a little while back
I had planned a semi-epic pool schedule. This was to be the last stage in a harrowing, yet somewhat exhilirating, journey.
But, first, I had to go to a wedding.
And more firstly, I had to get to the wedding.
After work, I got on a bus, then another bus, then on the subway, and finally, I ran
for my life to catch the 8:05 train to San Boondocks on platform 5B. I had started out from work on time, but each connection had been delayed by just a few seconds, meaning that I missed the train to San Boondocks by the barest of margins. I had run with all my luggage and it was a miracle I hadn’t had a stroke. I dropped my luggage (quite heavy) on a concrete bench on the platform, took off my jacket, and stood to catch my breath (swearing profusely doesn’t help the physical state of exhaustion but it sure as hell does alleviate the mental strain) while wiping off the sweat from my face. The next train to San Boondocks would leave at 9:30 from the next platform. Goddam. A few seconds’ delay turned into one-and-a-half hours.
“Excuse me, yoohoo! Excuse me!.”
“Do you know where you’re headed?”
The inquirer was a youngish man wearing the uniform of a railway employee. Did I know where I was headed? It was an innocent enough question, obviously meant with the absolute bestest of intentions, and so, I reigned in my usual “inner hellfire” (term bestowed by one of my XBFs), and said, “San Bernardino.”
“Did you know,” he paused dramatically, “you… just… MISSED THE TRAIN? It just left at 8:05! Like, it JUST LEFT! Like, THERE IT GOES!”
Oh, for f#ck’s sake. The train’s lights were still visible in the darkness, accompanied by a mocking toot. “Yes.” I regulated my breathing with great effort. “I know.”
“Do you know… the next train is at 9:30? And it’s leaving… from Platform 6B… over there?”
“Yes. I do know all this, thank you.”
“Well, you’d better head on over there before you miss that one, too, hahaha!”
You horsef#cker. A horsef#cker with good intentions and awkward social graces, but a horsef#cker nonetheless. Very, very calmly, I said, “I have ninety minutes to walk a hundred yards. I think I have time.”
“Okay! Huhuhuhuh!” He ambled off towards the other end of the platform.
I stood there for a few minutes more and messaged the person coming to pick me up that I would be late. It was very warm, and my less-than-ideal state of physical fitness combined with a quarter mile dash hauling your typical unwieldly girly-luggage (read: possible overpacking — but no, those boots are necessary), dodging around slowasses and up and down flights of stairs had made me rather f#cking tired.
Holy sh#t what the f#ck. It was Metrolink Boy again. “What. Do. You. Want.”
“Yeah. I just talked you.”
“You really should go over… to Platform 6B!” He said this in a singsong voice while rocking back and forth on his heels. “Why are you still standing here? The train leaves from… over there!”
F#ck a duck in a pickup truck.
“Look, I still have eighty-five f#cking minutes until the next f#cking train. I just ran a goddam quarter-mile hauling forty pounds of sh#t to just miss the eight-oh-five. Now if it’s okay with you, sir, I’D LIKE TO JUST STAND HERE FOR A GODDAM MOMENT SO I CAN CATCH MY GODDAM BREATH. IS THAT ALL RIGHT?!”
“Oh.” Metrolink Boy froze and shut up immediately. The silence was fanf#ckingtabulous in the wake of his inane chatter. A cooling breeze passed by. I wiped the last beads of sweat from my face, exhaled deeply, and picked up my jacket. I looked at my backpack and cue travel bag (stuffed mostly with clothes to cushion the one cue inside). Ugh. I didn’t want to pick them up right now but, f#ck, it’s what’s got to be done. I reached for my backpack on the bench. Metrolink Boy stepped deftly in front of my backpack and said in what he must have thought was a seductive voice (while rocking back and forth on his heels and raising an eyebrow), “So… you like talking… to me?”
Good lord, this kid was the Ralph Wiggum of railroad customer service.
An elderly man came from around the other side of the bench and put his arm firmly around the shoulders of Metrolink Boy. It was less a friendly gesture and more of a headlock. This elderly gent also wore a railway uniform. “Hello, young lady. You look like you could use this.” He extended a cold bottle of water to me with his free hand. He turned to Metrolink Boy and said pleasantly, “Young man! Don’t you have better things to do than bother ladies? We don’t pay you for that, you know.” Keeping his very firm grip on Metrolink Boy’s shoulders, he did an about face and walked him off down the platform. They could have been participants in a three-legged race.
I suppose it isn’t dead. It’s just older and wiser.
I spent the next hour or so stepping on the very bold station cockroaches and watching them scurry away afterwards, unfazed, while flipping me the tiniest of birds.
Eventually, I did make it to the wedding.
This wedding is the product of me playing pool in a dive bar a few years ago. My childhood friend (who came with me to the bar) met her future husband (part of a team of rowdy softball hooligans) while I beat the crap out of his friend (on the pool table).
The wedding was lovely.
Midway through the funnest part (dinner! drinks! charades!) I had to leave to get to the airport all the way back on my side of Southern Cal so that I could get on the Midnight Flight to Virginia, which is not nearly as cool as the Midnight Train to Georgia.
