|in this issue of OMGWTF
weekly reading assortment
are you not entertained
Things That Have Recently Made Me Happy
a short list
If you don’t know what twitter is, no big deal. If you do, you may enjoy the following Twitter user/person/profile:
shitmydadsays – www.twitter.com/shitmydadsays
“You need to flush the toilet more than once…No, YOU, YOU specifically need to. You know what, use a different toilet. This is my toilet.”
Random: Interesting articles & websites to pass the day
100 Ways to Use a Strip of Bacon
Bacon. Will. Never. Die.
Don’t Judge My Hair
“Well, we all have an Achilles’ heel of hair, so to speak — a look that fashion dictates us to follow that will only result in tears… of laughter, for generations to come. Share your hair scare with the world!”
Bizarre newt uses ribs as weapons
One amphibian has evolved a bizarre and gruesome defence mechanism to protect itself against predators.
NYC’s ‘skinniest’ house has fat price tag: $2.7M
Landmark was once home to Margaret Mead and Edna St. Vincent Millay.
“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend.
Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”
— Groucho Marx
I like reading.
Earlier this summer at the end of June, Newsweek released a list of their top 100 books of all time. Top 100 lists are not anything out of the ordinary and each one is always open to heated debate. Newsweek assembled their list from other distinguished “top 100” book lists:
Declaring the best book ever written is tricky business. Who’s to say what the best is? We went one step further: we crunched the numbers from 10 top books lists (Modern Library, the New York Public Library, St. John’s College reading list, Oprah’s, and more) to come up with The Top 100 Books of All Time. It’s a list of lists — a meta-list. Let the debate begin.
Their methodology for selection:
We began by selecting 10 separate lists of best books that we thought represented an eclectic mix of readers’ tastes, not just a narrow Great Books of the Western World canon. To be considered, the list had to be of books that were either originally written in English or books that had been translated into English. The lists we selected range from the highly erudite (the St. John’s College reading list) to the much more accessible (Oprah’s Book Club and Wikipedia’s list of the bestselling books of all time). Some of the lists only featured novels, while others included a mix of fiction and nonfiction. Some contained only 20th-century works, while others reached all the way back to the beginnings of Western civilization. Our goal was to take into consideration a range of factors—including a book’s impact on history, intellectual contribution to our culture, modern relevance, and enduring popularity. It was meant not to be a comprehensive list of the best books ever, but rather a reflection of the passions and judgments of smart readers and critics of our time.
The complete list of 10 previously published lists that we drew upon includes The Telegraph’s 110 best books/The Perfect Library, The Guardian’s top 100 books, Oprah’s Book Club, the St. John’s College reading list, Wikipedia’s list of all-time bestsellers, the New York Public Library’s books of the century, the Radcliffe Publishing Course’s list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century, The Modern Library’s 100 best novels and 100 best works of nonfiction, Time’s 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to the present, and NEWSWEEK’s own list of current top 50 choices, which is being published this week.
For this week’s idle musings, I present Newsweek’s list. I’ve put in bold the ones I have read (although that doesn’t necessarily means I liked them). I started some of the books on the list and never got around to finishing them. On this list, I score 22 out of 100. I have a bit of catching up to do.
1. War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy
2. 1984, by George Orwell
3. Ulysses, by James Joyce
4. Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov
5. The Sound and The Fury, by William Faulkner
6. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
7. To The Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf
8. The Illiad and the Odyssey, by Homer
9. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
10. Divine Comedy, by Dante Alighieri
11. Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer
12. Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift
13. Middlemarch, by George Eliot
14. Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe
15. The Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger
16. Gone with the Wind, Margaret by Mitchell
17. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
18. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
19. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
20. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
21. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
22. Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie
23. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
24. Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf
25. Native Son, by Richard Wright
26. Democracy in America, by Alexis de Tocqueville
27. On the Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin
28. The Histories, by Herodotus
29. The Social Contract, by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
30. Das Kapital, by Karl Marx
31. The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli
32. Confessions, by St. Augustine
33. Leviathan, by Thomas Hobbes
34. The History of the Peloponnesian War, by Thucydides
35. The Lord of the Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien
36. Winnie-the-Pooh, by A. A. Milne
37. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C. S. Lewis
38. A Passage to India, by E. M. Forster
39. On the Road, by Jack Kerouac
40. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
41. The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version
42. A Clockwork Orange, by Antony Burgess
43. Light in August, by William Faulkner
44. The Souls of Black Folk, by W. E. Du Bois
45. Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys
46. Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert
47. Paradise Lost, by John Milton
48. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
49. Hamlet, by William Shakespeare
50. King Lear, by William Shakespeare
51. Othello, by William Shakespeare
52. Sonnets, by William Shakespeare
53. Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman
54. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
55. Kim, by Rudyard Kipling
56. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
57. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
58. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
59. For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway
60. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
61. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
62. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
63. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
64. The Golden Notebook, by Doris Lessing
65. Remembrance of Things Past, by Marcel Proust
66. The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler
67. As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
68. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
69. I, Claudius, by Robert Graves
70. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers
71. Sons and Lovers, by D. H. Lawrence
72. All the King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren
73. Go Tell it on the Mountain, by James Baldwin
74. Charlotte’s Web, by E. B. White
75. Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad
76. Night, by Elie Wiesel
77. Rabbit Run, by John Updike
78. The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton
79. Portnoy’s Complaint, by Philip Roth
80. An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser
81. The Day of the Locust, by Nathaniel West
82. Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller
83. The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiel Hammett
84. His Dark Materials, by Philip Pullman
85. Death Comes for the Archbishop, by Willa Cather
86. The Interpretation of Dreams, by Sigmund Freud
87. The Education of Henry Adams, by Henry Adams
88. Quotations from Chairman Mao, by Mao Zedong
89. The Varieties of Religious Experience, by William James
90. Brideshead Revisted, by Evelyn Waugh
91. Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson
92. The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, by John Maynard Keynes
93. Lord Jim, by Joseph Conrad
94. Goodbye to All That, by Robert Graves
95. The Affluent Society, by John Kenneth Galbraith
96. The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame
97. The Autobiograhy of Malcom X, by Alex Haley & Malcom X
98. Eminent Victorians, by Lytton Strachey
99. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
100. The Second World War, by Winston Churchill
How many of these have you read? If you have any book recommendations for me (whether they are on this list or not), feel free to send them.
get yourself some grub and grog
for today shall be a long-winded day
Here is the extravagance promised last week…
A few posts ago, I mentioned a (somewhat) local $100 added women’s tournament that I decided not to go to because it was a bit of a long haul and I was out of energy at the time. The tournament rolled around again and this time, I decided I’d give it a shot, if only because it would be a new trip and a new tournament. The tournament started at 2:00 p.m., which is later than most tournaments usually start around here (noon or 1:00 p.m.). This was not a bad thing as it meant I would get an extra hour of sleep.
The alarm goes off. No rest for the wicked.
I’m out the door and off to the bus stop.
The 720 is on time today — as it should be since there really isn’t any traffic at this time on Saturday morning. This is because the rest of the yuppies on this side of town are busy recovering from last night’s happy-hour drinking binge.
I arrive downtown at 6th & Grand.
