The Camp Humphreys Community Activity Center has seen many fiery encounters across the baize over the years, but not many involving a glare as deadly as that from The Black Widow, Jeanette Lee, on March 19. One the most fearsome female pool players of the past twenty years, Lee had not returned to the peninsula since she appeared on Korea’s Dancing with the Stars in 2013. The brightly lit American-style pool hall was far more to her liking than the sequins and salsa of the ballroom and the player who first hit the World Pool number one spot in 1994 spent just over two hours entertaining the troops as part of a U.S. Military sponsored tour that had taken Lee to Australia and the Philippines.
Given time to catch breath on what was a whirlwind trip across Korea’s bases, the Black Widow was effusive in her thanks to everyone for the hospitality she experienced during her stay as well as being at pains to ensure that everyone serving in Korea was clear on how much appreciation there was back in the States for their efforts.
Turning to pool, she was quick to discuss how her own form of the game – pocket pool – has developed on the peninsula in recent years even as the 4-ball and 3-ball varieties have continued to dominate. This dominance is something she believes likely prevents the World Pool and Billiards Association (WPBA) from bringing tournament play to the peninsula even as the pocket form seems to be building in popularity in China. However, with play in Korea looking increasingly competitive, the number of both male and female pool players is certain to increase.
Overall she named Efran “Bata” Reyes – the only player she knows who makes all the other champions’ jaws drop – as simply “the best pool player who’s ever lived… ever.” Among female opponents, she spoke of her admiration for the former snooker player Alison Fisher. Lee thought Fisher’s switch from snooker to pool was so challenging because in pool one miss can see you sitting down for much of the rest of the afternoon. The differences between male and female players, she feels, is still clearly the power shots such as the break that still gives male players the edge over most female combatants, even though she insists, “We are gaining on them” and some women are capable of standing toe-to-toe against the men. Despite appearing in the first ever Mosconi Cup, Lee can’t speculate whether the powers that be will allow female players to return to what is now a men-only event, but Lee hopes there can be more mixed tournaments in the future. One point about the sport which some might not consider is the amount of mental preparation that goes into matches, with trusting your instinct and rising to every occasion key points to consider for any pool player wishing to get ready for competition. “Before the match even begins,” she explained, “I’m thinking about what I’m like when I’m playing my best pool.”
In addition to pool, she discussed her passion for better funding for girls’ sports in the United States – noting that for every dollar invested in girls’ sports, three dollars is invested in football for boys – and her work with the Scoliosis Foundation. Another charitable foundation she is heavily involved in is her Black Widow Foundation, which raises funds for junior pool players of both genders as they prepare for the World Pool Association’s (WPA) World Junior Championships in Shanghai later this year. It also, she believes, “helps them to be the best people they can be both on and off the table.”
Over the two hours, Lee was at her very best and most charming, sharing stories, jokes and commentary on pool as well as taking on (and beating) a number of challengers throughout the afternoon. Commenting on the standard of pool she faced over the tour as a whole, she was very complimentary towards those who tested their skills against her; one challenger from Osan came close to beating her and thus was the lucky recipient of her famous glare. Without doubt, the audience at Camp Humphreys had a fantastic afternoon, and Jeanette Lee – glare included – will be welcome back any time.
With thanks to Camp Humphreys for their assistance and hospitality
Visit http://www.blackwidowfoundation.org/ to find out more about how to help young players reach their dream of competing in Shanghai.