I apologize in advance for the length of this message.
I am going to try to make it as short as possible, but there is a lot to say and this message cannot be compressed any further.
I started Universe Clothing with one goal in mind: to change the general public’s perception of pool. If people could see what pool really is all about, if they could see past the bad image that it has, they would fall in love with it, like we did. It’s a game of strategy, finesse, patience, discipline, perseverance and skills. It’s a game that does not discriminate in any way: tall or short, rich or poor, big or slim, no matter the skin color, no matter where people are from, everyone can play pool, and everyone has a chance to become a good player if they work hard at it. How many other sports can claim that? And yes, pool is a sport, just as much as golf is.
If the general public could see all that, pool would have a lot more respect and our pros wouldn’t be struggling to make a living. Unfortunately that is not the case. I ran a test with a number of non-pool players just to see what the results would be. The test was very simple: I wrote down four words on a piece of paper: Chess, Tennis, Golf and Pool (with the understanding that I meant Billiards). Each word had its own column.
I then asked each person to write as many words as possible in each column based on what each word meant to them in terms of associated values or perception. This was just a test to satisfy my own curiosity so I did not record the results in an organized fashion.
However, here is the gist of what people wrote:CHESSTENNISGOLFPOOL (BILLIARDS)SmartDifficultExpensiveSmokingStrategyPriceyElitistDrinkingIntelligentGood for your healthOutdoorsyGamblingDifficultRequires to be in good shapeClassyHustlingGood business networking toolLots of money in it for the playersFun Bar GameFunEntertaining
Again, these are people who are not pool players. They might have picked up a cue every now and then, but they don’t play on a regular basis at all. This illustrates what the problem is pretty well: People associate great values to those other activities: Smart, Good for your Health, Classy. But when it comes to pool there is overwhelming sense of negativity. Most of those people wouldn’t want their kids to pick up pool as their hobby because of that. That’s not something that would be considered “good news.”
Here is a post I found on Facebook the other day that I think sums it up pretty well:
It is my firm belief that unless we “clean up our act,” we won’t be able to attract companies outside of pool to invest in the game and help us grow so we can have bigger, better tournaments, which in turn will help the Pros make a better living and help the sport get more exposure and respect.
I believe that this is what this sport needs.
We cannot keep on glorifying the hustling aspect of pool. Even though it is an integral part of pool, it is not going to help us achieve the goal of attracting new people to the sport. People gamble in Golf, they gamble in Tennis, but that is not what those sports focus on. They focus on the positive values. And unless we start doing the same, we won’t get rid of the bad image we currently have. I am only talking about the US of course, because that is all I know. The pool industry might be better off in other parts of the world, but the US is my focus.
So when people ask me if I do clothing, I say “Yes and No.”
Clothing is a means to an end, but the project is much broader than that. I didn’t start Universe Clothing so we could sell clothes and make money. I had a great paying, stable job as CEO of an electronics company. I was doing well and if money was my motivation I would have simply stayed right where I was and continue my career. I started Universe Clothing to try and make a small difference for a sport that I absolutely love.
That’s why from the get go I included the players. I wanted to compose with them, to better understand what they had to go through, what they thoughts the problems were and what ideas they had to try and change it. I chose clothing because I think perception of paramount. And if we truly want to change the general public perception of pool, it starts with what they see.
We have guys working hard to stream and document pool events. But if the players do not look professional, regardless of how great they play, the event won’t look “important” or “respectable” to those non-pool players who might come across it. The same reason why you don’t show up to work in your pajamas is the reason why we shouldn’t dress up in jeans and a T-shirt for competitions. It simply doesn’t look professional.
And for better or worse, image is paramount.
That’s why I thought starting with clothing would be a good way to get the ball rolling. But eventually we want to do a whole lot more. We want to have our own tournaments, sponsor more players, help up and coming players, even put together scholarships, whatever can help promote and grow the sport. It’s a long term plan and a very ambitious one. I started this, but there is no way that this plan is going to come to fruition with just me working on it. I need the support of this industry, from the players to the companies that are involved.
This message is my way to ask your opinion, so I can know whether or not you agree with what I said and support what I am doing. Because if people within the industry don’t think any of what I said here is true, then this is never going to work. I have received a lot of support from a lot of people so far, but I feel that it is now time to reach out to everyone and get real feedback from the industry, directly from the source.
Great players like Johnny Archer, Dennis Hatch, Shannon Daulton, Rodney Morris, Shawn Putnam and Jennifer Barretta have shown me great support and have been invaluable in getting this started. Companies like AZ Billiards, Big Truck, TV Mike, Sneaky Pete Mafia and many others have gone out of their way to help me get the word out. I feel very fortunate that I have been able to get all that support. Matchroom Sport also showed their vote of confidence by letting Universe Clothing manufacture and make available to the public all the uniforms for this year’s upcoming Mosconi Cup, which is a great honor for me.
Now is time for you to voice your opinion and let me know what your thoughts are.
Please post a comment and start by typing one of the following: I agree and I support this, I partially agree, I don’t agree.
Thank you very much for taking the time to read this and let’s see what the pool community has to say.
As always: Please get involved, spread the word and keep on playing!
Photo: Universe Clothing Company Editor: Dana Gornall