After a short walk, I’m at 7th & Hope, hoping that the 460 will be on time. The bus lines in this city have drastically reduced service on weekends so it’s important for the buses to be on time when I am taking a trip with several transfers. If one bus is late, the lateness piles up like a domino effect.
The 460 is more or less on time, and now, I am headed off towards Disneyland. No, really. That’s where the 460 goes.
After many miles on the freeway and many more miles through some towns, I arrive at Beach & La Palma in the city of Buena Park. The bus drops me off right outside of Knott’s Berry Farm. I begin walking towards the pool room which is about 4 miles away. The temperature was about 75 degrees, so it wasn’t terrible.
Miracle! The 29 is a rare bus on the weekends, but I manage to catch this one after only a short time walking. This bus will save me 2 miles of walking on this leg of the journey.
I arrive at Beach & Ball and now, I am only 2 miles away from the pool room. I start walking again. It’s rather nice in suburbia and I really appreciate the well-kept sidewalks. It’s getting hot, but there are shade trees planted here and there along the way so it’s not too bad. The last time I considered going to this tournament, the average temperature was in the mid-90s at the coolest — that was a big factor in my decision not to go. Walking in 90-degree heat would have been just a little tough.
After my two-mile warm-up, I arrive at the pool room. I sit down to recover and drink some water to rehydrate. I probably should warm up but I get into a conversation about pool with the tournament director and the time passes too fast…
The tournament is supposed to start now but only four other women besides myself are here to play. The tournament director wants to wait a little more to see if any stragglers will come in.
No additional players have showed up so a five-player tournament it is. The tournament director decides on a race-to-five round-robin format with alternate breaks instead of the usual double-elimination format so that we will get to play more matches. I’m happy about this since I sure as hell want as much bang for my buck as possible after my slightly epic journey.
[the next few hours]
My first match is with DVF, one of the stronger women players in the area, and someone I have played before in tournaments. I start off very shaky in this match and am down 3-0 in what seems like eleven nanoseconds. The cue ball this tournament uses is the measle cue ball, which is different than the one used in the room I usually play in. It takes me quite a while to adjust but soon I am playing better. I scrambl back to make it 3-3, but I miss an easy nine-ball to let DVF get to the hill first. I manage to win the next game, but I scratch on the break after that. DVF plays a safe tighter than the skin on Joan Rivers’ face to set up a 1-9 combination. I miss the kick, she makes the combination, and I lose the match.
Since we have an odd number of players, one player sits out each round. I sit out the second round of play. I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet so I buy a bag of potato chips to snack on while I wait. This seems like a good idea — at the time.
By the time my next match is called, I have a splitting headache which is most likely the result of dehydration. The two miles of walking through dry heat and the bag of potato chips are using my head as a punching bag. I get a bottle of water and drink it as fast as possible.
My second opponent, I soon find out, is a HELL of a shotmaker. This also does not help my current situation. It is hard to concentrate with the headache and my fickle shotmaking skills decide to take an unauthorized vacation. Once again, I am down 3-0, and then 4-1 in a matter of minutes.
I don’t have a lot of skill, but what I do have is a lot of will.
I have always been my own toughest opponent and in order to win this match, I know I have to get myself under control before I can control the game. Right now, more than anything, I want to run racks. However, this is not going to happen and I acknowledge that fact. I go against my naturally aggressive nature and begin playing safe.
I make my opponent play a game of safeties and kicks because I know I cannot outshoot her. I chip away at her lead until the score is tied at 4-4. I had bought enough time with my safety play so that I was regaining my stroke and the water I drank earlier alleviated some of my headache. Due to the alternate-break format, my opponent is the one breaking on the last game — and she has a very good break. There is a strong possibility that she will break and run out. Oh, well. That is out of my control, so I don’t worry about it.
She breaks and makes nothing.
I run out and escape with the win.
I’m playing a little better now, so although the headache has decided to stick around, I’m at least in full fight mode.
I start off with a good break and I’m running the balls well. I get down to the seven which is on the bottom rail. The eight is on the near side rail and the nine is close by. I shoot what I think is a fairly routine shot to bring the cue ball towards the side rail. I don’t hit it too hard at all, but the cue ball never stops rolling until it falls into the side pocket. How the cue ball made it into the side pocket at such an extreme angle is a mystery. What isn’t a mystery is my opponent running two balls with ball-in-hand to win the first game.
No big deal.
She breaks the next rack and makes nothing. I start running out and I’m really hitting the balls very well. The eight is on the top rail and the nine-ball is on the foot rail. I get the cue ball in perfect position on the short side of the eight and hit a nice, controlled shot to send the cue ball three rails towards the foot of the table. I really hit the shot extremely well — except that once again, I must have hit the cue ball too hard. It slows down as it passes the foot spot, which is exactly what I predicted, but inexplicably, it keeps rolling — right into the corner pocket. WTF? My opponent runs one ball with ball-in-hand to win the second game.
Still no big deal.
I break the next rack and make a ball. The balls spread out nicely and I start running out again. Making the seven to get to the eight is a little tricky but I end up with a slight cut on the eight-ball. The nine is once again at the bottom rail and the eight is much closer to the head of the table. I’m a little wary of using force-follow to send the cue ball to the top rail as I risk a scratch going that route. Instead, I shoot the eight with some draw and outside English. I hit it pretty f—ing well, and the cue ball slides straight across the table and hits the side rail above the side pocket. I watch the cue ball with relief because I knew I risked scratching in the side should I draw the cue ball too much on this shot. The cue ball hits the side rail and the sidespin takes perfect effect and the cue ball floats down at a wide angle towards the bottom rail. As I watch, I notice the cue ball is headed on a particular path. You guessed it, it was heading towards the corner pocket. The cue ball slows down near the the foot spot again, but just as before, it manages to barely maintain its speed until it drops into the pocket. The shot I made to bring the cue ball down to the nine was a very, very tough shot. I never thought I had the stroke in me to hit that shot well enough to make the eight, apply enough sidespin to get the proper angle, and scratch.
Still no big deal.
The match doesn’t get any better. My shotmaking is unusually good in this match, but for whatever reason, the cue ball seems to perpetually find a pocket. My wins the match without making more than eight balls in the entire match.
I lose this bizarre match 5-0.
Still no big deal, because sometimes, that’s just the way the balls roll. I can’t figure out whether to be happy I played so well or to be annoyed because I lost in a comedy of errors. I come to the conclusion that I will be neither happy nor irritated and just let it be what it is which is…
…still not a big deal.
My fourth match and final match is on a different table. This match pretty much plays out like a sequel to the last one. There are a lot of costly scratches, a lot of rattled balls (more irritating because the rattled balls would have been really spectacular shots if they had dropped), and yet, I couldn’t say I played bad.
I also lost this match 5-0.
I was out of the tournament. I stayed to watch the conclusion of the last match. After all the results were in, I wasn’t DFL (Dead F—ing Last), but I wasn’t much better. I was FS2L (F—ing Second to Last).
C’est la vie.
I walk outside and find the weather to be pleasantly with a light breeze. One of the spectators came outside and told me he had never seen someone get so many bad rolls. I’m not eager to categorize what happened as “bad rolls”. I think I need more practice.
