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Tuesday, November 27, 2001
Updated: November 29, 5:34 PM ET
Dirty pool

By Ralph Wiley
Page 2 columnist

So, think you'd just as soon watch a Thanksgiving weekend football game as anything, eh? You should see this video me and Road Dog made at the recent Women's World Nude 9-ball Championships. ...

Joe Davis, T. Newman
Safe to say your pool hall's regulars haven't seen sights such as Ginger Flick or Sade in action.
OK, so it was me and somebody else.

Whatever. Either way, this puts watching Ryan Leaf throw yet another Stevie-Wonder-Wouldn't-Make-That-Throw pick into a whole new perspective.

You really haven't lived until you've seen two reasonably athletic female bodies shoot best-of-11 racks of 9-ball in the buck jaybird nakedness into which we all were born. Even a little paunch won't hurt chalk here. The table hides it. Watching a clean-limbed, unrestricted woman smoothly handling a cue stick turns ho-hum 9-ball into a whole new event, I'm telling you.

Leaf? This beats forests. This even beats (Tiger) Woods, chipping in for eagle for the good ol' U.S of A. And even Tiger would admit it.

Recall The Scene from "Eyes Wide Shut," when Tom Cruise (who starred with Paul Newman in "The Color of Money," the sequel to the all-time pool classic "The Hustler") went to That Party? All the voyeur-please-let-me-be-a-participant-guests wore Mardi Gras masks -- probably to catch the drool. Remember the women at That Party? God ... Kubrick was a great director, wasn't he?

Now, imagine all those women in a room full of Brunswick pool tables, under cone spotlights, shooting a most professional game of 9-ball. Nude. In 4-inch heels. Imagine the poses -- the bridges, the on-toe set-ups, the massés, the firm strokes, the steely resolve. And you have the anti-Uecker seats. Front ro-ow.

Ryan Leaf
Trust us: The Nude 9-Ball Championships certainly beat watching Ryan Leaf throw picks on Turkey Day.
The World Nude 9-Ball Championships were almost that good. If only the finalists had tried those 4-inch heels, my very own suggestion box entry. But from a couple of the tougher angles, you couldn't tell the difference between them and Halle Berry anyway.

As an "added plus," as the dumbstruck say, they could shoot 9-ball better than Halle and those ladies in "Eyes Wide Shut" combined.

And they weren't turned out in those black pants-and-shirt custodial uniforms the APA makes its women players wear. Alexander Julian wasn't consulted, you could tell.

(If the APA would only suggest that ESPN2 televise pros like Ewa Lawrence, Helena Thornfeldt and Gerta Hofstetter shooting 9-ball in bikini, one-piece or thong swimwear, their choice -- though there would be a one-rack penalty for choosing the one-piece -- the viewership numbers for those ESPN2 9-ball telecasts would get a sizeable up bump. I guar-on-tee. You'd probably have to pay the players a little more.

How much more, I don't know. But everybody has a price. I know I do).

Of course, the queen of 9-ball is Ginger Enid Flick. Just my luck. At 5-foot-5, 150, wouldn't you know that The Little Fireplug would be one of finalists at the World Nudes. Flick was supposed to be up against Jasmine Bleeth-Downey, who failed to show up (some say she had been asked to withdraw after a late night Krispy Kreme binge). Her spot was taken by a losing semifinalist, Sade. Not that Sade. More a Nigerian-Swedish-Brazilian blend. If I have to draw you a picture, take the real Sade, then toss in some Naomi Campbell, some Lucy Liu and some Britney Spears. Yeah. Grabbed you in there somewhere, didn't I? A Folasade Adu Juicy Lucy Liu-ney-look-alike. Try saying that three times fast.

I was invited to the finals, even though I had stopped smoking. Why was I invited? Know the scene in "Training Day" where Denzel brings it up from his gut: "I'm da po-lice! King Kong ... ain't got nuttin' ... on me!"

Well, I'm da king of 9-Ball. Fast Eddie Felson. Ain't got nuthin'. On me. See, I'm all about five rails, baby. I'm all about a combination to sink the 9-ball early. I'm about angles. Shoot you best-of-11 racks of 9-ball with my left hand. Not saying I'll win, but I'll shoot against anybody. I don't discriminate against nude women. I'm all about diversity. If you're a nude woman, I likely won't beat you at 9-ball. Concentration is crucial in indoor games of skill and chance, like 9-ball, and ... 8-ball, too, I guess.

Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise saw some fine bodies in "Eyes Wide Shut," but the Nude 9-Ball tourney provided even better sights.
I know I could beat Jackie Gleason, though. I know, I know, Mr. Gleason is no longer with us. That's why I'm pretty sure I could take him. Hey, I can't help who they put out there in front of me. I'm all about putting very good English on a cue ball, if not in this column. I'm all about shooting 9-ball.