Now, I had gotten properly, uh, prepared for this flight via the wedding and its open bar and its super-yummy dinner. The wedding itself required strategic pre-gaming on my part to survive (hoo boy, mothers on wedding days) anyways, so I figured being slightly buzzed would be a great way to get some sleep on an overnight flight. The flight was full (of course it was) and as I’ve said before, there are three kinds of seats on every flight — window, aisle, and goddammit. I was assigned a goddammit seat, but the person assigned to the window seat in my row asked to switch. Cool. I liked window seats. I looked forward to a blissful, restful, KO flight.
Long flight short…
- Dude next to me was sick.
- By the end of the flight, I was also sick.
- The three-hour layover in Atlanta became a blessing as I tried to self-medicate with aspirin, Airborne, etc.
- I drank a lot of hot tea. I threw up a lot of hot tea.
- I wisely decided not to eat. I felt wiser (and sicker) on the turbulent flight to Norfolk.
- I landed in Norfolk alive and dragged my ass very slowly to baggage claim where my cues arrived intact.
The players’ meeting for this tournament was on Saturday. As you may recall, I went to a wedding on Saturday. Matches began at 11 a.m. on Sunday. I did not arrive in Norfolk until 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, which meant I risked forfeiting my first match if I happened to be scheduled for the early rounds of play.
I misunderstood the dates of the event when my ambitious plans were still in their ambitious infancy. I thought the first day of the event was the players’ meeting and play started on Monday. It didn’t. There was no helping it now, I would have to risk forfeiting my first match because…
…there will be many tournaments in my lifetime, but only one wedding for my best friend.
(Only one wedding, right? None of that Hollywood revolving-door spouses crap!)
However, my regular burnt offerings of chocolate and whiskey to the patron saints of tournament directors resulted in the miracle of my first match being on Monday at 1:00 p.m. Hallelujah! That meant I didn’t need to rush from the airport to the convention center. I’m not sure I could have, in my state. After resting up, I slowly made my way out to the taxi stand. The weather was very warm, and I would have enjoyed it very much if my body temperature hadn’t decided to swing up to fever levels. I laboriously told the taxi attendant, “Convention center. Chesapeake.”
The attendant knew the driver of the taxi he called up. The driver’s name was Larry. As I stood there, in the heat, with my backpack weighing me down, it seemed that Larry didn’t know where the Chesapeake Convention Center was. I was trying not to be irritated, mostly because I feared if my body temperature rose any further, I might get heat stroke. And yet, these two gentlemen, Larry and the attendant, were asking me how to get to the Convention Center. Goddam. I steadied myself against the trunk of the ancient vehicle and tried to remain conscious. All I needed to do, I knew, was get to the hotel, stop carrying my awkward-to-handle luggage (seriously, those f#cking cue travel bags need a shoulder strap) which weighed more than I did, lie down on a bed and get some goddam rest.
Larry and the attendant were still exchanging questions and guesses as I stood there, trying so hard to stay standing. I bent my head and watched a drop of sweat fall in slow motion on to the hot asphalt. I hate letting my cue go (a lot of you know this), but I had to put the bag down. It was too heavy. I let it go and it fell with a solid thud. Larry and the attendant (haha, great name for a band) stopped talking a moment. YES, I thought, let’s get all organized and sh#t and get me to the hotel before I die. I have a tournament to play and death is not an acceptable excuse for a forfeit.
Larry might have had some psychic powers because he picked up the bag, which was a nondescript, unlabeled, overstuffed bag that might possibly have been designed to carry toddler-sized golf-clubs for a teeny-tiny Asian girl with a super-duper temper. He looked at the bag and said, “You play pool?”
“Oh. You must be here for–“
“The big tournament?”
“The big tournament.”
“Well, then! I know where you need to go! Hop on in. I’ll get your bags.”
Relief. I almost felt like I was granted parole. Or discharged from a hospital. Not that I would know what either of those feel like.
I moved myself gingerly into the fabulously blue-velveted interior of this fine, solid, vintage American-made vehicle and pulled the door shut.
|Most strangers I run into on the street know pool through late-night ESPN snippets or that donkey-ass show Ballbreakers (not that I would know what being on a donkey-ass show like Ballbreakers would be like).|
|Larry was different.|
|Larry knew pool from the days of “Champagne” Eddie Kelly, Jack “Jersey Red” Breit, and Johnston City. The days when they still had rack boys at the pool room and you paid them a dime per game. He talked about local professional Dave Bollman (he was entered in the tournament) and told me about what great golf and pool he played.|
|Of course, the only time I run into a complete stranger in a non-billiards environment who turns out to be a bona-fide denizen of the the sport, I happen to be half delirious with exhaustion so I can’t remember all of his stories.|
F#CK YOU MICROBES.
And f#ck you, to a lesser extent, sick dude on the plane.
Larry was very familiar with the tournament, enough so that he quoted me correctly, down to the half-dollar, how much it would cost to get me to my hotel from the airport. Good sh#t.
I checked in, dropped my luggage down at the first opportunity, popped two Tylenol PM, and checked the f#ck out of the present.
I don’t remember how long I slept. All I knew was that when I woke, there were matches in play and my first thought was to go practice. I hadn’t eaten since the wedding, which was over 24 hours ago, but practice takes precedence. In fact, once I thought about hitting balls, I forgot I was hungry.
