Friday, January 18, 2008

Adrenaline is the new antihistamine

League finally started back up this week - at last. Unfortunately, one team had a BYE and the other didn't need me to play. So, I was still matchless.

Luckily, I was recruited to fill-in for an old team of mine for a couple of play-off games when one of their players came down with the flu. No handicap. 2 Games. One game, one point. Lots of pressure. Yeah!

What a difference a year makes. Last year around this time, I lost my first two matches in the playoffs. And while I was excited for my team, and excited for the experience, I'm not sure I actually enjoyed the pressure.

This week, I loved it. I can't really say that it brought out my best game. But, some of the excitement that I have been missing in league was back. It meant something.

My opponents were only average players. They could shoot balls, but neither really bothered to plan ahead to the 8 or think about how to fix problems. So I had three goals: do NOT miss easy shots, do NOT scratch, keep the 8-ball in jail. Both opponents made some great shots, to the approval and cheers of their teammates. Me? I just made my easy shots, didn't scratch, and never left my opponent get an easy shot on the 8. And I won. Both times. (Okay I don't earn much in bragging rights over two games or even much of a scientific sample, but its all I got this week).

A few weeks ago, someone told me that the most important thing to understand about playing pool at my level is that most games are lost rather than won. The person who makes the least costly mistakes wins. Not a fun thing to admit. Bascially, its a competition to see who sucks less. But I'm starting to realize its true. But even with a high-low handicap match up, what usually throws a match to a lesser player, is a stronger player's overly aggressive game leading to a scratch or an early eight.

When I think back to my dilemma about my regular, less-than-competitive league, I realize maybe I've been approaching it wrong. Maybe the league isn't my opportunity to give it all I got. To show off the latest thing I've learned. To get the props from my team and opponents. Maybe its to solidify a basic game. To be sure to make the easy shots under pressure. To deliver a good stroke. To not care if I impress others.

Maybe this league isn't my masters class, but the fundamentals practice for my beginner's mind.

Ah grasshopper, you have much to learn.....

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