JOLIET – Joliet attorney Stephen Saporta isn’t proud of the first time Tom “Dr. Cue” Rossman, an ESPN and world master trick-shot champion, visited his house for dinner and a friendly game of pool.
“I was so competitive, I wanted to destroy him,” Saporta said.
However, Rossman, the ambassador for amateur pool for the American Poolplayers Association, shrugged off the rude behavior.
“I knew God was working in him, not just in the game but in life,” Rossman said. “When he saw the connection in the game – spiritually – we made a dedicated effort to talk more.”
Saporta shares his spiritual growth through pool in several essays in “Rack Up a Victory: A ‘Special’ Manual for Your Billiard Journey,” which Rossman authored and Saporta helped edit.
The faith-driven manual is part pool instruction – including practice and perception – and part spirituality. The book is free to anyone wishing to download a copy.
As the founder of RACK Vision Outreach, Rossman uses pool to connect players with God. The ministry’s motto is: “To win is great. To play is greater. To love is the greatest.”
The motto is based on 1 Corinthians 13:13, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Rossman estimates 50 million people worldwide play pool. In 1987, Rossman had a vision to bring the Gospel to these players. However, not until six years ago could Rossman and his wife, Marty, also known as “Ms. Cue,” do so. Rossman started slowly, by offering morning Bible studies at various pool events.
“My wife and I did shows all over the world,” Rossman said of his pre-ministry days. “But because of our secular contract, I wasn’t able to speak about Jesus or God very much.”
Whether people read Rossman’s collection of essays for the pool tips or the spirituality, Rossman has one message to give.
“Hopefully people come to the realization that it’s not about us, it’s about him,” Rossman said. “Whatever gifts we have can be used at their highest level for the purpose of glorying him.”
It was a hard lesson for Saporta to learn.
From competing to caring
A competitive pool player since he was 17, Saporta, now 54, had met Rossman for the second time in 2011 when Rossman gave a trick-shot exhibition at a Darien pool venue. Meeting pool players like Rossman always thrilled Saporta.
“These are masters of the game,” Saporta said. “They are like heroes.”
Rossman often accepted challenge matches at these exhibitions. That night, it was Saporta.
“I wanted so badly to beat this guy because he’s a professional player, but he has nothing to prove,” Saporta said. “He just plays with you.”
Saporta won and felt stunned that Rossman took joy in his competitor’s victory. That wasn’t how Saporta played.
“I’m a very flamboyant, emotional player – at least I was,” Saporta said. “It was my way of blowing off steam and having fun. At the same time, if I lost, I took it very hard.”
That second game, played while Rossman was a guest in Saporta’s home, did not go as well.
“If I missed a shot, I would curse and hit the butt of the cue stick on the floor,” Saporta said. “He was just looking at me and saying, ‘Relax. It’s supposed to be a pleasant evening.’”
Saporta said Rossman asked him if he’d seen his “Enjoy the Roll” video, and Saporta said he had. He recalled how Rossman handled hecklers at his exhibitions, especially when Rossman missed a shot: He laughed along with them.
Over time, an email correspondence developed between Saporta and Rossman.
“If I won, I shared with him, but more often than not I shared when I lost because I needed somewhere to vent. If I didn’t win, the game wasn’t fun,” Saporta said. “My inability to deal with what he called ‘a loss on paper’ started to get me to think about the game in different terms. And I still have ambiguity about it.”
Saporta feels the drive to win is a natural part of his life. Clients hire him to win their cases, he said.
“So by definition I have to be very competitive, aggressive where necessary,” Saporta said. “I’m results-oriented. It’s not a parlor game like pool is. It’s my profession.”
Saporta said he learned from Rossman how “losses on paper” are really victories in disguise, an opportunity to learn from another’s well-practiced skill and take joy in their wins. Saporta said he learned how the execution of each stroke can glorify God.
But even more fundamentally, Saporta learned that love really is the greatest gift of all.
“When talking about pool, it’s the love of the game,” Saporta said. “If you’re no longer able to win, or even able to play because of physical limitation, you can at least observe the game because you love it.”
That concept of love has spilled into Saporta’s love of the law. An attorney needs mental acuity to educate people, advocate for them and defend them in court, he said. But what if one becomes physically unable to do so?
It’s still about love.
“Without love for a sense of right and wrong, practicing law becomes meaningless,” Saporta said. “And winning as an objective in and of itself at all costs is likewise meaningless.”
For more information or copies of Tom “Dr. Cue” Rossman’s instructional manual, visit www.drcuepromotions.com/products/student-of-the-game-and-life