I threw on some clean, acceptable clothing, and headed for the convention center. I watched the tail end of a the last matches and then asked the tournament staff if it would be all right for me to practice. Although I was in nice shoes (always) and an acceptable shirt, I was wearing dark jeans, which were not considered tournament appropriate, and so, I was not allowed to practice. Understandable.
I was allowed to take a photograph of the pockets.
There you go. Now you pocket enthusiasts can have a go at discussing the best cut of pockets, depth of shelf, etc.
The very nice tournament dude on duty told me to come back at 8:30 a.m., which was the earliest I would be allowed to practice. Good enough.
I went back to the hotel, ordered a small pizza via Dominos’ online delivery system, ate half of it, and slept some more.
What pool player gets up at the ass-crack of dawn to practice? The same one who can’t get up to go to work on time. Ha.
Here’s the arena in the morning when everything is being cleaned.
It’s kind of like when they turn up the lights at closing time in a bar or when the movie ends in a theater. Those harsh lights are totally “ruining the moment”. It’s too early for this. I need beer goggles.
Oh, look. They turned off the overhead lights and everything magically looks better. Except for my game. That’s always ugly.
There was a dinner break each evening from the end of the 3:00 p.m. round until the beginning of the 7:00 p.m. round. Any open table was fair game for practice and a lot of players looked to get practice in during that time. Below, we have some representatives from the UK.
I don’t know who the guy at the table is, but I do know he was *gasp* wagering during practice time. Also, homeboy is wearing severly distressed *gasp* jeans. MY GOD THAT’S NOT TOURNAMENT ATTIRE HOW IS HE ALLOWED TO PRACTICE.
The three gentlemen in the foreground, from left to right are: Karl Boyes, Jayson Shaw, and Chris Melling. Mr. Boyes was very nice and offered me a piece of his fruit salad. He also shared the secret to not freezing in the meat locker known as the Chesapeake Convention Center. It’s the hat. That is what allows him and his fellow Brits to dress in their flip flops and surfer shorts. Sadly, I do not have the required panache (and excellence of game) to wear such a hat and not look ridiculous.
|On your left is Raj “The Hitman” Hundal of the UK, but representing India. If you look carefully, there is an upside-down cup in front of him. Mr. Hundal found a dime-sized bug on the table and decided that although they could coexist, the bug might prefer to coexist outside the tournament arena (Mr. Hundal may have preferred this as well).|
|He gently ushered the bug into a cup, then slid a piece of paper under it. The bug, now in the Witness Protection Program (no doubt for testifying against homeboy practicing in the tournament arena whilst wearing denim), was brought outside by the other gentleman where it proceeded to live happily ever after until it was eaten by an organism higher up in the food chain.|
|Also, it was a stinkbug.|
I know I was almost delirious, but I definitely saw Elvis. The crooked cue made me doubt my senses for a second, but I was reassured that I was not hallucinating. I could live with insanity and without a car, but hallucinations — those would really bring down my quality of life.
A fashionable source says this about The King:
He made that cue from a blueberry bush. He also has only one eye. Dudes a pimp.
The King would later be eliminated by Amar “AK-47” Kang, who expressed significant regret at dethroning the legend in front of millions of his loving fans, but cited the need for breaking even at an event of this magnitude as a priority.
When the lights go down in the city, and the sunshine’s on the bay… It’s time for practice. As I stated before, any open table is free game for practice. Since I paid what is, arguably, the most expensive rate for table time in my life, I tried to get as much practice as possible.
Here is one of the most beautiful pictures I have ever taken.
The TV arena has been shut down for the night, the room is almost empty, and I have thirty minutes until they kick me out for the evening. Also, I’m wearing jeans and I’m going to practice AND NO ONE IS GOING TO STOP ME muhahahaha!
This episode of power-tripping maniacal laughter was made possible by Corey “Prince of Pool” Deuel (2001).
|Here are Mr. Deuel’s hands after practice featuring standard distribution of chalk. But, hark, what garb does yonder Prince wear? It’s a heather grey tee with indeterminate screenprint and matching heather grey sweats.|
|This was the best outfit I saw all week.|
|I’d waited all day to get on a practice table, but was not able to get one. I don’t like to interrupt other people’s practice and I prefer to practice alone. At a tournament such as this one, with 250 total players and a $500 entry fee, this means I won’t get to practice much.|
We’ve already seen that some players have been allowed to practice while wearing jeans. In an effort to preserve my limited selection of tournament clothes, I changed into jeans when I had the chance. But, if I wanted to practice, I would have to walk back to my hotel and change back into tournament clothes. Blargh. It was still early in the tournament, meaning there were still many players left and all of them vying for an open table.
There’s a very special time during the last round of play at 11 p.m., when the tables start to open up one by one. You’ll see it if you ever visit the Open. Some players already in tournament dress will get on to a table, usually in the back section. There are matches still in play, so the practice peeps have to be subtle.
Tonight, a dude in basketball shorts, sneakers, and a tee shirt got on one of the front tables and started hitting balls.
I know I wasn’t the only one looking back and forth to see what the tournament directors would do. They might have glanced at him once or twice, but they let him be. I suppose at such a late hour with a dwindling number of spectators, no one really gave a damn who was wearing what as long as it covered enough. Some casually dressed players — in tee shirts and jeans — went on out to the back tables that had opened up. Arrgh. I really wanted to play, but I didn’t feel I had the clout to break rules and get away with it.