The walk back to Beach & Ball is very, very nice. There is something indescribably wonderful about the smell of jasmine and orange blossoms on a warm summer evening.
I arrive at Beach & Ball. I decide to wait a little while for the 29, and if it doesn’t show up in 15 minutes, I’ll start walking north towards Beach & La Palma.
It must be my lucky day! The 29 arrives after just 10 minutes.
I’m back at Beach & La Palma…
…and literally not a minute too soon. The 460 rounds the corner immediately after the 29 departs. If I had missed this 460, I would have had to wait at least an hour for the next one.
There are LCD screens on these buses that show all sorts of random things from news updates to weather reports to cooking shows to trivia questions. I’m watching the screens and it seems that there is a lot more trivia on these days. One of the questions is: “What is the world’s largest bird?” A guy and a gal sitting behind me have been reading along and commenting on the trivia questions. After this question comes up, this is the dialogue between them:
“What is the world’s largest bird? That’s easy, it’s an ostrich.”
“But they aren’t birds.”
“What, the ostrich? Sure it’s a bird.”
“It doesn’t fly so that means it’s not a bird.”
“Yeah it’s a bird.”
“How do you know? It can’t be a bird. A bird has to be able to fly or it’s not a bird.”
“It is a bird. We’ll wait and see what the answer is.”
The answer appears on the screen: “The ostrich.”
“Wow, it is ostrich! How did you know that?!”
“Well, I do watch a lot of those educational shows,” said the guy, puffing with pride.
“Oh my gosh, you’re soooo smart!”
Gentle reader, I really wish I could tell you these two were in grade school, but no — they were adults and probably in their thirties.
The 460 drops me off at 6th & Grand. I walk up to 5th & Grand where I will catch the 720 heading west.
I’m at 5th & Grand and I’m glad it’s still relatively early. The 720 stops running after midnight so I am well ahead of the last bus. During the weekdays, they come by about every 5-10 minutes during rush hour, and about 12-20 minutes during other times. Since this is the weekend, they run about once every 20 minutes and I expect to be home by 11:30 or so.
An accident somewhere down the line has held up traffic for an hour. Three 720 buses arrive at the same time.
I’m back on my side of town.
A short walk later and I’m home. This trip clocked in at a smidgen under 100 miles, round trip.
I had sufficient time on my return trip figure out how my tournament could have been better, and most of it boiled down to “tournament management”. Tournament management sounds lame with a trace of Wall-Street pretentiousness, but it is important. I usually don’t eat or drink much at tournaments (match schedules being the dictators of free time) and manage to do fine, but this particular trip was longer and more tiring than usual. In retrospect, I probably should have eaten and stayed hydrated. I also should have warmed up rather than sat around chatting with people.
Live and learn.
Monday night was the night of our local ladies’ eight-ball tournament. This is the same tournament that has recently been a source of controversy, both on my blog and in the pool room it is held in. There was some minor buzz leading up to this tournament predicting whether or not I would win for the third time in a row.
I didn’t know what was going to happen but I did know that I just spent the better part of weekend playing brilliantly craptastic pool. Being blanked 5-0 in two sets might not do much for the average pool player but for me, that kind of s— is unacceptable. It pissed me off royally. As a result, I was induced to make a change in my usual tournament habits. I didn’t do anything remarkable. I knew I wouldn’t have time to eat or drink during the tournament so I had a good-sized lunch, drank a lot of water, and ate again before I left work for the tournament. I was fueled up and ready to go by start time.
Change can be good.
Althought I did not eat or drink during this tournament, I played significantly better than I did during my travesty of a Saturday. I also played much better than I had previously in this same tournament. The level of play was higher this time, but I managed to stay undefeated for the win. I credit this win in no small part to managing my energy more efficiently. I did not have to walk or travel as far to get to this tournament, but I did have a full (and busy) eight-hour workday prior to playing and I gauge work and travel as equally tiring.
Third time’s a charm. We’ll see what people have to gripe/say about this win. I reminded the tournament directors that I would be more than happy to spot the rest of the players in the tournament if they felt it was necessary. I didn’t have a chance to return to the pool room to see what redonkulousness might or might not be said concerning my win because shortly after this tournament…
redonkulousness & respect
…I made a trip out to Sin City to meet up with some East Coast friends celebrating an important birthday.
My friends were in town for the American Poolplayers Association’s (APA) National Team Championship event. Well, they were actually more in Vegas for vacation with the pool tournament as an afterthought. I was only to stay for two or three days so I did not plan on playing any competitive pool.
After a day and night of food, food, and more food, I decided to stay up late playing pool with my friends. I had to leave early the next morning, so I figured, why not just stay up all night? We were playing in the tournament room at the Riviera when I heard an announcement for someone “selling” a spot in a mini-tournament. I made a quick dash up to the control desk and snagged it.
APA mini-tournaments require pre-registration. You can sign up and pay a day in advance of the events you want to play in. If you cannot make it to a tournament or don’t want to play in it, you can tell the control desk you have a spot for sale. They announce it and people waiting on standby have the option to buy it. The scene is not unlike that of the trading floor of a stock exchange. There are lots of people, lots of yelling, lots of shoving, and lots of swearing.
There are MANY different tournaments. They can be eight-ball, nine-ball, mixed doubles (must be guy and girl teams), Scotch doubles (alternate shots), alternate-inning doubles, league-operators only, women only, and/or separated by skill levels. They are single-elimination, winner-breaks, and can have as few as eight to as many as 32 players. It’s a joyful mess of competitive chaos.
The one I had just gotten a ticket into started at 1:00 a.m. It was eight-ball, and all skill levels (SLs) could play. Each player would play according to the APA system of handicaps. The lowest rating in eight-ball was 2 and the highest was 7. This tournament was an eight-player tournament and since it was single elimination, I figured it would time itself to end when I had to go anyways.
My first match was with a gentleman we will call Roland. Roland was an SL6, which is the same skill level as me. We would both be racing to five games in this match.
I broke the first game and didn’t make a ball. Roland ran down to his second-to-last ball and hooked himself. He tried a kick, missed, and gave me ball-in-hand. I ran out. Roland was a good shotmaker but he would get out of line maybe once per game. Generally, that was all I needed since he had already cleared off most of the table by that time. He realized this himself and so, he began to play a lot more safeties and also slowed down his game to think out his shots more thoroughly. When the score was 4-2 in my favor (I was on the hill), an interesting thing happened.
A lady we will call TL had been playing on a table across from us. TL is a very good player. She’s considered a top amateur player and she has also played at least a full year on the women’s professional tour. She has a VERY distinctive voice that projects extremely well across great distances. I was so absorbed in my match that I didn’t even notice her approaching my table. I was concentrating on the layout (Roland was shooting) trying to figure out what to do with some clusters when I heard, “ONLY A SIX?!”
My heart beat so hard at this high volume assault on my eardrums that it actually hurt for a second or two.
“THANK YOU,” said Roland at the foot of the table.
“Really? YOU’RE A SIX?!” TL picked up our scoresheet and perused it. Roland made a gesture with his hands that showed he shared her exasperation.
“Right? That’s what I‘m saying. She should be a seven.”
“How are you only a six?!”
