DECATUR -- Spectators josh and joke with their favorite players. Insults pile up as the 8-ball competition heats up.
The Nancy Kinney Senior Division of the American Poolplayers Association is in session in Biggens' Bar and Billiards on West Green Street. Men and women, age 50 and older, are lining up a fancy cue shot, breaking a rack, playing "position," in a fun way to spend Wednesday afternoon.
Some of the players have fancy nicknames:
--Bill Suhl: Lil' Enis;
--Jim Hart: Hop-a-Long;
--Sue Koshinski: 95 winner;
--Jim Tuggle: Snowman.
Tuggle has two grandchildren with him, Abigaile and Kaelub.
Koshinski insists it's all for fun. A kibitzer chimes in: "We lie a lot." Asked her age, she replies that it is 66. The kibitzer insists: "You're older than Keith."
That's Keith Stewart Sr., 84, and captain of the Sundown Lounge team. Undoubtedly the senior member, he calculates he has been shooting pool since the age of 3.
"I wouldn't play for anyone except Stewart," Suhl proclaims. "We also play in a Thursday morning league, too."
Koshinski tells about Jim Buck Sr. "He always wears shorts, even to shovel snow."
A "young gun" joins the conversation. Mark Moore is 52. "This is the funnest league there is," he said.
There are 10 teams, eight players to a team. The league is named for a deceased woman who was a longtime advocate of senior pool.
The league began in 2009 with four teams in one location, Chris's Place, now known as Biggens.
There are six locations. The others are Ken's A-Frame, 1393 E. Eldorado St.; Escape Lounge, 755 E. Prairie Ave.; Nellie's Tavern, 2717 N. Main St.; Sundown Lounge, 2887 N. 22nd St.; and Just One More, 3430 N. 22nd St.
Kevin Watkins runs Biggens and has operated the Escape Lounge for 15 years.
"The senior league is great for retired people and for people who work nights," he said. "There's quite a bit of interest."
On a recent Wednesday, Tom Fankhauser's Escape Lounge team, The Crypts, was in first place. He's a 7-handicap player, signifying he's at the top in skill. The team includes Mark Reynolds, also a seven; the father-daughter duo of Glenn and Cyndi Farrar; Danny Farrar; and Jim Buck Sr., in his 80s. Fankhauser is a veteran of Las Vegas national tournament action and refereeing.
The 7-handicap players also include Gary Mitchell, Ron McGeorge and Larry Parke. The 6-handicap group includes Doug Pope, Bruce Hill, Jim Lester, Terry Knowles and David Boron.
Playing pool is addictive. Steve Smith admits to playing five times a week, including twice Wednesday and twice Thursday.
Pool leagues originally were founded by the Billiard Congress of America. The current American Poolplayers Association is the largest in the world, with more than 265,000 members.
Kim Jones operates the Decatur leagues with hundreds of players. The smaller Decatur Area Pool League is a Fankhauser operation. There is an MG3 League also.