Then, the Prince of Pool swept grandly into the arena, dressed as he was, straight out of Rocky (minus the chicken, frozen sides of beef, and stairs), and began hitting balls on a table next to Basketball Shorts. Seeing those two King Casuals brazenly playing on the marquee tables did it. I hopped down from the bleachers and yoinked a table near the closed-down TV arena.
So, thanks to Corey Deuel, I felt comfortable enough to get some extra practice. If the tournament directors were going to point to my jeans, I could point to the 2001 U.S. Open 9-Ball Champion. The best part was, after some practice, I ended up chatting a bit with Mr. Deuel and he said he was apprehensive about going down to practice dressed the way he was until he saw Basketball Shorts grab a table. He figured, hey, if a guy dressed like that is allowed to practice – then so am I! Mr. Deuel then gleefully recounted the time he played the Sands Regency Open in fuzzy pink slippers. They were closed-toe shoes, you know? Completely allowed.
Here’s a picture of the rear half of the tournament room right before they’re about to kick us out for the evening, open tables everywhere. Too bad that time is so short-lived.
Hey look! It’s Hunter Lombardo of the Unbelievable Hair and Thorsten Hohmann of the Very Interesting Musical Tastes.
This was one of my better dinners. I joined these two (who bicker like an old retired couple on a cruise to the Bahamas) and Michael “The Notebook” Yednak for a sandwich at T.G.I.Friday’s. By this point, I’d had pizza every day since I’d arrived in Norfolk, and for two days prior to that.
I’d never been much for pizza, but ever since my newly-married best friend ordered a Dominos pizza using their online system, I’ve been, um, fascinated by the ease with which I can order food and have it brought to me. I don’t know. I’m so used to, well, going to the food, not the other way around. And there are so many variations of pizza. And so many coupons. And they have animated thingamabobs that show you the progress of your order. My favorite is the Jamaican parrot with the boombox.
Pizza: economical + more than one meal (for me) + delivered = victory.
There are no glorious food photos in the post because during this trip, I had pizza, Wawa (that name is up there with “Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘N’ Fruity” on the list of Things I Like But Whose Names Irritate The F#ck Out Of Me Because They Sound Ridiculous) sandwiches, IHOP, Denny’s, and the aforementioned T.G.I.Friday’s outing.
|Here’s a picture of Billy “Voice of Accu-Stats” Incardona. Note the True Religion jeans and stylish plaid shirt. This man is very much on trend!|
|In all the billiards world, I don’t think there is anyone who can tell stories about the older days of pool and gambling quite like Mr. Incardona. He is a great storyteller and when he spins a yarn, it takes a whole flock of sheep! If you are ever lucky enough to have him tell you tales of days of yore, you will truly enjoy it. You can really see his passion for the game, its subculture, and its people.|
|More than once during this trip, I had the additional luck and pleasure of sitting next to Mr. Incardona while watching a match. He naturally begins to commentate on the match while sprinkling fun little anecdotes throughout. It’s like having your own Accu-Stats, but BETTER: I can also ask him questions and get his expert opinion and advice on just about anything.|
|When I’m bummed out about pool, nothing reignites the passion as much as listening to Billy’s stories.|
Now let’s talk about the best dinner I had while I was in Chesapeake. Why, that would be the BCA Hall of Fame Dinner with inductees Danny “Danny D” DiLiberto and Ralf “The Kaiser” Souquet (2002).
Here is the dinner table. I know this is a fancy dinner because there are two sets of each silverware piece, just in case I decide to heist a set.
It tasted like chicken.
During this dinner, I stuck mostly to vodka cranberries. One of the guests at my table, noted instructor Jerry Briesath saw me ordering one and declared that he, too, would like a cranberry juice. He said he loved cranberry juice for its refreshing taste. I loved cranberry juice in regular life (as opposed to pool life) for the same reasons. However, since I was currently living my pool life, I required firewater with my juice.
There was a highlight film of each inductee which included messages of congratulations by friends, fans, and family.
|Danny DiLiberto was a boxer and bowler before he was a pool player. As a boxer, he was trained by Angelo Dundee, there on the left. Here is a little about Dundee courtesy of Wikipedia:|
|By all accounts, if DiLiberto’s hands hadn’t been so fragile (he broke them often in the ring), he would have been a hell of a boxer.|
DiLiberto’s acceptance speech was just like him: gracious and witty and full of funny anecdotes and one-liners.
One of the funniest things he said was, “People ask me all the time, ‘In your prime do you think you could have beaten Souquet?’ And I say, ‘Yes. I could have beaten Souquet. When I was in my prime, he was only three years old!'”
|Ralf Souquet’s highlight reel had many messages of congratulations for him which were almost all recorded in German.|
|Fellow German player Thorsten Hohmann recounted how Ralf was a role model for him as he was growing up playing the game. Filipino great Francisco Bustamante, who lives in Germany, also made an appearance. There were also congratulatory messages from athletes of other sports.|
|By far, the message that was the most touching was the one from his parents.|
|Parental pride doesn’t require a common language to be conveyed. It is a common language.|
Souquet’s acceptance speech was — pure Souquet. It was structured and gracious. He thanked his wife and supporters and was extremely complimentary to his fellow players.
