A player ambushed by life
I do not like it when my game slides downward for any reason. I donít like to miss. I donít like blowing shape. I especially donít like experiencing brain gas by any name.
Maybe in another decade or so I will finally mature to the point where I will understand that extreme fatigue may adversely affect my skill set.
I may also understand that stacking 1000 bricks by hand tongs in the afternoon followed by moving concrete in a wheelbarrow will have a miserable affect on my stroke. In fact, both my bridge and back hands will cramp up and I will curse at my fingers at least until the leg cramps arrive.
I hope I am within months of understanding that a few beers while warming-up seems to make the process go smoother, the warming-up is independent of the inebriating downer that is simultaneously taking place.
During that first hour or so the warming-up makes more improvements in my game than the beering-down hurts it. But then a mystical effect occurs. The warming-up stops improving and the beer continues it destabilizing process. My game goes to the beer-dogs and I excel at mental chaos.
Some days I can even feel the wobble in my stance, my stroke, and my brain. Realizing that your brain is wobbling is not a confidence builder.
Before you know it you are breaking with your shooter, shooting with you breaker, and unintentionally using your opponents cue if he leaves it unattended.
You reach for quarters for the next rack even though youíve been playing on a 9-footer since noon and the sun is long gone.
But these moments are fleeting and my good old trusty stroke reappears the next day as long as I have reasonable rest, no more than a modest chemical imbalance and have avoided being a single-man construction crew or destruction crew and the accompanying muscle aches.
There was/is around town a darn good player who had lost his arm just below the elbow. There was this little stump and he could pinch the cue butt. That might have taken a little bit of power from his game but the stability made him a worthy adversary.
On a bar-box, I suggest you donít go messiní around for you will certain find yourself staring at a kick shot to stay alive. Your best defense was jacking him up out in the middle of the table on a 9-footer. Last time I saw him he was practicing using a bridge with the other hand or more correctly the only hand. I am sure he is as deadly as ever.
Then there is this wonderful urchin of a pool toad. I say that with affection although it wasnít always so. This tough-as-nails 140 pound spitfire was a mean drunk who would down a beer in one gulp, curse you heritage back to the Boston Tea Party and try to bite your fingers if you got too close. He never lost a fight. When he calmed down he wanted you to unzip him and drop his pants.
Why? Mother Nature had deprived him of nearly all usage of both arms and both legs. He needed braces to keep him erect and crutches for mobility. He holds a cue with his hands cupped backwards because that is where Mother Nature decided to leave his hands. He never lost a fight because nobody bothered to pop him.
Had I said some of the things to players that he said, my nose would be flatter that a foot-spot. The unzip thing was his logistical need of assistance in performing things biological to return the rented beer.
Well this evil little pool leprechaun must have gotten religion or saw an angel or gotten kissed by a Princess because something caused a wonderful mutation to occur!
He fell in love with pool, decided to work with what he has, stopped drinking, and is now a BCA qualified instructor with a good sense of humor.
I have witnessed him run a rack of 8-ball under conditions that would have terrified me. No, he will never win an open event but he will stick it to anyone who underestimates his excellent understanding of the game. And he also understands his physical limitations and he works with them to the best of his ability. He is a pit bull in handcuffs.
Even though I had not had as much table time as Iíd like I recently hit a stretch where I was playing pretty well. With extra boodle in my pocket I started venturing forth to see what other boodle I could gather. I started trolling for games.
So on successive nights I found myself wandering through possible game sites, avoiding the places where the hard-core gamblers hung and avoiding the places where Olí Taint-missed-since-September played.
I wandered into a two-table pub populated with a passel of players. Awww, it was league night. League players play their matches, then either head for home, play each other or have a fewski brewskis but seldom stick around and match up.
By now Iíve had a few myself and remembering that skill and barley hops are mutually exclusive I opt for socializing instead of stalking. So I started to watch the league matches with greater interest. With two tables, 10 league players, and 30 non-playing patrons it was tough to keep a clear view of the table much less sweat the league action.
Now donít get this next part wrong, buddy, but it was interesting how different this one fellow looked from the other players. He looked good. Late 50s, trim, very classy white hair, white trimmed beard. Many ladies would like to do a number on him I am sure. Maybe it was the ladies who turned it white! Nevertheless, a handsome man. Iíll call him Pete. Pete studied the table, shot the right shots, picked the right balls, and his table manners were impeccable. Chalk was left face up, and no sharking did he offer.
I did not remember his name, although I had met him before. I did eventually remember his name but picked a different name for this story, Pete. For the first few shots Pete took I thought maybe he had been partaking of Carloís beer strategy of game sabotage and was starting to wobble a bit from brewskis. Then I noted that Pete was not drinking.
