Thursday, November 18, 2010

Two weeks notice

Two more weeks and I will be officially league free.

Yep, I finally did it. After several years of oscillating from over-committing to "just once a week" I realized it was time to just take a complete break.

Its kind of an odd feeling. I've been playing continuously in the same league since I started playing pool. But over the last couple of months I realized that I achieved most of what I wanted to in league (for now), and that I needed to devote more time to tournaments, practice and non-pool activities.

One of my instructors used to say, "Always leave the table wanting more." Lately, league has felt a little bit like having a second job (that doesn't pay very well!). In the past, I have found value in pushing past the "league fatigue" to find a new motivation in order to keep going. But now its time to move on.

A few months ago, when I was in the middle of my tournament blitz, I kind of knew I was headed for burnout city. I went ahead anyway because my gut told me that it would somehow force a change that was necessary. And it did. It broke my addiction to league. Okay, maybe its not league per se, but my addiction to my comfort zone. Now that I've spent more time in arenas that are new and challenging, I'm not that interested in going back.

So, as of week after next, I will be a free agent. I'm not sure what that means, except that I will only play pool when I really want to and not when I have to. Just writing that makes me want to go play pool NOW. I'd say that's a good sign.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Just a little bit

Okay, so now I have not one, but two longer almost completed posts in need of editing, but no time to finish them, so just a brief recap on the APA Singles Regionals a couple weeks ago: I lost.

I made it to the finals in 8-ball and semi-finals in 9-ball undefeated, and then just ran out of gas. Most people compete in either one or the other but not both. My plan, as I had written about, was to just drop 9-ball, but the week before a friend added me to his roster without asking, so I could compete if I wanted to. (At the end of the day, I think that playing 9-ball probably hurt my chances of going all the way in 8-ball, but I have no regrets. I thought I was going to be crushed in my 9-ball bracket, and in the first few matches played so well, that I really surprised myself.)

Last October, I did about the same, but felt great--It was such a tremendous improvement over previous regional tournaments. This time I was really disappointed that I had stagnated, and that I was undone by fatigue for a second year in a row.

So, the next week, I started working a little bit of exercise into my daily schedule. And then a couple things became apparent to me:

1) I am in TERRIBLE shape! Oh my god. I had no idea I had let my general conditioning slip this much. Just a quick 20 minutes was challenging. This is bad news, except that I know last year at this same time, I was in relatively good condition. SO that means, that maybe I had progressed, and if I only could get in better shape, I might see a big difference in my ability to go the distance.

2) A little goes a long way. It really doesn't take much exercise to boost up my energy level and mood. (I'm writing this to remind myself when I'm feeling lazy and having a hard time remembering whether its worth it).

And, then I remembered that although it felt like deja vu, I have gone up a skill level since last year in both games, so all my matches were longer and more competitive, so in many ways, doing about the same probably is progress, even if its just a little bit, I'll take it.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Worry less. Laugh more.

I'm working on a longer pool related post that needs some serious editing, but in the meantime, I just wanted to blog about my dear friend Jennifer. Jennifer was one of my best friends in college, who died in an accident last year. (I want to say unexpected or tragic, but isn't that just the nature of accidents?).

After college, we drifted apart, wrote the occasional birthday email (how did she always remember mine?), saw each other at weddings, and then a year or so before her accident reconnected on a more regular basis on facebook. At the time of her accident, her husband posted an update on her status that "it could be worse." I took that to mean she would be okay, and for some reason expected that if anything important happened, facebook would be sure to let me know. It was two months later that I received a voicemail from a mutual friend saying there was something I should know, and I raced home to facebook to read all the updates that hadn't made my news feed...and that Jenn had been gone for a couple of months.

Its amazing how some people become so core to who we are, even though your lives move off into entirely different directions. In the moment that I realized the truth, my knees gave way, it was so startling. I've lost friends before...but they all had a more fragile grasp on life, somehow it wasn't surprising. But Jenn was so strong and passionate about living, it just didn't/doesn't make sense.

The anniversary of her accident is coming up in a few weeks. Her family has organized a memorial jazz concert entitled "Worry less. Laugh more." which has been the theme of all the events in her memory.

