2024 Skylark Classic
Why is this called 'The Skylark Classic' ?
Selection Sunday:
March 17 @ 6:00 pm CST
Entry Deadline:
March 21 @ 11:15 am CST
  Is This Finally Their Year?  
By Dan Flaherty (2005)
       It's March and time for another round of Skylark memories. In previous years we've looked back on the legendary pool champions and its hallowed names. But in many ways that's redundant. You can click on the past winners link here and get that info. 2005 seemed like a good time to honor two outstanding competitors that are longing for the brass ring, or keys, as it were.

     Tom Hoffman has two near-misses that have been chronicled elsewhere on this site, in 1994 and '99. The latter year was particularly painful when he held the high cards going into Monday night, but watched Duke fall in an upset to UConn. This is impressive in of itself, but a look through the archives show that Tom has pulled off the amazing feat of making the top ten overall every year since 2001. Given that most participants fluctuate wildly from 96th to 4th in a given calendar year(Jessica Early Byrnes, take a bow), Tom's consistency is something to behold. To give some perspective, Tom has not finished out of the top ten since George W. Bush became president. When the Commander-in-Chief asked the question "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?", no doubt the Hoffman clan was a receptive audience.

     Another elite competitor that has come storming onto the landscape is Angela Gustafson. She arrived as a rookie in 2003 and made it clear that there would be no learning curve, blazing to a runner-up finish. She followed it up with a third-place finish last year. Angela is the only competitor of the 21st century to post back-to-back top 5 finishes. Though we do not have the archives of the 1994-99 period on hand, I am confident that she is also the only person in Skylark history to achieve this.

     Yet the question remains. Can either one get over the top. In a sports era where even the Boston Red Sox have poured the champagne, media pressure on Tom and Angela is intense, wondering if they will bring home the keys. What will their final place in the history books be? There is the path of Michael Jordan and Mike Krysesewski. Two men who were once derided for their failure to win the big one, but later won so many times the nation became sick of seeing them win. There is the path of local hero Al McGuire, who got his ring just in time before he retired, or the Atlanta Braves who snuck over the top in 1995. Or will they be the Buffalo Bills, who grabbed the AFC title four times, but never won the Super Bowl. Will they be William Jennings Bryan, who won the Democratic nomination three times, but never the presidency? It was the Greek philosopher Pericles who advised us to wait for the wisest of all counselors, that being time. It was a canonized Spanish nun, Teresa of Avila, who wrote that patience obtains all things. But undoubtedly the words of a character from the classic film Willy Wonka And the Chocolate Factory better express Tom and Angela's sentiments. Grade-school age Veruca Salt repeatedly demanded of her wealthy father, I WANT IT NOW!!!.
  Dan Flaherty is the editor of many different websites including The Sports Notebook