TL’s voice had woken some referees out of their dilly-dallying and they wandered over like a bunch of friendly, inquisitive cows chewing on their cuds. One of them seemed to take greater interest than the others. We’ll name this particular cow Manatee the Referee. I had sufficiently regained my blood pressure and regulated my heartbeat to respond. “Yes,” I said. “I’m a six. But I play in a really, really tough league. Compared to the players in league, I’m exactly where I should be.”
This explanation energized TL and she said, “Yeah, I know what you mean. Come to Chicago! We’ve got some 5s that’ll kick the asses of all the 5s here!”
Roland looked confused. TL had basically just agreed with my reasoning — yet she had started off agreeing with him. TL wandered away with her cup of beer and the referees looked at us with placid eyes. I swear I could hear a contented mooing throughout the pasture of bar tables. TL’s little conversation had broken my concentration however, and I ended up losing this game. The score was now 4-3.
As I racked, I asked Roland, “Do you think I should be a seven?”
He emphasized each word of his response as if they were teeth to be pulled from jaws, “I… give… credit… where… credit… is… due.” The manner in which this statement was delivered made it less of a compliment and more of an accusation.
“So in your league I would be a seven.”
“Well, you don’t miss.”
No matter how coldly that last observation was delivered, I couldn’t help but take it as a compliment.
Roland broke and the rack did not spread well at all. It occurred to me that he might have done a soft-break to change the game in his favor. I noticed that we were one of the last matches still being played. Well, I was on the hill and I had better shut the door quick. Roland played many safeties in this last game. His stroke was now very measured and very deliberate. I was missing more shots than usual and my level of play was far below what it had been when I started. Roland’s careful play may have been too careful. He fouled when he shot so lightly that he did not get a rail with either the object ball or the cue ball. I got ball-in-hand and I ran out.
As we shook hands, his eyes bugged out and he seemed like he might explode from within. “You play well,” he said very deliberately. “And I’ll give credit where credit is due. But, I have to ask you about one shot.”
He arranged some balls on the table. “When you shot that one-ball — you remember which one? It was frozen.”
During one of the earlier games, I had a played a safe. It was a specific kind of safety — one that I had seen used before, but not very often. The situation had been this: the rack had not been broken well to the point that half the balls were clustered in the center of the table. I was solids, and some of the balls in my set were on the fringes of the giant clusterf—. I had gotten a little out of line trying to get to the bottom of the table with the cue ball and had ended up far short, in the center of the table. There wasn’t a good shot for me, but I could see two balls. One of them was the one-ball frozen on the bottom rail. The other had been the three-ball, which was on the outside edge of the cluster. I didn’t want to move the three-ball as it sat in such a position that I could use it later to break up the cluster. Instead, I had hit the one almost dead-on, and had double-kissed it so as to keep the balls in their current places (which made it just as difficult for him as it did for me) until I was in a better position to run out.
“Yes, I remember. I double-kissed the ball.”
“Well, I thought you were shooting the three-ball.”
“Oh no, I didn’t want to move it. I had no pocket for the three and if I moved it, it would have opened up a pocket for your balls.”
“You… didn’t… want… to… move… it…” It was obvious by his sarcasm that Roland did not believe me.
“WELL, I THOUGHT YOU WERE SHOOTING THE THREE.”
“So I didn’t call a ref over to watch your hit.”
“You admit that the ball was frozen.” Roland prowled around like fly-eyed Perry Mason crossed with Captain Kirk. “You… ADMIT THIS?!”
“Yes, it was frozen.”
Like a triumphant prosecutor in a roid rage, Roland burst out, “That’s a foul! THAT SHOT IS A FOUL!”
If it was a foul, I have to say, I did not know this. I had seen the shot used before — but that was not the point here.
“Can you shoot the shot again? Make it double-kiss?”
I shot the shot again and it double-kissed. “Okay! Don’t move! Hold on…” Roland ran over to get Manatee the Referee. “Now, shoot the shot again.”
I did so.
“Is that a foul? IS THAT A FOUL?“ Roland asked Manatee the Referee.
“It’s a foul,” said Manatee the Referee.
Now I understood why Roland’s eyes were about to pop out from the pressure his brain was putting on his orbital sockets. He hadn’t called a referee because he had assumed he knew what I was doing. As a result, even if I had fouled, he could not call it on me because the referee had not been there to witness it. This was why he had been so sarcastic with his comments.
He thought I was cheating.
There is a difference between malice and ignorance.
If I had been malicious, then yes, I would have been cheating and I would have said, “Too bad, you lose, and f— you very much, sir!”
But, I had only been ignorant.
And he, also, had only been ignorant.
This never changes the opinion of the party who believes they have been terribly, horribly wronged. No doubt Roland had pinned the entire loss of the match as stemming from that single, crucial shot. The win was still mine, however, since Roland had failed to call a referee to watch that one hit all the way in the beginning of the match…
As many of you know, I define sportsmanship in a different manner than the average player. I don’t define it with handshakes, idle chit chatter, or even a smile. I define sportsmanship by the fairness of actions during competition. I could hate you with a f—ing vengeance and want to do nothing more than choke you with your own intestines — but should you play me in a match, I will make sure that you will have tight racks when you are breaking and I will also call every foul on myself, whether you are aware of them or not. That is sportsmanship to me.
I couldn’t turn back time to that one moment before I shot the safety, so I suggested to Roland the next best solution that was in my power to offer.
“Would you like to play the game again?”
Roland threw his arms up explosively while I feared his eyeballs would soon be homeless, “YES I WOULD LIKE TO PLAY THAT GAME AGAIN!”
“Then that’s what we’ll do. We’ll say I didn’t win that last game and the score is still 4-3.”
I broke and made nothing. The balls were once again somewhat clustered and once again Roland and I began the game of cat-and-mouse with the cue ball. Finally, I got a chance to run out and I started running the balls. It was a tricky route to the eight-ball but I managed to end up with a shot into the side. Just as I shot this eight which would have won me the match, Manatee Referee decided he needed to walk right across my line of vision to look at the scoresheet. The eight missed the pocket by just a hair — but a miss is a miss, and Roland ran out. Now it was 4-4, and the referees were still milling about and still getting in the way. I would think that referees, of all people, would remove themselves from being a nuisance to players, but that makes too much sense.
I racked the balls and Roland broke. Once again we had a royal clusterf— of a layout. The battle began. I could feel myself getting tired and my concentration began to lapst. Roland must have been getting tired, too, as he also began to miss shots. I made it to the eight-ball first, but missed. Roland had three balls left. He tried a safe and didn’t quite get there. He left me a shot on the eight-ball but it was a very severe back-cut into the upper right pocket. Roland’s three-ball was very near that same pocket and his other two balls were in favorable spots. There was no safety for me now, there was only the shot.
The eight-ball rattled in the pocket and did not drop.
Roland looked at the layout. His three-ball was close to the rail next to the pocket the eight-ball sat so smugly in. He would have to get almost straight on the three in order to make it off, or squeeze it by, the eight-ball. His five ball sat near the other corner pocket. His last ball was in the lower half of the table but it was very easy to make. All he had to worry about was making the five, getting straight on the three, and then making the eight. He considered the layout for a spell. Then, under the watchful eyes of Manatee the Referee and his minions, he began the run.