As I think about the past year, I realize that I have worried more, and laughed less. The laughing part, I'm not that bad at, but the worrying gets way too much of my time. So, Jenn, this is just to let you know that I'm thinking of you, and this year I promise: Worry less, laugh more. Miss you.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Boxed in

This is the last weekend of my tournament blitz--the APA Singles Regionals. Its a 5-hour drive to the middle of nowhere, and its going to be hot, hot, hot this weekend. I swore that last October would be my last time going there (the national office has already said they would let me play in another location, if I gave them enough notice). But I do enjoy the comraderie with my leaguemates.

Anyway, its a weekend of barboxes, and I thought I post up one of my favorite series of barbox videos...Corey Deuel v. Niels Feijen, with commentary by Shawn Putnam and Troy Frank. There just doesn't seem to be much bar box 8-ball with commentary on video. I try to watch a few racks of Corey before every 8-ball tournament. Watching Corey's patterns really helps me see the table, and I also seem to pocket better. I think its a good reminder for my unconscious....the balls are supposed to go *IN* the pocket.

This is the first of 9 You Tube videos. I'll try to post all 9 later, as its kind of a pain to navigate to all of them in sequence. But here's the first for now. Enjoy! (This first rack is sick. I love the position he gets on the 1-ball)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Just a few thoughts before I head into another tournament weekend...

I recently rediscovered my copy of Mental Toughness Training for Sports (Loehr, 1982).When I say rediscovered, I mean literally, as it had been missing and I found it lodged behind my mattress. I'm not sure I've ever read this book cover to cover, but I like to periodically open it up and just read what I find. Its one of several books I keep with me at tournaments to keep my mind occupied while waiting. It helps me keep good thoughts in and and anxious, bored, squirrelly thoughts out.

Today, the book opened up directly to the section on Self-Motivation. How appropriate. So here is a rather longish excerpt (copyright experts feel free to berate me, I'm just to lazy to cut it down too much)...

"What do we do to maintain high levels of self-motivation, and what do we do to get it back when it's lost?.....Success is the universal antidote...your to program a diet of regular success."

"There are big successes, like winning Wimbledon or the Super Bowl, and there are little ones, like slapping the puck past he goalie on a break-away or sinking two pressure free throws to ice the game. All too frequently, the success of the little ones is muted by the failure of the big ones. Success and winning become scrambled."

"In a world where winners are everything and losers are nothing, making the wrong connection is easy. The right connection pairs success with effort, accomplishment and forward growth, not with winning the external contest. Steady success is the key to motivation. It's not a once-every-six-weeks affair. Its got to be constant. And big successes don't materialize over night. The are the natural consequence of the accumulation of hundreds of little successes."

"As one of the premier all-pros in the NFL wisely said 'You don't sneak up on success. You take it one inch at a time...'"

Hmmmm....interesting...a regular diet of success. Amidst a sea of brutal competition....what would that look like? Will it exclude cupcakes?..... or perhaps require them? I will ponder.

Unfortunately, the book is out of print, but you can find it on

Friday, September 17, 2010

Waking up

I'm in the middle of a tournament blitz right now. I know this is normal for many of you pool nuts out there, but normally I play a tournament only every few months. But I did make it a goal to play more tournaments, so I started "throwing my hat over the wall", and just signing up. But, because I don't keep a calendar, I never realized that I had committed to a tournament almost every weekend. I'm in the home stretch, with the final four having started last weekend. I get three weekends tournament-free after that.

I thought about canceling a couple, for the sake of sanity and to avoid burn out. But something told me, that even if I wasn't exactly looking forward to it that I should just push through it. I've never done this before. Maybe something unexpected will come of it.

The competition is so much tougher at these events. Most of them are not handicapped. Doing well means winning at least one match by getting a lucky draw, and an unusually high number of nine-ball combos. I have worried how this was affecting my confidence. I've made the mistake many times of comparing my own level to others around me, wondered if all my efforts were paying off, thinking, "Shouldn't I be playing better by now?" "Am I stuck at this level?" "What if this is as good as I can get?"

