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|a tale of two tournaments|
|sometimes, that’s just how it (also) goes|
Since my little bus jaunt halfway across the country to play pool ended in less-than-mediocre results, I have been taking it easy regarding the noble game of billiards. I had two tournaments three weeks apart on my calendar. Cool. Plenty of time to slack off and catch up with the practice later, y’know? Then the first tournament was rescheduled for two weeks later than the original date. More slackage. Tournament day arrived and I took a trip out east.
I started off pretty good in the tournament and in spite of my lack of practice, I soon remembered how to play and I scrambled along through the brackets. I was knocked to the loser’s side on the second day and eked out another match before finally succumbing to an excellent former professional. This player then promptly forfeited to her friend and sent her friend to the finals.
I see forfeiture all the time and hell, I’ve done it myself once or twice — but something about this forfeiture made me snap. It may have had something to do with me being down something fierce in the match, then fighting against my own stupidity to creep closer, then losing my temper again, then getting my temper back under control, and then fighting fighting fighting to try and slog out the win before finally losing. And after all that heartbreak in a match I would not be a favorite to win, to see my opponent turn it over like so many stale peanuts to a handful of park squirrels.
I had a long discussion about this with the tournament director and she basically said, if I didn’t like it, I should have won.
She told me it was common practice to forfeit in favor of a friend or a significant other — wouldn’t I do it? HELL NO I WOULD NOT EVER F#CKING DO IT. Everyone has to f#cking beat me to advance. I don’t give a sh#t who you are, we fight and only after I am out do you get to f#cking move on. There are people I hate with the burning of a kazillion suns, there are people I have no little to no chance of beating, there are people I am afraid of playing — and yet, I would rather they battle it out with me and crush me to nothingness than forfeit and rob me of the chance to defeat them.
Well, then — I obviously take pool too seriously.
I obviously f#cking do.
It wasn’t until the weekend was past was I able to understand why I had been so ticked off at the forfeit, despite the fact that yes, it is incredibly common in pool and it is not the first time I have seen it. I read about the Olympic badminton controversy wherein teams were dumping matches on the winner’s side to get softer matches on the loser’s side. Some argued that these players were not wrong — they were merely playing by rules and exploiting a technicality. Others argued that, regardless of the draw, you are supposed to play your best because, you know, YOU’RE PLAYING IN THE GODDAM OLYMPICS and in the spirit of competition, you should play your best.
And this was where it spoke to me.
I was irritated about the forfeit because it was not in the spirit of competition. I have forfeited when I’m too f#cking pissed off to continue in a rational manner (rare) or too sick to play (even rarer — I’ll puke on your shoes first), but I have never forfeited in order to gain an advantage, either for myself or a friend.
But, a forfeit is a forfeit. So from henceforth on, I will never, EVER forfeit a match if I can help it. And yes, I didn’t like the forfeit that I saw happen and I swear, I will do everything in my power to win so that it will not happen again.
The second tournament the following weekend was a once-a-year type deal. The tournament had a full field of 96 players, an increase of 26 players from last year. I had stopped by to try out one of the weeknight tournaments here that were more like warm-ups for this big event and I had been thoroughly beaten. That freaked me out. I hadn’t practiced for this event at all (unlike last year when I had practiced hyper-dilligently) and now, I was completely unprepared. There was almost no time left to practice (and no money — thanks again, Tulsa) but I crammed what I could. Going into the tournament, I set a reasonable goal: I only wanted to improve upon my finish from last year.
After I was knocked out last year, a dude had IMMEDIATELY jetted down from the spectator seats to tell me what I should have done on my last shot. I told him, in the most charming way I was capable of, to F#CK OFF. He complained to all who would listen that he was surprised I would not accept advice from him — from HIM! He was an expert!
That dude was my first match this year. I played well against him. I was told after he lost, he went around telling and retelling the story of his loss to anyone who would listen (and some people who couldn’t get away because they were in the restroom). One of the better lines I heard he had said was that he had been so angry at losing he forget to yell at me for winning.
I don’t remember much about the rest of the tournament. Last year, I had unfamiliar equipment and new mechanics to deal with and every match was a ridiculous struggle. This year, I had familiar equipment and less-new mechanics to deal with and yet every match was still a ridiculous struggle. However, the women’s tournament the weekend before had successfully drained me of emotion and I was too tired to freak out. Well, actually, I was freaking the F#CK out — but I was too tired to show it.
Friends, Romans, countrymen: the opponent in my last match was one of Las Vegas’ most cherished players, a man so honored even The Action Report has placed him on a special list regarding admittance to their studio.
Truly he is an honorable man.
He outclassed me in all aspects of the match. This magnificent competitor is a paragon of honesty, integrity, humility, and sportsmanship regarding the noble game of billiards. Had I been made of sterner stuff, the same stuff my competitor was made of, then perhaps I would have buried him instead of having to praise him here.
I am not made of stuff like that. I will never be made of stuff like that. I willingly remain a loser on paper and a winner everywhere else.
I finished the same as I did last year. I didn’t improve, but hey — at least I didn’t get worse (I think). It’s a little comfort and sometimes, it’s the little things in life that count.
|t h a n k s|
|EMCA | FWCCA | Murray Tucker of Tucker Cue Works|