He made the first ball and got in great position to make the five. His cue ball had the perfect slight angle to get the crucial position on the three. He lined up the shot carefully. He got down and took very deliberate practice strokes. His arm looked like a well-oiled machine and his strokes were fluid and easy. He delivered the final stroke which would end my tournament run.
The cue ball struck the five.
The five rolled three inches forward to the left — and stopped.
The cue ball rolled two inches forward to the right — and stopped.
Neither ball hit a rail.
That would be a foul, sir.
With a mighty shout, Roland swung his cue and swept the cue ball across the table. I waited a moment in case he wanted me to shoot the eight-ball before I picked up the scoresheet and headed for the tournament desk. It was 3:20 a.m. The match had taken over two hours.
My next match which was with an older gentleman we shall name Kris Kringle. Kris Kringle was also rated a six. The only thing I had on my mind was to play this match better than my last one. I had played so bad in the previous match I wasn’t sure I could really call myself a pool player.
I don’t remember too many details about the actual playing of this match.
I know I played very well. I took the match one ball at a time and I rarely missed. Compared to how I had played just fifteen minutes ago, I played absolutely spectacular eight-ball. That is one of the things I love about pool — you can play like total s— in one match, but it is completely possible to pull yourself together and play lights out the next. Of course, the reverse also holds true — we can play like gods one match and then be incapable of playing a radio the next.
Some people stopped to watch the match, including some referees. At one point, I joked with one of the younger referees and said, “Are you going to raise me now [referring to skill levels]? Is everyone complaining?” He smiled and chuckled. Another referee in the group, one we shall name Oscar Mayer Weiner, was a bit more gruff.
“Don’t you think you should be raised?” he asked severely.“Don’t you think you play better than the other sixes here?”
“Do you think I play better than the other sixes?”
“Yes, yes I do. You should be a seven.”
“I’d like to be a seven someday, and I will be, I’m sure.”
“So you WANT to be a seven?”
“Of course. That would mean I’ve improved, wouldn’t it?”
“Why don’t you ask your league operator to make you a seven?”
“I can ask my league operator to make me a seven?”
“Yeah, if you think you play like a seven.”
“I can ask my league operator to do that, but I’d rather earn it. I would think he feels the same way.”
This referee left in a huff and left me wondering what all that was about. He hadn’t seen my last match which was complete and total asshattery. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be so quick to demand that I ask to raise my own skill level. Besides, he was a referee, he could probably raise my skill level himself.
“Oh, there he goes,” said a spectator who had watched my current match from the beginning.
“Who?” I asked.
“The guy you were just talking to. See, he’s going to complain now.”
“Why would he complain?”
“Because he gets the winner of this match.”
“Yeah, he’s waiting for one of you in the finals.”
Well I’ll be damned… that man wasn’t a referee. He had just been another dude in similar clothing who I mistook for a referee because he was so interested in my match and had been standing around with the other referees, watching.
“Oh well,” I said. “Nothing I can do about that, now.”
“The thing is, he has no right to complain.”
“Because I watched him play and and he broke and ran three racks in his match. So it’s not like you and him playing even would be unfair. He just wants to make sure he can win.”
“Is that right.”
“Yep, he wants whatever edge he can get. He’s a very good player, but he’s still going to try and get you raised to a seven.”
Such is the way of the APA world. It doesn’t represent the entire APA populace, but there are a few scared apples in every barrel. I turned back to my match. I ended up winning 5-0. The match had taken a total of 30 minutes. I turned in the scoresheet and went to get a drink before the finals. As I walked quickly back to the tournament desk, I was taken aside by an APA official.
“Did you say you wanted to be a seven?”
“I sure did. I said I wanted to be a seven someday and I would earn that right.”
“Okay, well, we have this guy up there and he’s not happy that you said that.”
“Ooookay… why not?”
“Well, he told us that you told him you were on a team and your team captain told you to keep your skill level down.”
“Did he now?!” I smiled broadly and laughed. “He’s that pissed, eh? That’s total hilarity.”
“Well, it’s a serious accusation.”
Indeed, sandbagging is a serious problem in any system that relies on handicaps. In the APA, if you are caught sandbagging, the penalties range in severity, but generally, you are disqualified from the main event, you may have to forfeit whatever prize money you have won, and/or be banned from playing in the association for a certain amount of time. Sometimes, you are banned indefinitely.
“Did you see my first match? It was freaking ugly!”
“I saw it, but he didn’t. You’re right, your first match was terrible, but you have to admit that last match you just played, you played PHENOMENAL. Just absolutely phenomenal.”
A ray of sunshine warmed my little tar-covered heart as I thought of a few shots I had made. “Yes… that was… something else. Probably one of the best matches I’ve ever played in my life.”
“I believe everyone is entitled to have one night where they play just great, and that one night shouldn’t be grounds for raising your skill level. But we have to take what he’s saying seriously, and there are protests lodged against you now.”
I still couldn’t help but chuckle. “He said I said I was on a team and that my team captain told me to sandbag?”
It was obvious that Oscar Mayer Weiner wanted to do as much damage as possible. He was not content to just have me raised a level. By his accusation, my entire team would likely be penalized for what I had said during the match. All of them could be disqualified, fined, and/or suspended from playing in the league and even my league operator could get in trouble. Although his problem was only with me, he wanted take it out on everyone associated with me at this tournament. This was very, very petty and dishonorable of him. It told me a lot about his character, or lack thereof. People like Oscar Mayer Weiner deserve no respect.
Of course, the best laid plans of heartless hotdogs often go awry — especially when honesty is the best policy.
“If you check my records, you’ll find that I’m not on a team. I played earlier this year and then quit. I haven’t been on a team for months. I haven’t even played league for months.”
“Yep. I find it interesting that he said I said I was on a team — when that is obviously not true. And what benefit would I have by saying I was on a team?”
“Hmm. That is interesting, I’m going to have to check on that. But if you play the finals match, we’re going to have you play as a seven.”
“That’s fine, I’d be more than happy to play as a seven.”
The official walked briskly back to the tournament desk and I followed.
Back at the tournament desk, I could hear a discussion taking place behind a curtain. I looked around and saw to my left my future opponent scowling and looking embarrassed. I smiled brightly at him. He coughed and looked away. To my right, I saw my last opponent, Kris Kringle, writing a lengthy essay — presumably about how unfair it was that the pool gods chose to bless me this night instead of him — on a protest sheet. I think he used two whole sheets of paper. I smiled at him, too, as he sheepishly turned back to hand in his homework.
The three of us stood in silence. I, in excited anticipatory silence, Oscar Mayer Weiner in grumpy suspicious silence, and Kris Kringle in uncomfortable embarrassed silence.
Kris Kringle, in an attempt at — actually, I don’t know what he was attempting here, said, “Well, uh, yeah — um, take, this as a, um, compliment.”
“No worries at all!” I replied jauntily. “If they raise me, it’ll only make me too happy. I’ve played forever and have never played well enough to be a seven!”
I glanced over at Oscar Mayer Weiner who was still standing there, hands in his pockets, gold chains flashing, and head growing balder and shinier by the minute as he looked at his shoes.