I go. I play. I get my single win. Then I kinda want to go home. There is no hope, no belief that I could win this tournament. And this might be okay, even healthy, if it weren't for the fact that it means that in that last match of the day, I'm not fighting. Losing is not a good feeling, but losing after having given up, is far, far worse.

Last weekend, that's where I was.
My first match: I drew one of the top 4 players. I started off okay. And while I did try, I didn't really feel much pressure to do my best.
Second match: I played a newcomer to the tour. I got up 6-3, and then my opponent said that she didn't feel well, couldn't come back anyway, and con
ceded the final game. (Okay, well at least I got my one win).
Third match: Again, I came out pretty strong, and was actually playing pretty well. I was indifferent to the outcome, and found myself down 6-1. Then my opponent missed and left me a straight in 9-ball. Okay, 7-2. That's less embarrassing. Next rack I got to the 9 first and missed, and left her a very make-able shot. She missed leaving the 9 just of the rail next to the side pocket. Now something started to happen. I started to wake up. I couldn't cut it down the rail for fear of a scratch. The angle for the bank was a little wide. But I got down and committed a full, power stroke and the 9-ball zoomed straight into the opposite corner. My opponent was clearly rattled and started missing. I started playing well, and had two outs I'm really happy with. I got to 6-5, when my opponent got a lucky roll after missing an 8-ball, hooking me just enough to make it difficult to do much. I actually made a decent safe at least leaving her long, but she got out anyway. But I was down Hill-6, and had a shot to win.
A top player on the tour came up to me and said to me,"You fought HARD." Yes I did. It was a good reminder. Who cares if they're better than me? Its not the win. Its the fight. That's what I'm here for.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Get free stuff!

No, not here, Silly! HERE: OMGWTF, the blog.

OMG is giving away a handmade key chain to the winner of her raffle. Just post a comment to the latest post and request one of the remaining numbers, which are (as of this posting):


I don't understand how 34 could still be available. Someone should snap it up now!

What? You don't need a key chain? Sign up anyway. If you win, give it to me :-). I really do need a key chain. I'm eying the Spineless Bastard, Pinky and the Cherries.

The raffle cannot take place until all the numbers are chosen, so hop to it. Pick a number!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What was I thinking?

I am about to do something I've never done before...quit a team mid-season. Actually, its not really "mid", as the first match was just yesterday...but I'm such a goody-two-shoes that having said "yes, I'll join" on Sunday and then playing on Monday, makes me feel that I'm fully committed with no way out.

I just got back from Vegas on Saturday, found out my current APA 9-ball team disbanded, and I would need to find a new team to maintain my qualification for Singles Regionals next month. So, I quickly jumped on the first team that came along. When I arrived to the match Monday night, I found out that half the people had left the team (which I guess was why they needed me), and I was greeted with great enthusiasm, as - a) I was now the best player on the team (by 3 skill levels) and they needed me for time outs and to teach the new players how to play in my spare time, and b) I was one of two people on the team who could keep score. I had forgotten to let the captain know that I was thinking of playing the minimum 4 matches. He clearly had a different idea.

This was, of course, on top of:
a) my residual feelings of dissatisfaction with my home league that I was left with after Vegas. I couldn't help feeling that these people were better, because the people they played with were better.
b) the growing realization that I hate APA 9-ball.

And as I fretted after the match thinking "what have I gotten myself into?"...counting the weeks on the schedule, mourning the free Mondays I could have had, the Monday night tournaments I would have played, all because I had paid the entry fee for the 9-ball singles.

Then, as I added all of that up, I realized that my Mondays were so much more valuable than any entry fee I had paid....and if I were to be successful and qualify for Nationals, I would need to play yet another season of APA 9-ball and then travel to Vegas to play an APA 9-ball tournament. None of which I want to do.

So, I came to my senses and realized to not throw good money after bad, and just quit. (Well, the actual quitting has yet to be done, and I'm going to just do it outright. No 4 matches. I want off the team. (Okay, I'll admit I'm writing this in part to make sure I do it)).

Anyway, I feel like this is a big moment....putting MY priorities first. My time is too precious. My pool time either better be fun, or helping me reach my goals. No more treading water. Its time to start swimming ruthlessly.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Are we crazy?