And here they are, your 2011 BCA Hall of Fame inductees, Ralf Souquet and Danny DiLiberto. Their ties are oddly appropriate. Although both ties feature the same colors, the differing patterns accurately reflect the style of their speeches.
And here is a parting shot of the carpet at the Marriott. If you didn’t get enough alcohol at the dinner, looking at the pattern sure as hell gave you the feeling as if you did.
Meanwhile, back at the
ranch convention center…
|…matches were still going on. The field was being whittled down more with each round and now, all the remaining matches were “good” matches. You know what I mean. There were no more lopsided matches between hacks and champions. There were only clashes of titans left.|
|Naturally, all the bookies were operating at full steam. Also, once you’re out of the tournament, you can concentrate full-time on action, be it on the table or off to the side.|
|During one of my conversations with Mr. Incardona, Chris “Smooth Criminal” Bartram stopped by and Mr. Incardona gave Mr. Bartram some money for a previous wager.|
|“Making a withdrawal from the Bank of Incardona?”|
|“As long as Billy owes me money, I know I’m never broke, ’cause he’s good for it!”|
Considering what happened to me earlier this year regarding the paying of bets, I would say “being good for it” is a hell of a compliment these days.
When one is at the Open and considers one’s self some sort of pool player, it follows that one must visit Q-Master Billiards, promoter Barry Behrman’s kingdom aside from the Chesapeake Convention Center during the Open.
Presumably, Mr. Behrman does not make frequent announcements over a loudspeaker regarding buffet dinners and their available contents at this arena.
Below, the tournament/action room featuring a mix of Diamond and Brunswick tables.
While I was there, the biggest action was a $500 set with $100-$200 sets being more common. Usually, the Open has bigger action than that, but the current state of the economy is probably making everyone tight and cautious. Also, the higher levels of prize money at the Open had not been paid out yet, meaning most of the players that would gamble were still waiting for a bankroll supplement in the form of prize money. There’s almost always decent action after the Open is over.
The walls of Q-Master have lots and lots of photographs and memorabilia, mostly from previous U.S. Opens. I found a picture of the 2001 U.S. Open finalists — that’s ten years ago!
|On the left is runner-up Mika “Iceman” Immonen (2008, 2009). He would go on to win the U.S. Open in 2008 and again in 2009, becoming one of the few champions to have won the event more than once, one of three champions to have won it in consecutive years.|
|On the right is Corey Deuel, the 2001 champion.|
|Don’t know the photobomb in the middle.|
|And here’s a picture of a situation I suppose we need to see more of: evangelists spreading the good word about billiards. Let’s all go out there and get someone hooked! Our cult of the colliding spheres needs new members!|
Once I was KTFO of the tournament, I spent a lot of quality time watching matches in the TV arena. Hell, I paid for the ultimate season pass, which also included a “play the pros” feature, so I might as well use it. Also, the TV arena had the best lighting and my camera needed all the help with lighting it could get because I knew (unlike some SOME PEOPLE in the audience) that flash photography was not allowed.
|On the left is the elimination match between Jonathan Demet and Allen Hopkins, Sr. (1977, 1981).|
|This is a picture from the beginning of the match.|
|Mr. Hopkins played superb from the start. He stayed in the lead, widening the gap to six, maybe seven, games at one point…|
|…but Mr. Demet remained steady and when Mr. Hopkins made a mistake here and there, he would take his time and make the shots.|
|Here is a picture from the end of the match.|
|Mr. Demet ground the lead down to just one game. In this particular rack, Mr. Hopkins missed a routine eight-ball. Mr. Demet made the eight, but got a long shot on the nine, which I captured here. He missed the nine. 🙁|
|This match was one of the best ones I saw, if only for the impressive comeback. 🙂|
|(I missed the ultimate comeback match of this tournament which featured Darren “Dynamite” Appleton (2010, 2011) winning 11-10 from a 10-6 deficit to Jason “Mr. Rousey” Klatt. You can get that match from Accu-Stats.|
Here is Dennis “D-Train/Big D” Hatch being — Dennis “D-Train/Big D” Hatch.
Mr. Hatch’s opponent (racking) is Lee Van Corteza of the Philippines (by the way, another Filipino who favors pink-striped polo shirts is Jose “Amang” Parica). In the previous game, Mr. Hatch pushed out after the break and left Mr. Corteza, if he chose to shoot it, an extremely long, off-angle combination shot on the nine-ball.
Mr. Corteza took a swing at the combination — and sh#t it in. Great players! They’re just like us! They have moments of accidental greatness, too!
That little bit of luck brought the score to hill-hill. This picture is of Mr. Hatch asking the heavens why they hate him.
The heavens didn’t hate Mr. Hatch that much as he went on to win, 11-10.
The title of this photograph is “They Don’t Care”.
That’s Johnny “The Scorpion” Archer doing what he does best — looking for lint. Just kidding! Or am I? Hmm. Dude in the chair is Darren Appleton, who goes on to win this whole shindig.
The title of this photograph would be “They Still Don’t Care”.
Check out the dude reading a book in the front row.
Despite the impression the previous photographs may have given, the TV arena had plenty of people who did care, and sat for hours and hours and hours sweating all the matches.