Kris Kringle, perhaps unsure if I understood the gravity of the situation, tried again, “Well, I mean, you really shouldn’t be a six, you know. Really, um. Yeah.”
“That’s great that you think so! Ohmigosh, this is soooo cooool! I’ll totally buy you a drink after the finals!”
Unsettled by my joy, Kris Kringle said apologetically, “You could have just shot really well tonight, but, you know, I had to, uh, make sure, uh, they knew.”
“Oh, don’t worry about that at all! I’m totally fine with the whole thing!”
While we await the judgment of the higher-ups, let me comment upon this situation.
Oscar Mayer Weiner was an SL6. If I was raised to an SL7, then instead of both of us racing to five games, I would have to spot him a game. He would be racing to four games and I would be racing to five. There are people in the APA who want to keep their skill levels low — these are the dreaded “sandbaggers”. This means they won’t have to give up as much weight and thus, have a better chance of winning. Those are usually the same people who complain about someone else sandbagging once they are in a situation where they feel like they might not win. It’s quite common for people accuse others of things they are guilty of themselves. I suspected that Oscar Mayer Weiner accused me of sandbagging because he was a sandbagger himself.
I think Oscar Mayer Weiner and Kris Kringle expected me to behave like a typical sandbagger in my current situation, that is, I should be ranting and raving about the unfairness of it all. I should be emphasizing that I played lights out just this one time, and I certainly did not deserve to be raised. I should be whining that someone else witnessed Oscar Mayer Weiner’s match where he broke and ran three racks — and I certainly could not do better than him. I should be pleading, complaining, whining, accusing, begging, pouting, threatening — all in the name of staying an SL6 so I can have a better chance of winning. I didn’t do all this because I want to be a better player, everything else be damned.
I’m not afraid of sandbaggers. My mission is to play so well that it won’t matter what spot I am giving up. I want to be able to break and run the entire set out from the first break so that my opponent can have nothing to complain about other than the fact that he or she never got a shot. I’m too busy trying to be a great player to be worried about maintaining a certain level of mediocrity so I can steal a few mini-tournaments here and there once a year.
The official popped out from behind the curtain and addressed Oscar Mayer Weiner, “You said she’s on a team, but she’s not on a team. She’s an active member, but she’s not on a team — and she didn’t come here as part of team.”
Oscar Mayer Weiner was visibly agitated to be caught lying to an official. I smiled at him again, thoroughly enjoying his discomfiture. He protested, “Well, can’t you look up her stats from before? Shouldn’t you call her league operator? I mean, she can’t play as a six, she just can’t.”
I looked up at the officials and said, “You want me to play as a seven? Do it. DO IT!! I don’t care! I’ll f—ing play! I’m playing so good right now I don’t care! C’mon! Do it! Let’s play!” I was literally bouncing with joy. I was jumping up and down. I was itching to play — that’s all I wanted to do.
Oscar Mayer Weiner and Kris Kringle looked perplexed. I certainly wasn’t behaving the way they would have behaved in my situation. No doubt they would have cried to high heaven about the injustice of being raised, but I didn’t give a s—. Like any true competitive player, I will always be ready to meet whatever challenge arises. If I had to spot Oscar Mayer Wiener a game, so be it. I would spot him a game, jump in my steamroller and flatten him. Then, I would kick it into reverse, and steamroll him again. I am telling you, I was having so much fun over this whole fiasco it put me in a great mood, and when I am happy, that is when I play my best pool.
The official came out again from her discussion with the others and said, “We don’t have her current stats because she’s not part of a team that came here. We’ll have to look it up in the computer and see how far back we can go.” She retreated behind the tournament desk again.
“Aww, c’mon! It’s okay! Let’s play!”
To quote one of my favorite people: “Believe me when I say, ‘I don’t care.'” I would play this weenie with a spot, I would play this weenie without a spot. I would play this weenie on a boat, I would play this weenie if he were a goat. I would play this weenie with with green eggs and ham, I would play this weenie because I can!
While we waited again, the lady working the payout booth noted, “Hey, it’s only a twenty-dollar difference between first and second.”
“It is? What’s the payout?” Oscar Mayer Weiner was very interested in this.
“It’s a hundred for first, sixty for second — so if you split, you’ll each get eighty.”
“Splitting is fine by me…” Well, this was strange. He was very gung-ho about playing the finals as long as I spotted him a game, and that seemed to be what was about to happen. I guess the twenty dollars wasn’t worth it to him.
“Do you two want to just split the money, then?”
The official came out from behind the curtain. “If you split, it’ll save us all the trouble…”
I looked at my watch. It was past 4:00 a.m. and I was due to leave town in a couple of hours. I really wanted to play, but I needed to pack and GTFO of Sin City. “Okay, I guess we can split.”
“Are you two splitting? We’re not playing the finals?”
“Yeah, yeah.”Oscar Mayer Weiner took the scoresheet, circled his name as the winner (I found this interesting as declaring himself as the winner would only serve to boost his skill level — if he really hated the idea of me being a six, he should have circled my name as the winner and boosted my stats), and seemed all of a sudden to be in a hurry to leave.
As the money was being counted, a young referee walked up. “You guys are splitting?”
“Yes, they’re splitting. She has to leave soon.”
“Yep. Oh well, this was plenty fun already.”
The young referee looked over at Oscar Mayer Weiner and said with a grin, “You’re scared, aren’t you? You’re scaaaaared!”
Oscar Mayer Weiner gave him a dirty look and hightailed it out of there and I told the referee, “That was mean of you!”
“But, he was scared! How can he go through all that trouble and then not play?”
“Your guess is as good as mine.”
So, after all that square-dancing regarding numbers and such, I never did play the final. I did go back to my room, pack up, and then decide to take a nap for an hour…
…which turned into several very blissful hours and so I missed my bus out of town.
As such, I had another day to kill. This was not bad thing. One of my friends had a mini-tournament to play in today, and some of my other friends were working during the tournament. Just for kicks, I decided to see if I could snag another ticket into a mini-tournament.
The tournament desk was the same chaotic scene as before: a huge group of people just waiting for someone to declare they had an entry to sell. I couldn’t play in most of the tournaments that became available due to skill level restrictions. I had stood around for maybe ten minutes when a husband and wife came up looking to sell a spot. The wife asked me if I was looking for something to play in and I said yes, but that I was an SL6 and I only played eight-ball, which made it tough for me to get into any events. Hallelujah! Her husband’s ticket was for an eight-ball mini-tournament for SL5s and SL6s! I promptly paid them for the ticket, told them they had just made me the happiest pool player in the world, and then bounced away to get my cue…
My first match was with a very nice gentleman we will name FL. He was also an SL6, so we both had to go to five games. FL was very nice and a good player. Unfortunately, he got some bad rolls and was also sharked by some of the people around us. I won 5-2 in a little over an hour.
I turned in my scoresheet and had just enough time to get a cup of water before my next match was called. I found my opponent and we headed over to the table. On the way there, I was taken aside by Manatee the Referee who said he needed to speak with me. Okay. We walked over to the side of the main aisle and I could see that what he was going to say would be of the utmost importance to him. Manatee was already quite tall, but he stood almost on his tippy-toes as he cleared his throat in preparation for his speech. He brought both his hands up to chest level, just like the way a symphony conductor does. When he had complete silence and attention from the audience, he began the music. The effect of all his preparatory maneuvers was to cause my mind to wander to thoughts about my next match. I was eager to play and didn’t like waiting.