When I first joined a pool league, I never imagined that I would become so involved in the competitive aspects of the sport. I just enjoyed playing pool.

It never occurred to me that there were people who would spend a week of vacation in Vegas, at a tournament, that would require you to start 4 hour matches at 11pm, and then get up the next morning to do the same thing at 8am. I have a love-hate relationship with this part of pool. On the one hand, there's nothing more exhilarating than pushing through the exhaustion to play well when it really counts after a marathon of a tournament. On the other hand, sometimes I dread devoting a whole weekend for an event, knowing I could come up empty handed and completely spent at the end. (Okay, never really empty-handed because you always come away with the experience).

I watched some of the stream from Vegas OMGWTF v Borana match in May. Their match started around 11pm, and I fell asleep around 1:30 or 2:00. I woke up about 7, wondering what the outcome had been. If I had gotten my butt out of bed to restart my computer, I could have watched the end of the match live, because it was still going!!! It was inspiring.

But then sometimes when I try explain what I'll be doing on my vacation this year, or talk about how impressive the OMGWTF/Borana match was, I kind of wonder if we're just not at least a little bit crazy?

Fortunately, we're in good company, as there are plenty of other past-times (read: obsessions) that make all-night pool seem like rose gardening. Back in May, RadioLab aired an episode on Limits, and people who try to ignore them, which really puts it into perspective. Also, they discuss some interesting research that shows that physical limits, as we know them, are not necessarily absolute, but a way to keep our bodies from using up all its resources. Even better, there seem to be some ways to trick our body into giving up the extra reserve (although one of them involves exhaustion so extreme that it causes paranoid delusions. But hey, whatever gets you across the finish line, right?)

A couple of stories featured:

Julie Moss who entered the 1982 iron man without any serious training, or serious competitive intentions, and then found herself in the lead, without carbohydrates.


Race Across America, an eight-day bicycle race across the continental U.S. Jure Robic, a Slovenian cyclist has won the race 5 times ( he won again earlier this month after the RadioLab show aired). The guy reportedly slept only 8 hours during the entire race.

Anyway, the next time I'm feeling sorry for myself that its late, I'm tired, hungry and don't want to play my match, I'll be thinking of these guys.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A return trip to the desert buffet....

You know stuff like this really does deserve more of a build up, but I'm tired and kinda busy, so I'm just going to lay it out there: I'm headed back to Vegas for APA Team Nationals.

Of course, because I haven't been blogging much lately you can't really appreciate how crazy that is. At the beginning of the session, I joined a team that was designed to be a serious Vegas contender. (Basically a sister team, to the team I went to Vegas with last year). Then we had handicap issues and I was forced join a second team to guarantee I could play from time to time. My handicap issue was short-lived, as I returned to my average average, but by that point, I was stuck on both teams.

My original team never really took off. It was my second team, my B-team, that managed to rise to the occasion. Just to make things a little more twisted, in the finals, we played my Vegas team from last year. After I sunk the match winning 8-ball, my opponent, a player I deeply respect and admire, turned to the captain and said "I think we taught her a little too much."

It was bittersweet, but I was proud that I came through for my team. You gotta dance with the one that brought you.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

You just gotta believe...

A month or so ago, I played in a weekly handicap 9-ball tournament. I'd promised myself a "pool-free" weekend, because I was burnt out from so much league play. I was a little frustrated because although I didn't feel like playing, I knew that it was the kind of thing I needed to be doing to meet my goal of playing better big table 9-ball. So, I decided to not let my "league fatigue" get in the way, and played the tournament. I only won 1 match, but I did feel excited about pool again. I resolved to play more tournaments.

Last week, I woke up Saturday morning, realized it had been a month since I played a 9-ball tournament. A few more weeks of league under my belt, I was feeling even more resistant.

Earlier in the week, one of my teammates and I had been discussing the value of league v. tournaments. He was pretty emphatic that league is a tough way to improve. There's just too much non-play time compared to a tournament or practice. But tournaments are more expensive. His advice was:

Teammate: "Play more tournaments, and keep track of how much money you win, and how much money you invest in entry fee."

