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ESPN Delays Mosconi Cup Airing

Pool fans who tuned in to ESPN2 Sunday afternoon, Dec. 28, expecting to see six consecutive hours of the 2003 Mosconi Cup instead found a string of Trick Shot Magic reruns.

Blame it on Eminem.

ESPN public relations spokesman Nate Smeltz said that the 2003 Mosconi Cup, staged Dec. 18-21 at the MGM Grand Hotel/Casino in Las Vegas, had “production problems” that prevented it from airing in its assigned time slot. Smeltz went on to say that the Mosconi Cup would, indeed, air on ESPN2 in the near future, but that definitive dates have not been established.

According to Matchroom Sports, producers of the Mosconi Cup, the crux of the problem was music (including rapper Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”) that Matchroom’s United Kingdom television partner Sky Sport uses during player introductions and taped promotional segments.

“Sky Sports has copyright to run whatever music they want in the U.K.,” said Matchroom’s Luke Riches. “In the U.S., ESPN has to clear the rights to the music, or edit songs out of the program and replace them with music that they hold rights to.”

According to Riches, Sky Sport edited and produced four hours of programming from the 2002 Mosconi Cup, which aired on ESPN2 Dec. 29, 2002. In 2003, however, ESPN assumed the task of editing the footage into six one-hour shows. (All 20 matches of Team USA’s 11-9 win over Team Europe were aired live in the U.K. on Sky Sport.)

“Apparently,” said Riches, “ESPN couldn’t clear the music or re-edit the tapes in time.

“I guess this kind of thing can happen,” Riches added. “But it’s something of a disaster for our sponsors who bought commercial time and expected the commercials to air on Dec. 28.”

U.S. Assumes Command

On the heels of spirited and nearly flawless play from Mosconi Cup debutante Rodney Morris, Team USA won three of four matches Friday afternoon at the MGM Grand Hotel/Casino in Las Vegas to take a 6-3 lead over Team Europe in the annual Matchroom Sport-promoted team tournament.

Morris, unbeaten in his two matches thus far (one doubles win and one singles victory), made the most of every shooting opportunity and worked the capacity crowd into near hysteria while teamming with Johnny Archer in a 5-1 stomping of the German duo of Ralf Souquet and Thorsten Hohmann. Morris continually urged the pro-U..S. crowd for support during the match.

Day Two of the Ryder Cup-style event began with Jeremy Jones, who learned he would be leading off in singles competition just 20 minutes prior to the opening lag, beating Sweden’s Marcus Chamat, 5-3. Earl Strickland and Tony Robles then paired to topple Steve Davis and Nick Van den Berg by the same score. The only thing that kept Europe from squandering all four opportunities on Friday was Mika Immonen’s thrilling 5-4 win over Charlie Williams. Williams had fought back from a 4-1 deficit to tie the match, and had the break in the case game. Not only did Williams fail to make a ball on the break, but he left Immonen a 1-9 combination that sealed his doom. Because of the U.S.’s three-game lead, the promoters decided not to stage a fifth match on Friday, for fear that another U.S. win might lead to an early end to the race-to-11 tournament. In 2001, the U.S. ended the event on Saturday with a 12-1 thrashing, leaving Matchroom and TV partner Sky Sports with no Sunday programming.

For more information on the 2004 Mosconi Cup, log onto www.mosconicup.com.

U.S. Takes Early Mosconi Cup Lead

A surprisingly large and boisterous turn-out greeted Team USA and Team Europe on Thursday when the Mosconi Cup team tournament made its U.S. debut at the MGM Grand Hotel/Casino in Las Vegas, and the players didn’t disappoint. In a five-match mix of singles and doubles play, the U.S. squad closed out the opening day with a 3-2 advantage in the race-to-11 tournament.

Uncertain of how the Mosconi Cup, wildly successful for nine years in London, would fare in America, promoter Barry Hearn of Matchroom Sport was overwhelmed by the 300-plus fans that filled the arena for the 11 a.m. opening lag. “This is absolutely fantastic,” said Hearn, who hopes to switch the Cup to a home-and-home series from this point on. Bouyed by nearly 100 Euros who made the pre-Christmas trek to Las Vegas, the first day featured raucous cheering for the two sides.

The opening match featured Johnny Archer, pool’s hotest player, against reigning World Pool Champion Thorsten Hohmann of Germany. Archer jumped to an early lead, and held on for a nerve-wracking 5-4 win in a match that lasted some 90 minutes.

Europe tied the match when the Scandanavian duo of Marcus Chamat and Mika Immonen rolled to a 5-1 win over Tony Robles and Charlie Williams.

The U.S. took a 3-1 lead after Rodney Morris made an impressive Mosconi Cup debut with a 5-3 pasting of Ralf Souquet, and the team of Earl Strickland and Jeremy Jones squandered a 4-0 lead, but outlasted Steve Davis and Nick Van den Berg, 5-4.

