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Willie Also Struggled

Gambling for the family meal



Willie gambled, though reluctant to speak about it

Photo courtesy Chris Whitehead/Getty Images
Young pool champs are no less determined than young Olympians--sometimes still more so, as in Willie's case.

All-time great Willie Mosconi struggled through long years of The Depression in the 1920's and 30's, traveling on the road, beating all comers for cash, and earning wages for his family to eat. Mosconi grew especially tough on clean tables, filthy tables, rickety pool tables, tables exposed to the elements of wind and rain beneath broken ceilings in ramshackle rooms--every type of conceivable playing condition. And he persevered.

Although, as in Mosconi's case and others, such legendary toughness is not at all times accompanied by a sweet personal demeanor, the player emerges a champion of the felt.

The young athlete Olympians have endured incredible physical conditioning. In countries with human rights restrictions such as China, young athletes have been separated from the families, and train hours each day under austere conditions, never really enjoying the fruits and fun of childhood. But pool's brightest have often paid an equal or greater price.

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