PM: Well, I don't really play these tournaments for the money. I'm just playing for the experience."

Teammate: "That's a bad attitude. You gotta go into these tournaments believing you can win. If you're just playing for the experience, you're not really getting any."

Hmmmm....I realized he was right. When I first started playing competitively, I always believed it was at least possible for me to win, no matter what the match up was (even if I may not have acknowledged it outwardly). I'm not sure when or why my attitude shifted, but I could see that I had stopped thinking that way.

Anyway, last Saturday, I had decided not to play.

Then, I thought about my teammate's comment...

I asked myself,"If I thought I was going to win the tournament, would I play?" The answer: "Hell yeah!" I grabbed my cue, got on the bus, said goodbye to the sunny day, and headed down to the pool hall.

Did I win the tournament? Nope, but I could have. I finished 3rd, and walked out with $100. Most importantly, it felt good to be honest with myself again....believing in myself and playing to win, is part of the experience I'm looking for.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Bowling, anyone?

It so hard to find time to write these days. So, just a quick update to my post in February ("No pain no gain", and "No pain no gain, revisited.")

At the last minute I was able to get on a second team that could play me, even if I was over-rated. The league operator agreed to lower my skill level after a few weeks if it didn't work out. After a few losses, he kept his word, and dropped me down again. Of course, this falls under the "be-careful-what-you-wish-for" category. Now that I'm properly rated, both teams want to play me almost every week. On my original team we had another team member go up, so I'm in the opposite situation, if I don't play, we have to forfeit. Actually, my back-up team has had 3 other players raised (one of them twice), so its a similar situation there, too. After being worried that I wouldn't get to play enough, I'm playing too much.

Its been a struggle. But I have only two more weeks, and then I'll be free. I still enjoy the nights socially, but I find that I don't really look forward to the pool that much. Even if I play an interesting opponent. Even if I play well. It doesn't really matter. I used to keep a log of all my matches. With league matches, I don't even bother logging them anymore. I've really been working to maintain an attitude that in some small way EVERY match I play makes a difference, even if its not noticeable. But, on league nights I have to take it on faith.

The hassle of worrying about the APA handicapping has many of the other players looking at the BCA. My original team is having a serious conversation about taking a break from pool altogether and starting a bowling team, and then playing weekly pool tournaments together from time to time, instead of a formal team. Its a more expensive option, but you get to play a lot more pool in any one night.

My shoulder has improved immensely, after a week of rest and icing 3 times a day. Too much time on the computer can cause a flair up. I've also noticed I can get a dull ache that's distracting during tournament matches. Not sure if its from actually stroking or if its just muscle tension. The pain tends to be worse during matches where I'm not shooting as much ;-)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Dogs that play the piano and other mysteries

A couple of weekends ago I participated in a late St. Paddy's Day pub crawl. I wasn't particularly in the mood to drink all day, but I had a friend who insisted I keep her company. So I agreed to stick around, and we would move along to the next destination a half hour or so ahead of everyone else to get some time to catch up, and warn the bartenders that they were about to be inundated by the temporarily Irish.

Fortunately, for me the last three stops of the crawl had pool tables.

For the final stop, we were a good hour ahead of everyone else, and my friend and I got in some good conversation, and some half way decent pool, on a pool table that was so bad it was probably still in the bar because it would cost more to get rid of it than to just keep it there. Once the crowd appeared, I played one game, and then was prepared to sit down, as there weren't really any serious pool players in the bunch. Earlier in the day, after I had held the table for awhile, people stopped wanting to play, so I just stepped aside to let others have a turn.

As I was about to give up the table, some guy came up and put quarters on the rail. I told him that the table was open (not because the pool was free, but the whole ball return & coin mechanism were completely broken), and that he could have the table and play whoever he wanted to. He said, "No. I want to play you."

We played several games, and then some doubles. He was actually very good, even in his inebriated state. But I was having a pretty good day, making banks caroms, kicking balls in...which was particularly surprising because the table was so bad.

At one point he said: "So, did your Dad play pool?" "No. He bowled." He contemplated this for awhile.