I like the set up of the bleachers for the event. I like it that each row of seats has a table in front of you (for your beverages and victuals). However, the bleachers themselves seem kind of rickety. On average, I saw/heard people trip twice a day. The bleacher supports also look like the bracket system used for garage shelving — but, I’m sure they’re fine.
Alex “The Lion” Pagulayan (2005) and Larry “The Truth” Nevel lag for the break.
Could someone tell me how Mr. Nevel got his nickname? I’m just curious.
Here’s the infamous moment where Mr. Nevel broke the shaft of his cue.
Photograph courtesy of Dana Orosz.
I know that feeling. Having high expectations and lots of drive is a complex, double-edged thing. It can power you to magnificent achievements. It can also frustrate you so much when you fall short you have a need to break sh#t.
I heard Mr. Nevel makes his own cues. That’s good, especially if you run the risk of breaking cues now and then. I think I should look into cuemaking.
Title of this photograph? “Hands And Faces”.
Dude on the right, the one taking up half this photograph had moist hands. He fidgeted quite a bit with his hands, too. The result was that he’d make these (I assume they were unintentional) farting noises when he squished his hands together. Handfarts from an enraptured audience: yet another fine feature of the sport of kings. For the record, handfarts still beat peoples’ cell phones going off with sh#tty ringtones at top volume.
Hey, Sarah “Mrs. Klatt” Rousey!
I’ll bet a dollar you’re laughing right now. Also, congratulations on getting married! 🙂
Dude reading a book woke up but looks like he wants us all to get off of his lawn.
Look! There’s people from the AZ Billiards Forums in the stands. Mr. Pagulayan went on to win this match, 11-7.
This is the first break in the Shawn Putnam vs Huidji See elimination match.
Mr. See made five balls on the break but did not get a shot on the first ball, which is the three hanging by the side pocket. Mr. Putnam went on to win this match, 11-7.
That was the last match I watched at the U.S. Open and it concluded at some late-ass hour.
The final four players of this event were:
- Darren Appleton GBR vs Alex Pagulayan CAN
- Dennis Hatch USA vs Shawn Putnam USA
I made one last stop at the tournament room the next day before heading to the airport. This is another of my favorite photographs. Unfortunately, my camera is not very advanced so the quality of this photograph is not the best.
The overhead lights are on at the back where the table crew has been dismantling tables and lights since the previous evening. The TV arena lights fired up for the hotseat match. But, the most dramatic bit of color is the table in the foreground where Mr. Hatch and Mr. Putnam will play to see who goes home and who is guaranteed third.
I was in the air most of the day, but here’s how it all panned out:
- 1st Darren Appleton GBR | $30,000 | defends his 2010 title, on EU Mosconi Cup team
- 2nd Shawn Putnam USA | $15,000 | on US Mosconi Cup team
- 3rd Alex Pagulayan CAN | $7,500
- 4th Dennis Hatch USA | $6,000
I didn’t sleep at all on the planes and worked on more keychains.
|t h a n k s|
|EMCA | FWCCA | HKNY | G&JMA | Murray Tucker of Tucker Cue Works | Kamui Tips | Shot Pad | Ken Shuman & Jay Helfert | Brian in VA | all who participated in my Greatest Cereal Bowl Of All Time™ raffle and/or bought any of my fuzzy keychains|
|first time hello & hello again|
|Brian in VA (the Commish) | JMD in VA (the Mayor) | the very hilarious Amy Foster & the rest of her crew at Q-Masters, one of whom was a math major wearing a fashionable apron | Time Bandit (player, not boat) | branpureza (nickname: “J. Crew”) | Rich R. & Cathy | Hierovision (hummus!) | Icon of Sin | MBTaylor | Eric. & Suzy | Huidji See | Kressel & Co. | Hunter “The Hair” Lombardo & Toasti | cleary | Justin Collett | Mr. Rousey & Mrs. Klatt | Teruko! | Dee & Dan (with the neat house & adorable puppies) | the always-dapper Billy Incardona|
I wasn’t going to write about the following. I wasn’t going to write a post at all. What the hell. Let’s go.
It took me a long time to save up the money for this tournament. In order to play this tournament, I made a decision to pass up other tournaments for the year. I also reduced the quality of my life. I did this because I truly believed playing in the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships was a grand and prestigious thing. After all, the Open arguably has the most cachet of any major tournament in the United States. Also, I didn’t need an invitation to play. If I had the money, they had the time.
I liked this.
It spoke of equality.
All pool players, no matter how great or hacktastic, could play in the Open if you had the money and the balls.
I lost my first match 11-4.
I didn’t play up to my standards although I made some nice shots. I made a lot of beginner errors and had countless mental lapses. But, this was all right. The first match is often the toughest and I had at least another match. I would do my best to draw myself together and fire away at my last chance.
I made a decision when I sent in my 50,000 pennies for this event: no matter what happened in this tournament, I would do my best to remain under control. That is, if I felt I could not say something nice, I would not say anything at all. Silence would be my refuge.
I shook hands with my opponent and said nothing. I packed up my one cue and collected my things at a measured pace. A spectator sitting the row closest to the arena started saying, “Hey sweetheart! Hey! Sweetheart!” He was trying to get my attention.
