Monday, April 11, 2011

The benefits of exhaustion

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."

"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!


p00lriah. said...

sounds like you got into the zone somehow.

alas, the secret to pool is revealed: play tired. unless you're danny medina who ran almost ten racks with a bad cold: play sick. :P

poolminnow said...

hmmm it was a zone of sorts although not really "the zone."

But, I played well. I'd been playing races to seven on tighter equipment. To then go to short races where I might get spotted a game or two felt like a cake walk. But in any case, its nice to have those experiences that show you being tired or sick isn't necessarily a barrier to being successful.

Anonymous said...

congrats on winning the tourney!

sounds like being tired allowed you to let go/ignore the stuff that would normally bother you.

just focus on what you need to do and scrunch face doesn't have a chance.


p00lriah. said...

hmmm it was a zone of sorts although not really "the zone."

wow, that's interesting. is it possible there are different types of zones?? must explore . . .

omgwtf said...

congrats :-)

poolminnow said...

@J. Yes that pretty much sums it up. It was more of a tired zone than a peak performance zone, but without the added adrenaline that can be there at the end of a tournament (which I think makes all the annoyances worse).

BTW, scrunch face didn't play last night, so I didn't get to try my new technique.

@OMG - thanks. Winning the tourney was nice, but I feel the real triumph was not being annoyed.

Michael Reddick said...

Wow! You played in a tournament for 7 hours, then stopped on the way home and snapped off a different tournament?!! You are my hero!! You’re also a confirmed pool nut! ;-)

I loved your description of “player quirks.” Scrunch Face? LOL!!! I had a friend recently tell me that when I attempt really difficult shots, like table length cuts with the cue ball frozen on the rail, I stick my tongue out a quarter inch. How embarrassing! ;-D

I really enjoyed the post. Keep up the great work!

Chris said...

Nice writing, funny descriptions. "like playing a muppet"