auch, und trotzdem schauen Millionen zu.

  3. Patrick:

    Super-Interview, vielen Dank dafür. Mich hätte interessiert, was er zum TV-Erfolg von Snooker sagt. Gerade in Bezug auf seine Kritik am technischen, unemotionalen Spielstil der Europäer und Asiaten. Das haben wir ja im Snooker auch, und trotzdem schauen Millionen zu.

    Schreib Ihm doch eine Email, über die AzBilliards Seite findest Du im Kontaktbereich seine Adresse….er wird Dir sicher darauf antworten sobald er Zeit hat 🙂
    Schönen Gruß

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