Monday, August 23rd, 2021 -- I talked with Brad Swain in a recent interview about his new cue sponsorship, partnership with Sneaky Pete Mafia, and his involvement in billiards instruction.
Triple certified American Cue Sports (ACS), Professional Billiards Instructors Association (PBIA), and Set Pause Finish (SPF) billiards instructor Brad Swain and Sneaky Pete Mafia (SPM) are teaming up as SPM seeks to diversify and expand billiards news and coverage; SPM endorses Swain to provide pool articles, in depth analysis of the game, videos on technique, and tips on how to play better in this symbiotic relationship of sorts, where both parties benefit from the exchange, as do the billiards aficionados, players, fans, and rail birds of a feather worldwide.
Brad and I talked for about 2 hours, enraptured in a dynamic discourse, ensconced within a plethora of pool pontification; Swain appears to me to be in tune to the pulse of pool -- that game of spheres, felt, chalk, pockets, slate, stone, nerve and sinew that he, myself, and so many others love with a fiery passion the color red, a crimson hue.
Swain currently lives in Orange Park, Florida. He recently got back into billiards just last year after a decade-long hiatus, when his fourteen year old son asked Brad to give him instruction on pool.
“What made me decide to take a ten-year hiatus? I burned myself out. I was going on the road. I was hitting out of town tournaments. I was chasing every game I could with some buddies that were really teaching me hardcore, and my game stepped up the last year and a half bigtime. I got burned out while I was out there, so I decided to take a -- I don’t know -- couple month break, and my very first visit back to the pool hall I had my cues walk off from me before I even got to a table,” Said Swain, “I just quit playing. I had no fun with it...I just wanted to focus on other things in life besides pool, because pool had been the only focus.”
So Swain, downtrodden from having all his pool gear stolen at a time he could ill afford to replace it -- leaves the game in 2009, then returns just last October, performing now at about 80 percent of his top gear, he informed me.
“I grew up in a really prominent scene, and when I first started playing, the poolroom actually had nap cloth still. And I remember when Simonis came out with their felt. All of the oldtimers were talking about, ‘The game has changed, and it’s only waiting for the players to catch up. And it’s only going to keep on changing more and more.’...Fast forward to today, after taking all that time off, I completely get it, because I don’t recognize the scene today, as opposed to what it was when I quit.” -- Swain. And then the pool scene from when he first began to play, and back and 2009 was very different he explained, “...So, I’m seeing this generational change.”
Brad feels that pool wasn’t that way when he began to play, but that now it is a very good environment for young players like his son to explore, “Now that I have a teenager, I am very grateful that it’s every bit a place for a teenager, many of them are; they’ve gone non smoking; a lot of leagues are letting juniors in; they’re even doing a lot of work for junior nationals. The pool scene, as a whole, has changed.” Swain continues on to describe how there are twice as many top level juniors as when he was a teen, and can’t wait to see when there are ten times as many.
Agreed; the children are the future of the game.
“We are at a point where a lot of demographics of people are coming together and joining the game. There’s a huge influx of pool players new to the game, and I find it crazy that even after a decade, I can still run some racks. I was sure of it -- that I was just going to go back and donate, and then, I was able to compete -- over the last 10 months, is about what I’ve been playing again. I’m about 80 percent recovered. I am focusing more on my business, and what I can do for others right now than I am focused on myself. I’m not really working on my game,” reveals Swain.
“But I do have a game plan down the line. Once the craziness of building my business -- maybe when the dust settles, I’m going to really start working on my game. I plan on coming out guns firing (laughs),” Swain.
So many options to choose from, and my favorite may be the green-felt variety, but Swain tells me his favorite color is red -- and in a world painted with so many wonderful, pool-ball colors -- Swain really gets it, I feel, gets the nature of pool inside and out. He teaches on the mental game. He teaches stroke technique, the physics of pool, friction, throw, all that. Clearly, he is the real deal.
JFlowers Cues is now Swain's cue sponsor, just this month, so that's another testament to his billiards knowledge, game, and repertoire; cue companies don't sponsor just anyone.
In billiards, we talk about "What's the buzz in the game?" Swain is the buzz -- is coming up, rising as a new billiards instructor, working on his personal game, happy about his new sponsorship, and SPM's Web developer is also helping him launch his new website soon.
When Swain’s website is released, he plans to present a personal blog about the game, experiences and stories, instruction, as well as to host a billiards forum players can access to talk various points of contention in anything and everything pool related.
Swain and I talked about the game, how things used to be, how it is now, and he indicated that he liked the rail-bird culture the game used to espouse, where players would watch and learn from the best local players -- and how now it seems like so many of the players don’t know the game -- how so many like to play the game as hobbyists, but not really have much of a knowledge of various aspects and the inherent nuances related to them. He would like to change that, get back to where players know the top players of the game in their localities and worldwide, get back into talking about the game, the mental game, all the talking points that used to make the game more diverse and dynamic in the myriad of characters one can meet in any given pool hall.
Swain appears to me to be family focused, with how he supports his son’s interest in billiards, how his son got him back into the sport less than a year ago. And Swain appears to love the culture of the game, mental game, the diversity of players that make up the landscape of pool entire.
As to the story of Swain’s son and how it relates to his ultimate return to the game just last October, 2020, he tells me, “One of the things I wanted to add in there is that I was completely burned out of playing pool for so long, however, I was able to watch my son grow up as a pool player. His mother remained a player up until about 2 years ago, and so she used to bring him around to the APA (American Poolplayers Association) league, and he grew up around a lot of the players, and he was able to develop his game naturally. He started with the ‘Mosconi Stroke.' That was his only option. He had to put his wrist straight up in the air. He wouldn’t have reached. He was eye level to the rail (laughs). He was playing pool at about three years old, and just barely able to stand over, and hitting the ball. Once he was about four, he could hit the ball and make a lot of shots...he was just enthused by that. He would draw the ball length of the table not even knowing what he was doing. It was just natural...he was hitting with a monster stroke right from the get go, and I knew he was going to be something special one day when I could work with him.”
“So, twelve years go by, I’m not playing pool at all. A year, year and a half after his mother quit playing, he and I had some conversations, and he asked, ‘So, dad, how good were you? I’ve been hearing all these stories. I know who your friends are, and I know how good they play, but how good were you?’ We talked about it, and that led to another conversation where he asked me to teach him how to play. And I asked him, ‘What do you want? Do you want to just look good in front of your buddies? Or what do you want?’ He said, ‘Dad, I want to get to the level you were at -- I want to run out.’” -- Said Swain of how instrumental his son was to ultimately getting him back to playing again himself (Better to teach if you can perform yourself…).
Brad and I also talked a bit about the newer options in the game, such as carbon fiber shafts, tip options, chalk options, etcetera, but Swain indicated that so many players will spend an exuberant amount of money on billiards equipment, but rarely invest on the most important aspect of their game, namely their game. It’s so obvious to Swain where the problem resides for so many players. But more players are beginning to come around, back to the rail-bird culture of the past -- a time where respect was given not by the color of their skin, equipment they use, amount of money they make, but the kind of game they brought with them to the table.
"I want to motivate and inspire others to seek a better pool game. And I want to show people that 'A,' they may be better they think, and 'B,' improving their game may be much easier than they thought, with the right guidance and training," concludes Swain.
And Brad is thankful to those that support him; here is a link to his cue sponsor:
We will be doing a follow-up article about his cue sponsor within the next month. His new cues will arrive in the next couple of days from JFlowers Cues & Cases. Check out our continued coverage on Brad Swain covering what his sponsorship by JFlowers will entail.
Check out Swain on Facebook to find out about one-on-one instruction: