It was the end of a long day. I started playing in an event at noon and finished around a quarter to seven. Actually, that's a short day by pool standards, but I was disappointed with the results, and I think that drained a little more energy from me.
As I was driving home, I realized the timing was just right to hit a Saturday night tourney near by. The inner debate began:
Don't Go: "You've really had enough pool for today. Its a little crazy to play another tournament."
Go: "Yeah, but do you really don't want to go home a loser. This is your chance to win at least one match."
Don't Go:"Yeah, but you're pretty tired, how depressing would it be to lose in two tournaments in one day."
Go:"Even if you lose, its good experience. Big tournaments often start at noon and go into the night. This will be good for your stamina. Besides, maybe you'll be warmed up."
"Go" wins out, not for any reason other than "I want to" and I pull up to a parking place just in time to get one warm up game before the tourney starts. The good news is I'm playing pretty well. The atmosphere is relaxed, and it feels much more like the games you play for fun AFTER the match is over. You know, as soon as the pressure is off, suddenly the game feels effortless.
I end up in the finals. I've already exceeded my expectations, and I am pretty tired, so I ask my opponent to split. He really wants to play it out, which was fine, too. I close my eyes for a minute and breathe. Its not that I'm feeling any pressure, but I can feel the tiredness starting to catch up with me, and just the edges of crankiness are starting to show. When I'm cranky, I don't stroke smoothly. Its like I take out my crankiness on the cue ball and punch at it and hit too hard. So, before that takes root, I just try to accept being tired and relax through it.
Towards the end of the first game I realize that my opponent has a few quirks. He has a really idiosyncratic way of lining up his shots. He walks up to the table and stands behind the shot with his feet tightly pressed together, slightly leaning over the table. Then keeping his head perfectly still take little tiny steps moving his body into position. The process was done with a distinct rhythm (think Charlie Chaplin or maybe Fred Flintstone bowling). It was oddly graceful if somewhat un-natural. Then, to add the final touch to this unique ritual, upon settling into his shot, he kind of flicked his tongue in and out in an effort to concentrate.
The truth is pool is filled with some strange birds. And really, if any of this helps him shoot better, then by all means he should keep doing it and never mind what anyone else thinks. The thing is, this stuff gets to me. There's something about this kind of un-natural ritualistic movement that distracts me. And as far as tongues and facial expressions, I've made it a point to try to ignore what people look like when they shoot, because sometimes its too funny and it becomes all I can think about. This leads to being annoyed at myself for being distracted over such a small thing.
Obviously, on this night, I was not successful at ignoring my opponent. I noticed all the oddities. And I noticed that they were annoying. But, I was not annoyed. It was as if in my relaxed tiredness I was somewhere very far away, where all those petty little annoyances couldn't get me. I was able to conserve what little energy I had left. I won the match in straight games and went home.
I remember reading about a pain management technique where patients view the part of their body that hurt through the wrong end of a telescope. Seeing their foot or hand as very small and far away, was a fairly successful way to manage the pain. (Or without a telescope, doing the same with visualization). My experience in this tournament makes me think that the small and distant imagery might be a useful technique for dealing with opponents who are irritating. (Without the telescope, of course, unless you're Earl Strickland).
Anyway, I hope it works. Tomorrow in league, we're up against a team that has a player known even by his friends as "Scrunch Face." He's the nicest guy, but dear lord, its like playing a muppet. Wish me luck!