Sunday, January 18, 2004
David Krolick has entertained a fantasy in which he is offered a magic pill that will cure his multiple sclerosis but also erase any history of it from his life.
"I'd pass," he said.
Understand that the 49-year-old Krolick, who is in Louisville for the Derby City Classic billiard tournament, had a childhood dream to become a professional pool player. That dream didn't become a reality until after he was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) in 2000, and he credits the latter with the fulfillment of the former.
"I played a lot in my first year after the diagnosis," he said. "It was like a break from my own life. To play well requires 100 per cent focus, so playing pool became the only time I didn't think about the illness. I sought it out a lot, and as a byproduct my game improved."
Krolick, who shoed horses for 14 years before the misdiagnosed symptoms of RRMS forced him to retire in 1996, now travels the country competing in billiard tournaments — just as he dreamed of doing when he starting playing at age 11.
So he does not regret the part the disease has played in his life.
"It changed my life in so many positive ways," said Krolick, who practices six hours a day and has trained with four-time world champion Danny Diliberto. "I wouldn't want to give that up. I wouldn't be the player I am if I wasn't diagnosed, and I'm having a blast. I'm pretty fortunate to be in the situation I'm in."
Krolick, who was born in Chicago, said he was "obsessed" with pool as a kid.
"I took my cue to junior high and kept it in my locker so I could go to the pool hall after school," he recalled. "I had it bad."
But, as he put it, "life intervenes," and the demands of adulthood led him to a career shoeing horses. He learned the trade at the Midwest Horseshoeing School in Macomb, Ill., and started doing it professionally in 1982. He even wrote a book on the subject, "Shoeing Right," that was published in 1992.
In 1991 Krolick and his wife, Geni, also opened a Wild Birds Unlimited franchised store in Albuquerque, N.M.
He began suffering from common symptoms of RRMS — fatigue, muscle spasms and sensitivity to heat — in '96 and soon retired from horseshoeing. He tried graphic design and did the books at the bird-feed store.
He also dedicated more hours to pool.
"I had a lot of time on my hands," he said.
When Krolick finally was diagnosed correctly in 2000, he was placed on a drug therapy regimen that has limited him to one relapse in nearly four years and has allowed him to pursue that elusive childhood dream.
Those are facts he has tried to stress to others with the disease and to the general public in his stops around the country.
"I feel strongly about that message," said Krolick, vice president of the New Mexico Billiard Association. "I'm on my feet because of the medicine I take. Approximately half of Americans with MS don't take the new drugs that they should.
"Statistically, I should have had six or seven relapses, and I've had one. I'm able to do this pool-playing gig that I have, and I'm loving it."
He was encouraged when the television drama "The West Wing" revealed that President Bartlet, played by Martin Sheen, had RRMS, which is the most common of the four internationally recognized forms of the disease.
"I was really glad to see that," Krolick said. "I thought it was a good format to introduce people to it."
Krolick, who finished in the top 5percent of the Billiard Congress of America National Championships in 2001, is making his second appearance in the Derby City Classic, which started Friday at the Executive West Hotel and will continue through Saturday.
The tournament includes competition in three formats: 9-ball banks, one-pocket and 9-ball. The field includes six of last year's top 17 money leaders, including BCA Hall of Fame inductee Efren Reyes and Jeanette "The Black Widow" Lee, plus trick-shot artist Gene "The Mighty Glove" Catron.
"It's absolutely the cream of the crop," Krolick said.
"Right now it's one of the largest tournaments in the world," said Chad
Scharlow, vice president of Diamond Billiard Products, which organizes
the tournament. "The formatting is completely different from any other
tournaments out there."
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