Ten minutes later, "Are you sure your Dad didn't play pool? How about your older brother?" "Nope." He furrowed his brow, finding this very confusing. As he was racking, he looked up and asked, "Boyfriend? Did you/do you have a boyfriend who plays pool?" I shook my head. Again, puzzlement.

At some point, you might imagine that he would ask if my mother or sister had played pool, but no such luck. Several times he returned to trying to get me to admit that my dad, brother or boyfriend had taught me to play. As I was leaving the bar, he tried one last seemed to defy all expectation, like seeing a dog play the piano: a woman shooting a half-way decent game of pool. The only possible explanation was there must be a male mastermind behind such a pygmalionesque creation.

Of course, I've learned a lot from both men and women: instructors, teammates, and the few months when Coach helped me. I guess if I had to really pick the most influential, I'd have to say that a few good lessons early on when I started and then a few years of league pool gave me a foundation. But so much of what I know wasn't given to me by a mentor figure, but by hours alone at the table, or watching matches over the internet, and studying DVD's and books on my own.

I was so amused, I never gave him an explanation, but let him ponder this strange phenomenon, like what is the sound of one hand clapping or how could a creature without a Y-chromosome use a pointy stick to put balls into holes?

If all I ever accomplish with my mediocre pool game, is to have confused the hell out of this poor drunken soul, I will consider it all worth it.

Monday, February 15, 2010

No pain, no gain.....revisited

After finishing my last post, I felt much better. The whole phenomenon of blogging is a little baffling to me. I'm not sure why sending out this message a bottle, so anyone (or no one) could read it is somehow more satisfying than writing in a private journal, but it is. (In case you don't want to read the long rambling post, recap is League Operator raises my skill level for arbitrary reasons and without warning, and as a result, I'll likely be benched for most of the season).

Well, with catharsis complete, I started processing the situation in a more constructive way I thought more about the whole no pain, no gain process I remembered a quote from Trigger's blog post (see Pool is a Journey) about managing pain as a key component of success.

I looked up the whole article by Zig Ziglar, and this is the piece that caught my attention:

"Winners realize pain for the proper purpose is productive. You see, all of us will go through a lot of pain in life. Winners spend more of their time going through pain that aligns with their goals, their vision, or their purpose."

This has given me a lot to think about....How much of this pain is really aligned with my goals?

As I thought about that I realized, that none of the things that were upsetting me, were truly important to me. I enjoy the APA for social reasons, but even a year ago I was questioning if it was the right place to improve my pool. I do like the opportunities to compete nationally. But I've been to Nationals in 8-ball Team and 8-ball doubles twice. I've never been to Singles Nationals, but for whatever reason, my last performance in the Regionals has satisfied me for now, and I don't have a strong desire to try again. So, while these may have been goals at one time, right now, none of these are reasons for me to be concerned about being benched.

But what does excite me is improving my performance on the local women's regional 9-ball tour. And when I think about that, all of this seems easy. Less time in the APA means more time and money to play in 9-ball tournaments. There's also an alternative 8-ball league played on 9-footers that would actually be a better choice than APA. Things happen for a reason. Maybe this will be just enough to give me a push into some new and more challenging arenas.

So, when my League Operator said it was good for me to go up a skill level, he was right. Just not in the way he was thinking.


And on a less serious note, if you haven't already seen it, you have to check out Joe Rogan channeling Earl Strickland. Hilarious. And if you have seen it, you may just want to watch it again. I just did.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

No pain, no gain.....

Sometimes when you feel pain, its hard to identify exactly where the true source of the pain is coming from....

That's how I feel this week.

Just as some general background, its been a tough start to the year. I've attended two funerals, had to cancel vacation because of work, helped pack two of my best friends off to new cities. My workplace has added 3 new "Chief Officers", no new "Indians", and a ton of new well-intentioned but misguided "projects"....the official description of the company environment at the recent board meeting was "challenged." God bless corporate understatement. The three most common "break time" activities are smoking (in a mostly non-smoking company), declarations of intention to quit, and sobbing in the bathroom. Okay, I am overcompensating for the previous understatement, but I'm exaggerating less than you may think. Its not a happy place.

