A week ago, one of those only–in–New York traditions bit the dust; the famous “Jody’s Pool,” based out of Staten Island watering hole Jody’s, will be discontinued this year. The pool was notorious for its massive pots; last year’s grand prize was $1.5 million, making it the biggest pool in the country. The problem is, when you have a pool that’s worth that much, people tend to notice. First, the press; then, the IRS. And with three words from grizzled owner Jody Haggerty — “Definitely no pool” — it was over.
The Staten Island Advance first reported that the pool was endangered a couple of months ago, though with no quotes from Haggerty himself, who has long feared all the press attention. He was a little chattier in a story the Advance ran on March 5 — what with those three words and all — but as a bracketophile myself, I wanted to head to the epicenter of the madness.
Because I am nothing if not a diligent reporter, I hopped on the ferry and learned that, hey, they have cabs in Staten Island. I told the cabbie what I was up to, and he laughed. “Maybe I should just sit outside and wait for you. He ain’t gonna talk.”
Entering the bar, I was taken aback by just how modest it was; it really is a neighborhood joint, with pictures of Little League teams on the wall, a television devoted to keno, and lots of old men with a stack of bills next to a slug of whiskey. A weathered waitress winked at me as I wandered in. There was not a single indicator that this tiny, nondescript bar could possibly host the largest NCAA pool in the country. They didn’t even have ESPN on the television; it was on the Golden Globes preshow, for some reason.
It wasn’t hard to find Haggerty; within five minutes of my bellying up to the bar, at least six people had yelled out, “Yo, Jody, what’s up?” or something of similar local color. I finally snatched his attention.
“Mr. Haggerty, hi, I’m Will Leitch. I called you yesterday. I’m doing a story about your pool.”
“You look a little young to be a reporter.”
“Well, thank you, sir. Anyway, I understand that you guys aren’t doing the pool this year, and I —”
“I can’t talk about the pool. You guys won’t stop writing about it.”
And with a whoosh, he glided to the other end of the bar and entered, mid-streak, a conversation among several regulars. I spent the next half-hour sipping my Bud Light and trying to flag Haggerty down, with no success. He wouldn’t even make eye contact, and eventually, I left, knowing that people like me ruined a Staten Island tradition. Beer was cheap, though.
Final Word on the Demise of Jody’s Pool [S.I. Advance]