Europe stayed within striking distance of the Americans when Immonen topped Archer, 5-3, in the day’s final match.

For more information and photos from the 2004 Mosconi Cup, and match-by-match updates, go to www.mosconicup.com.

MGM Grand To Host Mosconi Cup

As promised by Brit pool promoter Barry Hearn after Europe upset the mighty U.S. squad in the 2002 Mosconi Cup last December, pool fans in America will get their chance to play the boisterous hosts when the 2003 version of the raucous Europe vs the U.S. team event comes to the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Dec. 18-21.

“The Mosconi Cup in Las Vegas is something that the world of pool has been collectively dreaming about for a long time,” said Hearn, the former snooker promoter, whose Matchroom Sport sports promotion company launched the Ryder Cup-style 9-ball tournament in 1994. “I’m delighted to say that it is now a reality.”

Hoping to create the type of interest that Americans developed for the America’s Cup sailing race after the U.S.’s years of dominance was ended, shockingly, in the early ’80s, Hearn plans to hype the 2003 Mosconi Cup to pool fans and general sports fans in the U.S. According to Matchroom publicist Luke Riches, a 30-second commercial promoting the Mosconi Cup will air some 100 times on Fox Sports World during broadcasts of the World Matchplay Darts tournament (a Matchroom promotion) in September.

Additionally, said Hearn, Matchroom will be offering special fan packages to pool followers in both Europe and the U.S., in an attempt to recreate the wildly enthusiastic soccer-style fan atmosphere that has rattled the rafters of York Hall for the past five years.

“We want as many fans as possible to come and join in this celebration of the great game,” Hearn commented. “We’ll be announcing some very affordable travel packages very shortly.”

Matchroom also announced that, for the first time in the event’s history, the teams will be led by non-playing captains, similar to the Ryder Cup golf format. While teams have yet to be confirmed, it is expected that Team Europe will return almost intact, with Germany’s Ralf Souquet, Sweden’s Marcus Chamat, Nick Van den Berg of the Netherlands, England’s Steve Davis and Finland’s Mika Immonen defending their crown. It is anticipated that newly crowned world champion Thorsten Hohmann, of Germany, will be added to the squad, replacing countryman Oliver Ortmann. Ortmann, captain and emotional leader of the 2002 champions, may be tabbed as the team’s non-playing captain in 2003.

According to Riches, the American squad is still taking shape, and a final announcement of the six-man team is not likely before the United States Professional Poolplayers Association (UPA) Atlanta Open in mid-October.

Drago, Dragon Take Titles

Tony Drago of Malta is making a splash in 9-ball circles after years as a snooker pro. He gave the 9-ball world his notice by reaching the semi-finals of the WPA World Pool Championships earlier in the summer, and now he’s proved his worth with a first-place finish at the 2003 World Pool Masters, in Egmond aan Zee, Holland. Drago defeated Taiwan’s Hui-kai Hsia, 8-6, in a tense battle highlighted by a handful of Drago’s lightning-fast run-outs. To get to the final, Drago took matches from Earl Strickland, Nick van den Berg and Alex Pagulayan. The 37-year-old potter was elated by his success. “To win this was something else for me. I enjoyed it so much, and the crowd here were fantastic — the best in the world. I’m starting to play more and more, and 9-ball will be a big part of my future,” he told event promoter Matchroom Sport. Drago’s win earned him $20,000.

On the other side of the ocean, American pool pro Charlie Williams was busy winning his second title within a two-week span. Williams’ 13-8 victory over Ronnie Wiseman in the finals of the 2003 Capital City Classic, comes right on the heels of his Big Apple 9-Ball Challenge win last week in New York City. To take the Capital City win, Williams powered through 9 straight games after being sent to the losers’ side by Wiseman early in the tournament. Williams took $8,500 for first place, while Wiseman settled for $4,700. Cory Deuel and Luc Salvas took third and fourth, respectively.

Mosconi Cup Gets First-Ever U.S. Airtime

Expect to see Johnny on your television at the end of December.

Expect to see Johnny on your television at the end of December.

The Mosconi Cup will be broadcast for the first time in the United States this year courtesy of ESPN2. Coverage, which will feature tournament highlights, will run from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. EST on Sunday, Dec. 29, 2002. The Mosconi Cup takes place Dec. 19-22 in London.

Matchroom Sport Chair Barry Hearn said, “This is great news for American pool fans who will at last get the opportunity to sample the unique atmosphere of the sport’s greatest event.” Hearn voiced the hope that the event would draw large numbers of non-pool-playing viewers.

Hearn also discussed the possibility of moving the Mosconi Cup to the United States in the future. “Hopefully this will be the start of a beautiful relationship that will see the Mosconi Cup taking place in the United States and being broadcast live from coast-to-coast.”