Then I thought that maybe Pete was frightened and just shaking a bit. It made me remember the time I climbed a tournament chart, the U.J. Puckett Memorial Tournament, and met this pool-putz-opponent with a bad wobble or some kind of tremor in his grip. I turned to my (all-knowing) friends and told them I had this guy running scared and that Iíd send him home in a body bag. Now my FRIENDS darn near trampled each other to place a wager on my opponent, offering me tasty odds to boot.
Fortunately, whenever EVERBODY wants to back the OTHER guy it is a pretty sure indication that the OTHER guy will win. So my wobbly (old baseball injury) opponent, Dick Lane ran 4 racks eventually beating me 13-7. Sigh.
BTW: Dick placed 2nd in the World 14.1 in 1999 and should have won it. Who knows how many years he was a road player. Well, enough name-dropping.
Eventually I stopped watching the drunk 30-something female CPA try to make a bet with her fellow drinkers about how she could slip off her nylons right there in the bar without anyone noticing. She might have won the bet because moments later some guy had them wrapped around his head and I didnít see her shimmy out of them. Back to Pete.
Pete was running a rack and had it wired (as wired as anyone ever has a rack of bar-box 8-ball.) All he had to do was a few simple shots, roll the cue ball between 1 and 2 feet and he was out.
Pete had uncontrollable tremors that were pounding a steady beat and Pete was trying to trigger his shot somewhere in-between tremors. His concentration was total. His knowledge was complete. But those damned tremors were his biggest enemy.
Pete miss-timed the shot and pulled the trigger just as a big tremor shot through his body and the cue ball, responding only to physics, took off for an extra couple of feet of roll making the 8-ball cut about 85 degrees to a corner.
His frustration with himself was obvious. His face contorted with the frustration of the shot and compounded with the tremors that joined his face. Nothing grotesque but nevertheless out of character for this handsome man.
About then the lightening bolt of comprehension strikes my head.
Iíll be damned. Pete has a Tiger by the Tail. Peteís neurons and synapses are beset with some misfortune and periodically misfire on their own timetable. The wires are loose. The batteries are corroded. Somebody slipped a slug into the works. Pete's nerves are running amuck.
I focused on Peteís struggle as hard as Pete was focusing on this nonsense of a game we call 8-ball. Pete drew down on the shot, still angry over having his body joining the enemy on the pool table. The nastiest of "Brother-in-Law" setup ever to enter a poolroom. Peteís body and Peteís opponent are both ganging up to defeat Pete.
Pete stretches out (toe touching floor) on the table and eyeballs an 85-degree cut to the right. It might be easier to cut to the left but if the ball hangs it plugs a pocket and makes a run out pretty tough. He waits until the tremors simmer down, strokes, and rattles the 8-ball in the corner, plugging the pocket. He made the right choice. It coulda-shoulda-woulda fallen, but nope, not this time.
So the opponent trotted to the table, shot a ball or two into a pocket and left the cue ball hanging in the side pocket on the same side of the table. Sure there is traffic, but a bit of spin and it is kickable. It might follow it in but you have to try it. If you touch the end rail it will be perfect.
Peteís adrenaline is pumping. Tremor machines LIKE adrenaline so tremors abound. Somebody put a 24-volt battery in his 12-volt system. He picks his spot, gets down. Gets up. Gets down. Gets up. Peteís pissed.
Those f'ing tremors wonít settle down! Pete eventually calms down, gets down and strokes. Perfect speed; good spin; the cloth bites like it should; and the cue ball is perfectly on track for the kick.
Pete, not unexpectedly, understands that catching a few threads of end rail is victory and hitting it straight on is a probably follow-in loss. Even though he had it all under control once the cue ball was launched adrenaline and tremors had Pete up and flying around link a Ping-Pong ball in an Oklahoma twister. Pete's (uncontrolled) moves would have made a gymnast proud.
The 8 falls and the cue ball comes out to the middle of the table. Victory! Teammates congratulated him on the victory and Pete was smiling while knowing in his heart that he would have put it away earlier except for those unwelcome tremors.
I wandered over to Pete and told him that I admired the fight in him and to keep it up. I felt like I was honoring him by giving him a "keep a stiff upper lip" accolade. Maybe I was, maybe I wasnít.
He looked at me then looked away at an angle. He said "Thanks..." Then he added "Öbut it keeps getting tougher." He pinched his lips. A very faint moistness started to fill his eyes and he looked away.
I didnít press the matter. I said my farewell to Pete and left.
Pete's health is on the slide. Pete knows it but is still hanging in there. I thought about my own health and wondered how Iíll handle it if/when my circuitry gets shorted out or I find a knot in my power cord.
I thought of Pete and what a man he is for his fight and determination. I donít think Iíll be as brave. So I continued home, thinking. All the way home I cried.
Good luck, Pete. We all need a lucky roll now and then. You are overdue, Pete, you are long overdue.
Nobody paid me any money to put these links here, I just thought they deserved it. Tell them Carlo sent you, maybe they'll buy me a beer.
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