The Battle Of Meridian

By: Tracy Lerma

On a chilly Saturday morning this columnist grabs her camera, notebook, and her infamous smile, points the car toward Big Tyme Billiards at 1324 B Street for a second tournament with a twist. What twist you ask? A fantastic live broadcast that only Inside Pool can offer to our fans, with our very own Alvin Nelson at the helm.  Alvin was so impressed with my enthusiasm about this deep southern venue that he made the trip to see it for himself! What a weekend this turned out to be. With 179 players, a live streaming event will surely put this place over the top with players coming in from all areas around the south.  Robb Saez and his beautiful partner Michele made the trip from Louisiana for a few hours since they have just added a sweet baby girl to the community. Luckily, catching them outside before I entered the swell of people waiting anxiously for their tables to be called. The smell of chalk hit my nose the moment the front door opened and the feel of excitement from the players was intoxicating. Overwhelming welcomes, like fans at a concert directed towards me with their best southern charm, made this lady blush.  Something about these southern people that screams, welcome home! Making my way to the streaming room, noticing the familiar faces from many tournaments I have covered prior, each face still energized with the same eagerness to win the uphill battle before them like any other tournament. Entering the room where all the magic takes place, finding our very own Alvin doing his last tests to make sure our live broadcast was up and running. Slowly taking my leave into the crowd of people checking the enormous bracket that is split.

Jason LaFleur      Photo by : Tracy Lerma

Robert Jones      Photo by : Tracy Lerma

Did I mention this was the biggest handicapped tournament this venue has done? The High-Low Bracket was filled with approximately one hundred seventeen low players and sixty-four high ranked players. Wow, what a bracket this will be for a two-day tournament! The Tournament Director and owner Joey Henderson faced this challenge head on with no fear. Honestly, it would have done a number on my mind. Extra shots of espresso were in order this weekend. One by one the names were called, each player putting on the performance of their lives as day one winds down for the finals the next day. The night did not end there next, we see Lee Alford and Robb Saez putting on a show, teaching these young guns like Chaney, White, and Lexi Jones how it is done. It is great to see these great men teaching the kids shots they make easily, but to the kids, it means more.

Returning the next morning with a Starbucks in hand, the names are being called one by one, each table with the next potential winner hungry for the prize at the end. Robb and Lee ending their punishment on some players but not going down without a fight, we come down to some of the best the tournament offered. John Reese and Mark Ball ended up placing 5th and 6th with Dusty King holding on to 4th place.

David Walker securing his well-earned spot in 3rd place coming into six o’clock in the morning we find the last two monsters hungry to face off, Robert “AJ” Jones and Jason LaFleur. The coin flips and the last of the fans are glued to their seats to watch. LaFleur must double dip Jones for the win. The boys play one set, both exhausted, look at one another, shake hands and split first and second. What a way to end a year!

This article is more about the people, those men and women who make these places what they are. Each venue has its own uniqueness, but without the people who call them home or the visitors, what are they but empty rooms on a road? As Alvin and I pack up our equipment and say our goodbyes to Meridian, my reflection on the past two days’ events flow like braille on my fingertips. Will this place see another event as large as this past weekend? What is in store for our future pool rooms and this pandemic that is affecting our rooms, our games, and our loved ones? Will the world find peace in this chaos, and can we make a difference by moving forward with our lives as normal as we can? So many questions, some answers will only need time to find. This columnist is looking forward to finding another venue like this one, the people, the atmosphere, and the excitement.

We need more community, and that is what this place brought into the light at The Battle of Meridian.


Photos in starting order:  Two players standing for photo, Players watching a match, Robb Saez and Michele Bergeron, Inside Pool’s very own Alvin Nelson,  Joey Henderson, and Lee Alford Photos by : Tracy Lerma