Thank you, god, for giving me the oasis of pool.

However, I am less grateful for the tendonitis in my shoulder.

Over the last month or so, I was actually proud of myself for keeping my post-work practice sessions short (I sometimes get so absorbed, I spend way more time and money than I intend to). But now looking back, I wonder if I was keeping them short because they were painful. Its not hard to believe that I ignore anything that might suggest that I couldn't play whenever or for however long I wanted to.

It turns out that a change in my office space, and a less ergonomic desk configuration has been putting a lot of stress on my wrists and shoulders. It seemed kind of normal, with everything being so stressful, I didn't think much of the tension and periodic pain I was feeling.

For the last month, I have been really looking forward to returning to 8-ball league. Its the spring session. I love that intense end-of-year competition to qualify. I've been feeling good about my game, and I'm playing on a new night with a slightly revised roster which means I would be slated to play more upper level players than in past seasons. But, after the first week the shoulder pain was noticeable. I lost 0-4. I actually played okay, but I felt like I got my butt kicked. My 8-ball instincts were pretty rusty. I assumed both the sting of the loss and the pain in my shoulder would fade. I'd be ready for next week.

Then the updated roster was posted, and low and behold, despite my rather spectacular loss, I've gone up a skill level.

The league operator, who after seeing me play once a year ago has taken it upon himself to raise my skill level. Not because I'm a sandbagger. Not because others in the league are complaining. Not because the software told him so, but because he thinks the challenge will be good for me. As a result, I will likely be benched for the season. Our team is too top heavy to be able to play me regularly. Maybe its a blessing in disguise, with my shoulder and all....But what a time to lose my oasis. (Because the LO didn't give me any advance notice its too late to get on another team.)

I'm not happy about this. Probably more upset than I should be...I don't mind being a higher skill level, but I can't help but feel like I've cheated out of that moment of feeling like I've earned it. I wanted to play lights out one night, and then the next week everyone say, "Well, I'm not surprised."

Here are some of the reactions over the last week:

Random league person (RLP) #1: "Wow, Pool Minnow, you're a what now? Wow, who did you beat?"
Me: "Uh, no one. I lost 0-4"
RLP #!: "Huh. Congratulations, I guess?"

RLP #2:"How the F$#% are you a? No offense..."
PM: None taken. (I lied)

RLP #3: "Wow. What did you do to the League Operator?"
PM: "Pay my dues on time."
RLP #3: "That will teach you. NEVER do that."

And so on, with a range from reactions from "WTF?" to "you have your moments and you got potential, kid, but no offense, you ain't there yet", there was a consensus that I am now an overrated player. And the league is pretty much baffled by the league operator's behavior. In a league that has a ton of underrated players, he chose to raise 3 people, I was one.

I had a fair amount of email correspondence with the LO that I won't go into, but he doesn't seem to know his customers very well. He has some interesting ideas about why people do what they do. He's very well meaning. But, he's very green.

So, despite this moment being humbling instead of triumphant, the thing that really bothers me about the LO's actions, is I think he's, well, meddling. Sure he's the LO. He can set people's skill level to whatever he wants. But, in my mind, the whole point of a handicap system is to be fair. The LO should only step in when its clear the system is failing to accurately capture someone's skill, either because of imperfections in the system or because its being intentionally evaded. But the decision to move up a player for the purpose of challenging them, is a decision that should be made by a player, not the LO. But, since the current LO clearly sees things differently, I hope that he will bestow such kindness on the many much more talented players in the league so we can restore fairness.

I realize that a year from now this will all seem silly, and I will be rather embarrassed that I ranted so. (I try to avoid ranting to much in my blog, for that reason, and its hard to stick to only the essence of things without just spewing. Besides leagues have a way of sucking you into junior high drama over nothing) But right now, I'm mad. I promise, I'll come back with a more balanced, silver lining perspective in a week or so.

And, if it weren't for the fact that I've already spent more time on the computer than I should, I would rewrite this to try to tie together the themes of challenge, pain and gain, and when its all worth it...

But, there's no gain, in the shoulder pain, so you'll just have to imagine it yourself.