Manatee took a deep breath and began to speak, all the while making hand motions like a conductor. I was fascinated and as my mind wandered I was hypnotized by the thoughts of being a symphony conductor to an orchestra of pool balls. I didn’t really pay attention to what he was saying until I caught the following phrase…
“…a certain speed.”
“I said, ‘Everyone comes to Vegas thinking they play a certain speed.'”
Oh, I know what this conversation is about. The officials had finally decided to raise me from an SL6 to an SL7. They must have discussed it last night and agreed that I did, indeed, play far above what I thought I played and now, I was to be raised to an SL7 in mid-tournament. This didn’t bother me at all — in fact, I felt even better than before. I would really have to fight to win now, especially since I would be spotting everyone remaining in this mini-tournament either one or two games. Spotting them games certainly beats getting kicked out of the tournament, though, you know?
“Well, I’m fine with whatever decision you guys make. I think I play–“
“See that’s just the problem. You don’t notice it, but I do.”
“What?” I was confused. Didn’t I just agree that yes, I was fine with being raised to an SL7? I mean, I basically acknowledged that his observations were correct.
“Everyone comes to Vegas thinking they play a certain speed,” Manatee repeated.
“Um, okay. So, I’m an SL6 and now you guys think I play–“
“Too slow. You play too slow.”
This shook me out of my psychedelic musings about a Manatee conducting an underwater orchestra with his flippers and whiskers. I realized that I had misunderstood his usage of the term “speed”. I thought he used it as slang to define how well one plays when he was using it in the literal sense.
“You play terribly slow.”
Gentle reader, let me give you some background information about Manatee and myself.
Manatee was present at my mini-tournament match with Roland much earlier that same morning. Granted, that was indeed a marathon match. However, that was mostly due to the safety battles which took place towards the end, and the two extra games I played to ensure that my opponent Roland felt that he had a fair chance to win. So yes, that epic two-hour clusterf— was ridiculously long. However, Manatee had also witnessed the match after that one where I won handily in a half-hour. That meant each game of that second match lasted just six minutes on average. Of course, this was because most of the games were run-out games — there had been virtually no safeties played in that match.
Now, Manatee had also just watched my match today with FL. All told, we played seven games and the whole match took about 70 minutes. That is ten minutes a game, and we had a few safety battles in there. However, an hour for a race to five in eight-ball is about average, I think, assuming the games do not go hill-hill or have any protracted safety battles.
So, Manatee had seen me play a marathon match, a lightning match, and an average match and assumed that I controlled all aspects of speed in these matches, from what choices my opponents made, to how fast my opponents shot, to how many times they chalked their cues.
Granted, I used to play slow eight-ball, but most of that was because I didn’t know how to play. Nowadays, I have enough inklings about the game so that I play at a fairly quick speed. Most people would say I play too fast. It is always my top priority to break and run. The aggressive style of my game generally ensures that matches don’t last too long.
“Yes, you take too long to shoot, you take too long to make your decisions, and too long to run out.”
Surprised by his vehemence on this topic, I asked, “Well then, sir, what would you like me to do?”
“I know you want to win, but I want you to speed up. I want you to consciously speed up your whole routine so you don’t end up holding the whole tournament back.”
His pomposity was really beginning to grate on me. “You want me to just speed up — everything.” I’m not sure if Manatee played any pool, but I was pretty sure he probably wasn’t very good at it. We all have a certain tempo we play at and it would be unnatural to play at another speed. I wasn’t sure I could consciously do such a thing without affecting my game to the point of losing. Do I follow what this sea-cow says simply because he says so? Or do I say F— YOU and win this damn tournament the way I should?
“Yes, just play faster. Make up your mind faster. Do everything faster.” I was going to argue my case some more, but I realized I had a match waiting. Manatee had, ironically, caused the longest delay so far by taking the time to tell me I was a slow player. I declined to continue the argument since you can’t fix stupid.
“Whatever, dude.” I hurried to my next match where my opponent was already waiting. It occurred to me why manatees were on the endangered species list — they are slow and annoying.
As I put my cue together for this match, Manatee came over and very pointedly made a show of writing down the start time on our scoresheet: 4:25 p.m.
My opponent was an extremely nice gentleman who had a strong break and equally strong shotmaking skills. Just for my own edification, I marked the start time of each game in this match. I wanted to see if indeed, I was a slow player. Manatee could be right. I didn’t perceive myself as being a slow player, but then, that was because I was the one playing. My perception of time could be very different from that of an observer’s. I would play this match at whatever speed I liked until told otherwise by a referee or official.
The match was over in 35 minutes. I won with a score of 5-2. The longest game took just under seven minutes and the fastest game (one of the break and runs) was completed in three minutes. Hilarity. I wrote down the end time of the match under the start time Manatee had written. After dropping off the scoresheet, I spied Manatee and his whiskers bristling in the crowd.
“That fast enough for ya?”
I had a little break after my last match because as I finished, the match I was waiting on had just started. Finally, I had an opponent. We will name this opponent TX. TX looked like a fratboy. That sums it up in a nutshell. His personality was also fratboy-ish, that is to say, he brought supporters and he seemed to like to chat it up with the crowd, with other players in the area, really with whomever looked his way.
I started off the match with a break-and-run. Almost immediately, the talking began. TX could not sit still or STFU if his life depended on it. I acknowledged his habits, and then ignored them since I was shooting rather well. When TX missed, I ran out. When I missed, he ran out. He was a solid player. When the score was tied at 3-3, his talking became louder and I began to notice what he was saying.
TX broke, did not make a ball, and then immediately assumed full Drama Queen position saying, “Oh, it’s over. It’s over. She won’t miss. It’s over.” This may seem like a compliment, but I have run into such a situation before. This is sharking by taking the form of paying you such a high compliment that you feel pressured to play perfect and win. I’m not sure if I can describe it better, but you probably know what I mean. It’s similar to when someone misses a ball and then says to you, “Oh well, I guess I never had a chance since you’re just going to run out now.” All of a sudden, you become aware that they are expecting you to run out. You place that expectation on yourself and the added pressure could very well cause you to choke.
I, unfortunately, fell somewhat victim to this ploy. I wanted to beat him now just because I couldn’t stand his jabbering. I began to run the balls and I was doing well until I bumped my one-ball unintentionally and ended up clustering it with some of his stripes. I was somewhat hooked on the one-ball as I was behind one of his stripes. The whole clusterf— was on the right upper side rail. I considered the situation. If I left my one-ball there, he would probably safe me until he got ball-in-hand and could run out. If I tried to hit the one-ball, I would break up his cluster for him and if I didn’t make the one, then for sure he would run out, based on his shotmaking skills. There was no helping it, I would have to do my best to make the one-ball, as impossible as it seemed.
As I surveyed the cluster, I decided I would kick rail-first and try to hit the one to carom off one of the stripes into the opposite corner pocket. It was a low-percentage shot, but by no means impossible. If I didn’t make the ball, at the very least I would have freed it up so that it was makeable should he miss during his run. TX called a referee over to watch the hit. I tried the shot and didn’t make the one-ball. TX’s cluster was now fairly broken up. I did not expect to shoot again. I sat down.
