There are times where sports deliver stories that not even Hollywood can script. In the bottom of the ninth inning of game 1 of the 1988 World Series an injured Kurt Gibson came to the plate with one runner on base to pinch hit. He was not scheduled to play in game 1, or any game of the 1988 World Series. On a full count, Kurt hit a walk off home run off of soon to be hall of famer Dennis Eckersley. The crowd erupted and while Gibson limped around the bases, Jack buck spoke the now famous line, “I don’t believe what I just saw!” Gibson did not play another game in the series and that was his only at bat.
Another famous event would be the so called “Miracle on Ice.” The 1980 Winter Olympics emanated from Lake Placid New York and the Gold Medal game in Hockey pitted the four-time defending gold medal champions Soviet Union against the underdog team USA, which was comprised of college players. The odds of team USA winning were 1000-1. As the final seconds ticked off the clock with the US leading 4-3, Al Michaels yelled out the line of his career, “Do you believe in miracles?”
Pool saw a similar story this year at the Predator Las Vegas Open. Eric “Last Word” Roberts has been a round pool almost his whole life. Rising through the junior ranks and now competing as an adult, the pool world is well aware of what Mr. Roberts can do. Eric was scheduled to play in the Predator Las Vegas Open in a stacked field. The World 10 Ball event was right after the Predator Las Vegas Open so many of the world’s best players got in the Las Vegas Open as well. Eric did not have an invite to the World 10 Ball event, so his plan was to stay out in Vegas and hang out with friends and play in some mini tournaments. During the Las Vegas Open, Eric matched up with US #1 ranked player “The South Dakota Kid” Shane Van Boening. The format is two sets of race to four 10 Ball with a modified spot shot shootout if players split sets. On paper, Shane should win this match every time. At this level however, anyone has a punchers chance. Eric had more than a punchers chance at took Shane hill-hill in both matches. This was the talk of the tournament and all of social media. Word got back to the tournament director who then personally invited Eric to play in the World 10 Ball event since there were a number of players that could not attend due to Visa issues. Eric was excited about the opportunity but since he only planned on playing in the Las Vegas Open, he didn’t have the $750 for entry into the World 10 Ball event. What happened next is another sports story that Hollywood wishes they thought up. Eric put out a post on Facebook about his situation and asked the pool community that he has been active in for so long to help him pay the entry free and have a chance to play in such a prestigious event. Within 15 minutes, Eric has the $750 to enter the event! When asked about how this made him feel, Eric said, “It was unbelievable because as soon as I posted it I got ten messages. Fifteen messages. Twenty Messages. Thirty Messages. It was unreal the support I had from all these people I have known throughout the years in the pool industry. Its just unreal that they helped me out that quick and I am extremely thankful for it.”
But the story does not end there. Eric won his first match in the world 10 ball even, but lost his next match. Eric then went on a streak of winning 4 matches in a row, including a hill-hill match on the stream table. The even format was double elimination until the final 32 players, where it became a single elimination bracket. Eric made it to the final 32, but could not win his first match in that round. Eric still went home with a decent payday finishing 17-32 out of 128, in an event that he wasn’t supposed to play in.
Eric was presented with a great opportunity and he made the most of it.We look forward to seeing Eric compete in more big tournaments and to see him progress as we have literally watched him grow up in this industry.