View Full Version : The Hearts Of Champions

11-05-2002, 09:55 AM
The Hearts of a Champions


Blackjack David Sapolis

The First Lesson I ever recieved was from a man named Cisero Murphy. Cisero Murphy was undoubtedly the most courageous pool player in history. He had played better than anybody for years, and was denied entry into the World 14.1 Championships because of his race. Many would have been intimidated by the situation and sat down quietly, avoiding confrontation. Not Murphy. Cisero continued to play his best despite this set of circumstances, winning the Eastern States 14.1 Championship several years in a row amidst the toughest straight pool competition in the world. In 1965, Cisero was finally granted an opportunity to play in the World Championships. Cisero blasted through the field, posting victories over such names as "Cowboy" Jimmy Moore, Joe Balsis, and eventually Luther "Wimpy" Lassiter in the finals. Not bad for the tournament rookie. Cisero had sent a message out to the pool world. Good shooting mattered not on the color of your skin. Murphy earned the respect of his competition and maintained his intense playing style for the next few years.
When I met Murphy, I was a snot nosed 13 year old kid that would sneak into the room to watch him shoot. I would skip school, and go down there every tuesday afternoon, hiding in a corner until they threw me out. One day, as I was being shown the door, Murphy said, "Let the kid stay. He ain't bothering nobody." I then watched him run 50-60 balls. When he was done, he came over and asked me why I wasn't in school. I lied and told him I was from out west and in NYC visiting relatives. He didn't believe me. He snaggled the truth out of me and I was then sent back to New Jersey. The next day Murphy made sure I was in school. At the time I hated him for it, but it was the start of a beautiful realtionship between teacher and student.
In the late 1970's and early 1980's I was not the nicest of character's in the pool world. I was an infamous road player, scooting from town to town with some of the most infamous of people and doing very dishonest things. It went against everything that Cisero had taught me. I was addicted to amphetamines and alcohol. One of my moments in the pits of despair came in 1986 at Amsterdam Billiard Club where I was hustling a guy. I was flying high on speed talking a line of BS when out of the corner of my eyes I saw him standing in the same corner I stood as a kid. As I peered over to meet his eyes, I saw a look of complete disgust and disappointment. He shook his head and walked away. That look of disgust shattered me. Within a year I would clean up my act. When I got off of the drugs and alcohol, Cisero was one of the most supportive people in my life. When you go as far down the ladder as I went, you make skeptics out of people, and believe me, Cisero was skeptical. He stood beside me every step of the way offering encouragement and sound advice on life. I can never repay him for his kindness, his strength and his honesty (whether I wanted to hear it or not). When I was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 1993, Cisero was there with encouragement, letting me know that giving up was not an option. He encouraged me to compete on the pro tour during my illness. I believe that was what kept me alive.
The proudest moment I had in my pool career was not winning a major tournament or achieving my status as a professional. My proudest moment came in 1995 when I was present at Cisero Murphy's Hall of Fame Induction. When Cisero Murphy passed away the next year, I made the decision to pass along what he taught me to others. I was able to be there for the family, and I was able to be the person that Cisero had tought me how to be. Cisero Murphy didn't just teach me about pool, he taught me about not giving up. He taught me how to help others. He also taught me that anything is possible if there is enough positive energy behind it.
I was reminded of Cisero this past year at the World Championships. My close friend Francisco Bustamante had showed up within hours of the passing of his infant daughter. Francisco and I would travel together to tournaments while we were in Germany in the early 1990's. In 1992, my six year old daughter had passed away from diabetes complications. One of the first people to call me was Francisco Bustamante. I was silently skeptical and confused at Francisco's decision to compete that week. He amazed us all by making his way through the tournament and into the finals. Though he did not win the title and give us the storybook ending, Francisco showed us all that he had the heart and determination of a true champion. To play as consistently and perfectly as he played while overcome with grief and loss is a testament to his inner strength.
We're not just pool players. We are in a way a family, bonded by our love for this game. With all of the legends and lore of how this sport is infested with low lifes and gamblers and heartless people, I feel compelled to show the other side. Within all of us exists the heart of a champion, and sometimes the thing that exposes this trait is not pleasant. Whether it is Vivian Villareal fighting through the loss of an adopted child, or Maureen Seto fighting and clawing her way back from a devastating car accident that left her without the use of her legs, or me competing on the pro tour while undergoing chemotherapy, we all have obstacles that build our character. The thing that separates the champions is whether or not we fight through it. Sometimes character building is lost in our rush for comfort. It is the hard times that make us who we are. The hard times make us stronger, and they make us useful to others when they are placed in similar situations. Good luck and God Bless.

Blackjack David Sapolis

11-05-2002, 10:13 AM

Rich R.
11-05-2002, 10:45 AM
Thank you for the great story. Although only breifly, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Murphy in the early 70's. At that time, I thought him to be a very nice man. You have confirmed that thought.
Rich R.

11-05-2002, 03:06 PM
Success is the result of good judgement, good judgement is the result of experience and experience ,is too often ,the result of bad judgement-hats off to you for making a decision which shaped your destiny and made you a success!
God bless you,too!