Well, I was, until I found out I could watch nude women shooting 9-ball instead. Now I'm all about that. I'm flexible. Life is about adjusting your horizons.

Anyway, I was one of the official observers and the only thing that got me my precious credentials to the World Nudes was me promising -- begging, really -- to write about it for Page 2. The Nudes was one of the better sports events it has been my pleasure to witness, once they finally took the blindfold off me. Did I mention, you can only go to the Nudes once? There's this waiting list.

A looonnng waiting list.

Did I mention that there was a $300 fee to observe.

I didn't? Well, that's an understandable oversight. There's so much important detail to get in here. And to those who question the ethics of a journalist paying cash, let alone $300, to observe a sporting event, I say this:

"Bleep Bob Woodward if he can't take a joke."

  I was one of the official observers and the only thing that got me my precious credentials to the Women's World Nude 9-ball Championships was me promising -- begging, really -- to write about it for Page 2. The Nudes was one of the better sports events it has been my pleasure to witness, once they finally took the blindfold off me. Did I mention, you can only go to the Nudes once? There's this waiting list. A looonnng waiting list.  
  
Of course, I chose to cover to the women's final. So did everyone else who was invited and had the three hun. The men's division of the World Nude 9-ball was canceled years ago, before inception, actually, because of a lack of consumer interest outside of Key West, Savannah and San Francisco. That universe wasn't big enough, it was decided by the sponsors. It didn't help that most of the men's proposed finalists were built like Minnesota Fats.

Women -- some were there as observers -- protested that since Paul Newman had gotten a little long in the tooth for this level of play, the Los Angeles Lakers should've been invited. The women were interested in seeing Shaq, Kobe and Rick Fox. Not sure why. They said even Phil Jackson would be preferable to what they had to chose from among the world's best male 9-ball players.

Public taste is not always to be ignored. So it became the Women's World Nude 9-Ball Championships, held each year Halloween week in a hidden hotel/chalet in the spires of the Great Smokies, rotating between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tenn. Don't try to find it on your own. If you've seen "Deliverance," you'll know what I mean.

Oh, yeah. The tournament. That. Sure.

Juvenile? Sexist?

Not the words that come to mind when Sade is bent over and stretched out lining up a straight-back-on-the-left, length-of-the-table bank shot. If she made this shot, she'd be out from behind the 8 ball.

Firm bridge, smooth ... smooth. The click was true and ... she made it! Then she dropped the 9, but the room held its collective breath as she almost scratched. The cue ball kicked off the felt of the corner pocket, and bounced back and forth in front of the pocket, but didn't drop.

An instant replay showed the shot on the video monitor screen on one wall. Some wag had wired Marv Albert's voice over the P.A. "Let's see that again!" Marv said, over and over and over again. OK, so I stole that from an old "Celebrity Death Match," but who cares where I steal things from?

Sade dropped the 7 on the break. Great break. Clash of the titans. We watched that replay several times, oohing and ahhing at Sade's form. Later, when we noticed where the balls were left on the table after the break, we saw it had indeed been a great break. But a victim of the bad luck that categorizes all indoor games, Sade walked around the table, and no matter which way she or we looked at it, she had no shape. On the 1 ball, I mean. She played a safety.

"Let's see that again!" howled Marv, again and again.

Stumpy Ginger Flick rose to the challenge. Well, not exactly. But she did unexpectedly run the table for the win, 6-5. She was stuck flush behind the 8, dead, no direct shot to drop the 1 or combinate off it. So she went the other way, three rails, a beautifully conceived shot to cut the 1 precisely into the top left corner.

Sade said, "Oh, no," under her breath; she saw Flick could run the table now, the way the balls were spread after Sade's break. Sade had done all the work. Now Flick would get the glory. I said, "Oh, no," too, because it meant Sade would shoot no more. Flick ran the table with precision; we applauded politely while trying to work the cricks out of our necks.

When the tournament organizers asked what I'd recommend for future Nude 9-ball tourneys, to get a TV contract, I suggested they take a page from Victoria's Secret. Dress the players in Victoria's Secret sleepwear and a large audience would be assured. You could especially count on football players watching. To cinch the consultation, as they replaced the blindfold, I said they should invite Sade, J-Lo and maybe Reese Witherspoon as next year's semifinalists. Flick was defending champ. They had to invite her.

Then I heard banjo music and I swear, your Honor, that's the last I remember.

Happy Thanksgiving. For the location of next year's World Nude 9-ball Championships, send your e-mails to Page 2.

Ralph Wiley spent nine years at Sports Illustrated and wrote 28 cover stories on celebrity athletes. He is the author of several books, including "Best Seat in the House," with Spike Lee, "Born to Play: The Eric Davis Story," and "Serenity, A Boxing Memoir."