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• 2013 Majors

CSI POOL
BCAPL National 8-Ball Championships
Rio All-Suite Las Vegas Hotel and Casino
Las Vegas, NV
first time at the Rio (adios Riviera) and things get epic
 
INDEPENDENT EVENT
Hard Times 10-Ball Open
Hard Times Billiards
Bellflower, CA
just a lil pre-Vegas warm up tournament
 
INDEPENDENT EVENT
West Coast Challenge
$4,000 added One Pocket
$10,000 added 10-Ball
California Billiard Club
Mountain View, CA
last event at this location before they close (sadface)
 
INDEPENDENT EVENT
Cole Dickson Memorial 9-Ball
Family Billiards
San Francisco, CA
for legendary road player Cole Dickson
 
INDEPENDENT EVENT
Pots 'N' Pans Memorial 9-Ball
Pool Sharks
Las Vegas, NV
celebrating hustler Bernard Rogoff, better known as "Pots 'N' Pans"
 
THE ACTION REPORT
TAR35 | Dennis Orcollo vs Shane Van Boening
TAR Studio
Las Vegas, NV
second and third days
 
THE ACTION REPORT
TAR33 | Francisco Bustamante vs Alex Pagulayan
TAR Studio
Las Vegas, NV
second (1P) and part of third (10B) day
 
THE ACTION REPORT
TAR32 | Ronnie Alcano vs Jayson Shaw
TAR Studio
Las Vegas, NV
GREAT match • Andy Mercer Memorial 9-Ball Tournament coverage
 
INDEPENDENT EVENT
Chet Itow Memorial 9-Ball
California Billiards Club
Mountain View, CA
drank too much to do good coverage, but here it is, anyway
 
CSI POOL
Jay Swanson Memorial 9-Ball
Hard Times Billiards
Bellflower, CA
let Robocop show you how to run a six-pack, Citizen
 
THE ACTION REPORT
TAR31 | Mike Dechaine vs Shane Van Boening
TAR Studio
Las Vegas, NV
ALL HAIL THE HOVERCAT
 
THE ACTION REPORT
TAR30 | Darren Appleton vs Shane Van Boening
TAR Studio
Las Vegas, NV
the boys are back in town
 
 
10+1 INTERVIEWS
» Huidji See
» Donny Mills
 
 
EVERYBODY WAS KUNG-FU FIGHTING
the best kind of New Year's Sandwich
that's not okay
 
 
READER'S CHOICE
you know that I'm no good
on being a reasonable human being with realistic expectations
 
instasham series
stories from the distant and slightly-less-distant past
 
the only people for me are the mad ones
questions, tournaments, bets, running 26.2 miles

• LINKY LINKS

PARTY ANIMALS
The Action Report
purveyor of fine challenge matches between highly-skilled players of note
 
PUBLICATION
Cue Times Billiard News
Colorado's best resource for all things pool-related
 
CASE
Jack Justis Cases
the choice of champions
 
CUE
Sugartree Customs
made by Eric "Slower Than Snails" Crisp, if and when he feels like it
 
CUE
Tucker Cue Works
"If you feel the need to ask me how your cue is progressing every week then maybe there is a better choice of cuemakers out there for you."
 
MEAT
Kurzweils' Country Meats
yes, meat

the twilight zone | goldfish brains

 

This series encompasses three events linked together by my change in perspective.
It took me a long time to write because I did not have the ability to express my thoughts clearly.
This is the first part.

 

When I went to Tampa to play in the APA U.S. Amateur Championship late last year, I was in bad shape. I had spent too much in all aspects preparing for the tournament and now, I had nothing left for the big show itself. I was burned out. Right when the plane hit the runway, I knew I had made a mistake. I should have stayed home. I wanted to go home. I could not, however, afford to change my flight. I was stuck in Tampa.

As the shuttle crept slowly through a large retirement community decorated with crumbling plaster replicas of famous Greek statues (the other passenger was a older lady who was coming in to visit another older lady), I tried to manage what I had left. If I was stuck here for three days, I might as well play the tournament.

The tournament was comprised of 32 women who qualified from around the country. I had last qualified for this tournament three years ago. The year before, I had lost–in the sh#ttiest way possible–in the finals of a qualifier. I had built a lead, lost it, and then lost the whole thing hill-hill. The year before that I had not even won a match. It had taken me a while to win the qualifier and so, this tournament meant something to me. I carried my own expectations as well as the expectations of others.

I wanted to win the tournament but now, with no resources and limited energy left, I truly had to examine my motivations. Money was not a motivation, that was a given. The winner of the tournament would receive entry and expenses toward a women’s professional event; second and third places would receive trophies. There were no cash awards. If not fortune, then fame, right? This tournament, billed as “The Nation’s Most Prestigious Amateur Pool Tournament!” promised much recognition for the winner. In the past, winners have been featured on ESPN and in ESPN The Magazine. Exposure like that could lead to lucrative sponsorships. Fame had never been a great motivator for me and the longer I played, the less it meant.

Having cut out fortune and fame, there remained one thing: expectation.

The desire to Not Let People Down.