I kept my eyes straight in front of me. I had just played terrible and I really was in NO F#CKING MOOD to talk to ANYONE until I had a chance to settle myself down. Also, I’m NEVER IN THE F#CKING MOOD to talk to a stranger who refers to me as “sweetheart”. He persisted. “Sweetheart! SWEETHEART!”
I maintained a flawless appearance of calm. I did not acknowledge him because I did not have a nice response to “sweetheart”. The pain of the loss was just too much and I knew, if I were to say anything, it would just — yeah, no. I wished, SO MUCH, that this f#cking assclown, as well meaning as he was, would GET THE GODDAM MESSAGE THAT I DID NOT WANT TO TALK RIGHT NOW.
Hey leaned over as far as he could. “Hey sweetheart. SWEET. HEART. HEY! YOU!”
I continued to ignore him, although the strain of remaining silent almost killed me.
He made a move to wave in my face but paused midway. F#ck YES, I thought. He got the goddam message. Instead, he turned and said to the crowd, “She don’t speak English.”
I was speaking ENGLISH, UNACCENTED ENGLISH, throughout my match. In fact, I cracked jokes more than once. My. God. It figures that a guy this f#cking stupid would never think that maybe, JUST MAYBE, I didn’t want to talk to him. No, of course not. If I didn’t want to talk to this Sultan of Suaveness, it could only be because I DID NOT SPEAK ENGLISH.
I had to get out.
I’m only claustrophobic when surrounded by idiots.
I took quick inventory of my things. Before I prepared to escort myself out of the playing arena, I took one last precaution: I put in my earphones, even though I did not turn on the music. I hoped against hope that this last piece of sign language could indicate to the masses that I DID NOT WANT TO TALK RIGHT NOW. Thus armored (weak as it was), I left the arena and walked in a direct line towards the door.
No one stopped me during my walk. It was only a few hundred feet, but you’d be amazed at how soon the pity vultures can descend on a girl. I kept my eyes STRAIGHT ahead and my face was frozen in a very particular expression. My friends have described this expression as “neutral, with a chance of violence”. Good enough. I had to make it to the tournament chart in the other room without being bothered. After I checked the brackets, I would go back to my hotel where I could chill. The. F#ck. Out.
Out in the hallway, I ran into Joe Salazar. His booth was right across from the door to the room with the brackets. I have known Joe a long time, and I enjoyed running into him at these big events. I’d always chat a little with him when I did. We saw each other and I smiled. In the storm that surrounds me after losing, the only people who are safe are nice people I like and am friends with. I took out my earphones for a quick chat.
I might have exchanged one short sentence with Joe before I was set up by two strangers. They closed in on me, one on either side. One man, the older one, touched me on the elbow and cackled, “Heh heh heh! How you like playing the old man, huh? How you like that? Yeah. You like that? Heh heh heh!” What the f#ck?! I looked at him in surprise but before I could say anything, the younger one on the other side was already yammering into my ear that I should be glad, nay, PROUD of myself — for getting to four games.
Even though I was ambushed by these two royal f#cktards, I tried to keep cool. The first guy didn’t seem to have anything to say other than to make fun of me for losing to the “old man”. I got the strong feeling he thought I didn’t know who the “old man” was. F#cking assumptive asshole. If I’m going to throw $500 into the ring to dance with the lions, I know EXACTLY what the f#ck I’m getting into and I probably do know who the “old man” is. I wanted so much, almost more than anything I had ever wanted in my life, to punch the self-satisfied smirk off this asshole’s face.
But I couldn’t.
Because the younger one was all up in my face and talking with his hands and his New York accent trying to tell me I should be f#cking thrilled — THRILLED — to make it to FOUR. F#CKING. GAMES. In a strained voice, I tried to stay still and maintain my composure as I did my best to explain that no, I WAS NOT thrilled, nor proud, nor f#cking circus-parade happy to get four games off the “old man”.
They continued to batter me with their callous stupidity. I didn’t know what to do. I kept saying, “No, that’s not me. It doesn’t matter who I lose to, I am not happy about it and I cannot be.” I kept explaining myself over and over and over again but these two f#ckheads would not leave me alone. They were DETERMINED to have me admit — something. It seemed like they wanted me to admit that I KNEW didn’t have a chance to win my match and that I was GRATEFUL my opponent let me have four games. I refused to agree. I kept saying, “That’s not the kind of player I am. I’m not and I never will be.”
I knew I could not stay there any longer. All I wanted to do was have a little chat with Joe Salazar and I got interrupted by these random f#cks who — f#ck, I still can’t even figure out what the f#ck they were trying to accomplish. I could feel myself getting hot. The warmer I got, the less I would be able to control myself. I was primed for trouble and I knew it.
This was the U.S. F#CKING OPEN.
This was supposed to be the best tournament with the best players and the best spectators who respected the game and its players.
What THE F#CK was going on?!
In desperation, because I could not convince them that I knew what kind of person and player I was, and these guys were just begging to be served knuckle sandwiches, I said to Joe, who was standing there as stunned and confused as I was, “Please! Joe! Tell these guys what kind of player I am! Tell them I can’t f#cking stand losing! To anyone!”
Then, I fled to the room with the tournament brackets and hid behind the door until those two idiots left.
