Sounding Off (The Bobby Martinez saga)

“I hope you become a famous pool player one day. I can’t wait to quote you.” This was said to me by a billiards reporter for a very popular magazine when giving him a lift home from my first professional event. I never became a famous pool player but he did end up writing an article on a topic that was a very sore spot for me. However I did recognize that when playing a game or sport professionally there is a need to be able to censor one’s self in the interest of the betterment of the sport. I use the word “censor” in the loosest possible way, of course. I was very critical of the way the various tours were run. I resented the obvious favoritism shown to certain players, the fact that seeded professionals were allowed to play in qualifiers for pro events and felt their dress code was archaic. I always managed to get my point across with diplomacy and actually had a tournament director thank me for presenting my grievance in a constructive way. I didn’t get my way but I ended up with an army behind me singing the same song.

This leads me to the disqualification of Bobby Martinez from this year’s Quiksilver Pro event and banishment from the remaining tour stops. His fans seem way more torn up about this happening than he does. He said this would be his last event anyway so he shouldn’t be feeling any real sense of loss but a lot of his fans are beside themselves with anger. How dare they! The fix is in! It’s a conspiracy so that (insert name here) can win! Really it was a guy who publicly spewed vulgarities and outright bashed everyone involved in this event. I don’t know much about the various surfing organizations but this just sounded bad from go.

From another perspective, I also cover the NHL and am fortunate to occasionally interview players and coaches. The majority of them give pretty typical answers and us reporters love when a Jeremy Roenick, Brett Hull or Zenon Konopka comes along. We just know some wonderful gem will trickle out of his mouth and will give us fodder for days. It’s glorious! “Freedom of Speech man. I can say whatever I want.” – Bobby Martinez. True. But the rules change a bit when the word “professional” comes ahead of “athlete.” In any game/sport there is a sense of decorum required from its most famous representatives. Part of the job is being an ambassador to ensure the prize money keeps growing and people stay interested. Sometimes when criticizing lines are crossed and that’s okay as long as it’s not a long distance jump to outright defamation.

Does he make valid points? Entirely possible. He certainly feels strongly about it and I don’t know enough about the sport to have an opinion either way. I do know that no matter how legitimate his issues may be they’re completely lost in the delivery. Most don’t hear what he’s actually saying. They hear a ticked off guy cursing his head off.

Should he apologize? Maybe for the language but not the message. Never apologize for a belief. And honestly I’m over the whole “oops, sorry ‘bout that, now it’s all fine” society we’ve created anyway.

Did he deserve to be disqualified and suspended? Without question. If you think otherwise, go to work and tell your boss, “this company is a joke and you’re running it into the ground and I hate it here.” Let me know how that works out for ya.

I got into my first professional pool tournament because a dear friend who had a spot said she would give it up and campaigned for me to be there instead. She felt I was the better player and deserved it more and I’m forever grateful for that opportunity. Bobby Martinez would be well served to remember that for every one professional surfer out on those waves there are thousands who wish they were there. It’s my sincerest hope that with this new open slot in the tour that someone who appreciates being able to be out there can showcase his/her skills with the big guns. And perhaps knows a little bit about PR.