This is a tournament many–including those close to me and whom I respect–have told me I could win; that I should win. If I failed, I felt I would lose their respect. This was an irrational sort of fear, I knew, but it still took a bit of mind-wrangling to come to the conclusion: If they regarded me less because I did not not win a tournament, they were not my friends. Indeed, if they regarded me less because I lost a match, a game, or dogged a shot–then they were not a friend of mine nor was I a friend of theirs. Cutting that loose relieved the pressure somewhat, but there was still plenty left.

The greatest source of pressure for me in this tournament came from myself.

That was a much harder monster to wrangle.

I forced myself to stop looking at the big picture of a tournament win, what it would require and what it would promist. I shrank the image down to winning a match. I would be playing on unfamiliar equipment in unfamiliar surroundings in less than optimum physical condition. I had to acknowledge that I might not win a match. I am a reasonable human being with realistic expectations. I further lowered what I expected of myself again and again until I felt somewhat comfortable with a goal I could handle.

The only expectation I had for myself, for the entire tournament: have the cue ball make contact with an object ball–without fouling.

There was a tiny part of me that was not sure I could do it.

 

Sleep and Tampa’s humid weather eased the weakness of my lungs. The next day, I woke up early and walked rather slowly to the pool room. Every last joule I had would go toward hitting the cue ball into an object ball without fouling. This was all I would focus on. Making a ball, winning a game–those would only be thought of if I had the energy to spare. Winning a match, winning a tournament, hanging out with friends, and humoring strangers all took a back seat.

I almost miscued my first shot.

Eek.

I missed a lot of shots. I made terrible choices. I did not care. My only thought was to try to hit the next ball without fouling. If I did not, then I waited patiently until I could have another try. In between matches, if I had the energy to chat with people, I did. If I did not, then I did not. Through all of it, one thought ran in the background: always move forward. I did not look too far into the future which meant I also did not think very much about the past. If something annoyed me or I disappointed myself, five seconds later, the thought was gone. I had the brain of a goldfish and I was in The Zone.

And then, quite suddenly, I was playing in the finals.

 

I did not have a good start, but that was all right. The final race was longer than the other ones in the tournament so my energy did begin to flag a bit, but I stuck to my simple goal and forged on. Physically, I was running on fumes but mentally, I was flying.

 

At no time did I think I would lose.

It was the purest sense of confidence I have ever known.

It was fearlessness and immortality distilled into one fine point in time and I existed only in that moment.

 

In the back of my mind, I did wonder what would happen when the goldfish-brain-train ended. In the last game, I was hooked on the four-ball. I went for a kicksafe and the whole idea and layout and result had been illustrated in my mind. I kicked and completely missed the ball. I was actually surprised I missed. It was a hilariously weird moment. I was not angry or frustrated or disappointed, just–“huh”. I sat down, my opponent took ball in hand, made the combination on the hanging nine-ball, and won the tournament. It was the only shot of the tournament I would remember clearly.

I wasn’t even mad. I was surprised at not being mad. Then my body caught up with my mind and I felt very tired and nauseous. Looking around, I felt extreme claustrophobia. My brain was still in goldfish mode so I flapped my little fins and fled.

 

I was intrigued by my mind-warp in Tampa. I told some people I had gone to Tampa one type of player and come back as another. When I returned home, I wondered if what happened was only a fever dream or something more permanent. The only way to find out would be to put myself in a similar situation, but I did not foresee that happening. It was nearing the end of the year and I was burned out. I was so, so glad there would be no more pool. I was sick of pool, really. I knew I had pushed things too far and would need a lot of rest to get better. I looked forward to going home to my family for the holidays. I was ready to give up the pool player ghost.

Then something came up.

 

part two >>

el duderino if you're not into the whole brevity thing

11 comments to the twilight zone | goldfish brains

  • Kevin Lyons

    I like the goldfish brain analogy a lot. makes sense. thx.

  • LAMas

    I got tired reading about you being tired, but I’m glad you are posting again. Rest up and come back stronger in the stretch.

  • Heath

    Good write up. We have all been burnt out from this damn game and end up not taking the break that we want too… because (for me at least) I know that I never really wanted too in the first place. I talk myself into wanting to take 2 weeks off, then I end up taking the rest of the night off and banging balls the very next day.

  • Heath

    Holy shit… apparently I felt the need to click submit multiple times. Tournament last night. Late night early morning. I will blame it on that.

  • Chilly Willy

    That is fantastic. (Not the losing – that sucks and I’m sorry about it.)
    The the focus and the ability to distill yourself down to one goal. I think this one post might do more for my game than some of the ‘how to play pool’ books out there. Thank you.

  • Chilly Willy

    Heck yeah.
    And good point. Just sent my downpayment via PayPal. Keep up the good work.

  • I am very glad you got some rest. Goldfish brain – I have experienced that recently, but nowhere near your epic experience – a scorer in APA asked me if I’d just sunk all the balls in the rack of 9 Ball I had just completed. I had no idea – I just knew I’d sunk the 9! Other times I’ll recall entire racks, but sometimes it is one shot and gone forever.