TX looked at the table which was quite open and, surprisingly, played a safe. This was highly unexpected. He was an excellent shotmaker and with such an open table, I fully expected him to just up and run the f— out. I kicked at the one, hit it, and then sat back down. TX ran one or two balls, and then played a safe again. Once again, I was puzzled. Why didn’t he want to run out? He certainly didn’t need to play a safe as the table was so open that he didn’t need ball-in-hand to run out. There were no more clusters. I kicked at the one, hit it, and then sat back down. “Oh, look at that,” said TX. “You didn’t leave me a shot. You never leave me anything.”
“I didn’t make the ball,” I said, slightly confused at his displeasure.
“Yeah, but you never leave me a shot when you miss.”
I didn’t understand this sort of whining. I would think he would be happy to get an open shot on a table layout that was easy to run out — which is exactly what I had left him, twice. TX ran a few more balls, and then played yet another safe. I decided I wouldn’t wonder about his motives anymore and kicked two rails at the one, hit it, and sat down. TX only had two more balls on the table and the eight was out in the open. Throughout all his safes, all I could think about was that I did not want to foul. I didn’t want to give him ball-in-hand. If he was going to run out, he would run out from where I left the cue ball.
TX made the first ball and then bunted the second ball and hid the cue ball behind the eight.
He did not have, to my memory, a hard run AT ALL. All of his shots were fairly easy. Even now I’m not sure why he decided to play a safe instead of running out. I got up to look at the table and I noticed that he had finally stopped talking. Since TX only seemed to blabber on endlessly when he was uncomfortable, I took the silence to mean that he was very secure in the fact that he was going to finally going to get ball-in-hand to run his last ball and the eight-ball. My one-ball was in the middle of the upper half of the table while TX had hid the cue ball behind the eight near the foot spot. The one-ball was not near any pockets or rails which would have made kicking it much easier. I stepped back and measured the kick. There was no safe at this point, only the shot.
I kicked and made the one-ball. This shot will be memorable if only because there was a good amount of silence from TX before the groaning began. I didn’t have an easy shot on the eight, but I made it. The groaning increased. This really was too much. It was time to do something about it. The score was now 4-3 in my favor, and it was about time I shut this dog and pony show down.
I broke and made a stripe, but I didn’t have a shot on any stripes after the break. I tried a kick-safe, but I hit the ball too thin and the cue ball escaped to the middle of the table. TX’s solid balls were laid out quite nicely and he seemed to have renewed energy as he started shooting. He shot a little too quick and bobbled a ball. I ran a few before I rattled my twelve-ball and hung it deep in the lower left corner pocket. TX jumped up and fired at his three-ball and missed. I had my twelve-ball deep in the corner pocket and the fourteen-ball nearby on the bottom rail. Some of TX’s balls were down at the bottom of the table and I knew I would have to be very careful not to let the cue ball loose. I needed a good shot on the fourteen in order to get position for the eight-ball, which was tricky. I shot softly at the twelve-ball, intending to hit as much ball and as little rail as possible. To my horror, the cue ball curved into the twelve and followed it right into the pocket. I had been a victim of table roll. TX ran out with ball in hand and now, the score was 4-4.
I was just ever-so-slightly irritated with myself as I racked the balls. Really, how the hell could that have happened? Arrgh! Right when I was the most steamed, TX said, “You’re just like me, you don’t want to win, either.” This comment jolted me from my downward spiralling thoughts and brought me back to the present. I looked at TX and I understood his ploy, which I dub the Sympathy Ploy.
Sympathy Ploy dictates that you draw as many parallels as possible between you and your opponent so that they will let down their guard since, hey, you guys are almost alike! And you’re a good guy! So he’s a good guy, too! Yay! We’re all friends! Let’s all have a beer and dance Irish jigs on the bar! Yaaay! TX combined the Sympathy Ploy with the not-so-subtle self-depracating — but not really — reminder that, just like him, I didn’t want to win. All he did was remind me of what I was here to do, and that was — win. If I didn’t want to win, I sure as hell could be doing a million other things besides playing a tough-ass game in front of a tough-ass crowd while listening to the mindless whining drivel of a fratboy past his f—ing expiration date.
I also don’t take kindly to the insinuation that I am an overgrown fratboy wearing raggedy Abercrombie & Fitch clothing.
“Oh, no,” I said neutrally. “I very much want to win. I didn’t play good enough to win that one, but I’m going to play good enough now.”
TX broke and didn’t make a ball. He tossed his cue aside and began his speech of, “It’s over, it’s over!” I watched him and his fans for a brief moment with great interest. I felt fleeting sympathy that he was incapable of diverting the calories that powered his mouth to power his brain. I did not disappoint him as I ran out to make his prediction a reality.
This was the final match. My opponent in this match was much, MUCH better than anyone I had played before. He was a highly aggressive shotmaker and understood the game well. Although I had my chances, I did not capitalize on them and I ended up losing 5-3. I lost focus somewhere in the middle of that match. If you happen to find it, please return it to me. Thanks.
After the match, I noticed one of the APA officials had been watching. This man was in a suit and I recognized him as one of the head honchos of this here shindig. He had watched my previous match closely as well. I went up to him and said, “I’m sorry if I played too slow. I really did try to speed it up.”
“What? Why would you want to speed it up?”
“Well, that’s why you’re watching — aren’t you? To make sure I’m playing fast enough? I thought you were going to put me on a shot clock.”
“No, I’m just watching because I wanted to watch.”
“Oh, well, one of the refs told me I played too slow.”
“One of the refs? Which one?” I pointed out Manatee to him. “What? Dammit, don’t listen to him. He wanted us to tell you to speed up yesterday but we said that one match wasn’t slow because of you. Both of you had tough games and it just took longer. You don’t play slow at all.”
“He took me aside earlier today and gave me a speech about it. He told me to speed up.”
“No, no, NO! He’s NOT supposed to tell you that! We specifically told him not to tell you that. He wanted to say something to you and we told him not to.”
“What the f—?!”
“He took it on himself to tell you. The next time he approaches you about anything at all, tell him you want to speak to the floor manager instead.“
Great. Now there’s rogue APA referee-operatives fomenting rebellion and revolution amongst the peasants. Can you imagine that sea-cow going around changing things simply because he thinks he knows best? What a bastard. I have to say, I was slightly nervous at the official in the suit watching because I thought he really had been there to time my match. I can only hope for better luck next time — and a manatee that will STFU and chew its cud when it’s told to.
A very HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Buddha of Buddha & Monkey, Inc. Thank you for being my food sponsors for the short time I was out there. You can feed small starving Asians on just pennies a day — but then they wouldn’t have the strength to blog. I hope to see you guys in the near future, preferably on your side of the world.
Thanks also go to the corporation of Crispy & Squish for providing me with food.
Thanks to CaPao & Robert for allowing me to hide in their booth to escape the general populace.
And thanks to all the people I met out there, good and bad. You make life bearable, and if not bearable — then at least interesting.
an exercise for the readers
this should be good
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