It’s a sh#tty world when I need to tell a guy to tell other guys that what I’m saying about my own personality is true.
These adorable skull brackets are just so appropriate. Shall we continue on? Yes, we shall.
The aforemention younger one of that horrific double pity-vulture attack found me sometime later when I was up in the stands, trying to relax, and proceeded to try and apologize. He said he didn’t mean to upset me. Fine. I explained to him that, although I am a girl, that doesn’t mean I’m happy to get four games in a race to eleven. F#CK THAT SHIT. A loss is a loss, and whether that loss is to a hack or a champion, IT’S A LOSS. And losses suck. And I am not happy about it and it is not required for me to be happy about it. I mean, would he say and do what he did to a guy?! No. Only to a girl.
He said he understood. I was somewhat skeptical about this, but fine — if some of the message made it through, then I’d tolerate that sh#t.
Then he started to give me a f#cking peptalk like I was a goddam five-year-old, telling me I was gonna be fine and patting me on the shoulder. God I hate that sh#t. HATE IT. I don’t need your lame-ass attempts at being “soothed”. No, F#CK THAT. When I sent in that money, I was ready to show the world just how bad I could play and that yes, I do dare to “waste” that money playing against the top male professionals. I’m not afraid of failure and when you’re not afraid of failure, peptalks, though they are meant well, are just condescending bullsh#t.
But, this dude saw none of that in me. Likely all he saw was the same thing most everyone sees in me, some tiny, scared Asian girl who is playing out of her league and should be happy with even being allowed to play in this tournament. If you decided to play out of your league, you already have confidence, the rest of the world be damned.
Any credit he earned with his apology was promptly revoked.
Here’s a great post by a fellow blogger entitled: “Why Pep Talks Don’t Work”.
And the sh#t flows on.
I was chatting with fellow pool player (and preppy posterboy) Brandon Pureza one evening when another one of the girls who had entered in the tournament (there were five of us, including Aradhana Naik who traveled from India) stopped by to say hello to Mr. Pureza. She had only spoken very briefly when a man with a shaved head and a too-snug striped button-down shirt sauntered up to the three of us, drink in hand. He turned to look at the girl and said smugly, “You still drinkin’ that haterade?”
That’s a hell of a way to open a conversation with a lady.
Obviously, something had happened between these two.
I recognized Snug Shirt as the player who had eliminated the girl from the tournament. Our girl shot him a look and rolled her eyes. She then excused herself, saying she was leaving to watch a match. Snug Shirt watched her go and his eyes followed her for a long while. Then, he turned to Brandon and me and said, “She’s real pretty, but if I ever have to play that [derogatory term towards women] again, I ain’t EVER gonna let her win a game.”
“Really,” Brandon said. “What happened?”
“I was playing her and all and she got all mad and ran up into the stands and starts tellin’ everyone there what I said.”
“What did you say?”
“Well, before we started, I tell her, ‘We both know how this is gonna end, I’m gonna run all over you.'”
This is why my blog is titled “OMGWTF”.
“You shouldn’t have said that.”
“But I am gonna run all over her!”
Astounded, I immediately said, “You really shouldn’t be telling that story in front of someone like me.” At the very least, this pompous assholic dude-bro could have waited for no women to be present before being his misogynistic self.
Snug Shirt continued to justify his behavior. From what I could deduce from his ranting, he had found his opponent attractive and had offered to “let her win” a couple of games. Straight-up told her he’d let her win some games if she’d be nice to him and go out to lunch with him (or something to similar effect).
This whole time, I was fidgeting. Just, oh my God, I was so uncomfortable. Even as I type this, I have to stand up and crack my knuckles. More than once I interjected to disagree with him. I said he should just keep his mouth shut and play his best. Don’t EVER let a girl win a couple of games because you want a f#cking date. if you can blank someone, blank them.
Snug Shirt kept going on and on. Eventually, he began talking about how the tournament directors were doing a horrible job choosing matches for the TV table, amongst other topics. He was most definitely, a self-proclaimed expert at pool. Sad thing was, it was later confirmed that, no, he should not have “run all over” his opponent. She had a good chance against him, but his statement was very much a shark move.
In the last match, I lost 11-6 in grand fashion and I finally “lost my religion”.
There are a lot of things that happened during this trip, whether from people directly at the event or people who were only watching the event and communicated to me through other means, and it all added up to one major realization for me: pool isn’t fun anymore, and I need to stop — at least for the moment.
After my second loss, I put away my cue and I haven’t taken it out since. I do not have the desire to play. Many top players have counseled me on my decision, and I’d like to take a moment to point out that they DID NOT GIVE ME PEPTALKS. This is because they know exactly what I am going through.
That’s all right. These things gotta happen every five years or so, ten years. Helps to get rid of the bad blood.
Pool, it’s not you. It’s me.
I’m not going to stop playing entirely, but I am going to dial back my efforts by about 99.9%. I’m like a swimmer who has swum forward, with and against the current, for a long time and now has decided to just tread water for a while.
In the meantime, I’m going to post more about Food and Life. There are some upcoming pool events that I will be attending and I suppose I shall write about them (actually, I have to — my friends have been too kind), so you pool die-hards definitely have those to look forward to and I believe you will enjoy them.
In any case, my vacation has begun and I do invite you to come along for the ride!