This article is part of Volume 9 of PoolSynergy, a monthly collection of the best writing on pool. After you read it, be sure to check out the rest of the July 2010 edition of PoolSynergy for other great articles over at Angle of Reflection.
I love pool. It was love at first sight, too, but it was the kind of hot, passionate love than burns itself out quickly. I first picked up a house cue in my sophomore year at Rutgers and from the first game I was smitten. Tennis was my game back then, and hitting the ball while on the run was initially so much harder than before I began to play I didn’t think pool would hold my interest. I was so very wrong. Pool was a siren.
|Jessica a Classic Siren|
I played 3 or more times a week, several hours at a time, for 2 semesters. I played 8 ball and straight pool and I couldn’t get enough.
The student union where I played was open, airy and brightly lit, characteristics I still appreciate but rarely see. A few of the best players would gamble on 9 Ball constantly, and when one guy lost so much he not only had to sell his cue he had to drop out of school, it had a profound effect on me. There was a lot of sleaze in that group, with hustling and laying down being common practices. I stayed well clear of those guys, but I saw more than enough to taint the game I loved.
On the positive side, what got to me was the cognitive dissonance between the apparent simplicity of the game and the actual endless complexity within it. The basic physics was alluring (I had just changed my major from physics to philosophy, but the Newtonian mechanics of the balls was captivating). Understanding things like how the paths of the balls could be so dramatically affected by top and bottom spin was intellectual, but the game had a strong emotional component to it, too. Knowing exactly what was going to happen, and then watching it unfold before your eyes, was so satisfying I just had to have more, and more. But of course I wasn’t a particularly good player, and that satisfaction didn’t come on every shot. My youthful enthusiasm was accompanied by an immaturity and temper when things didn’t go as expected. Knowing wasn’t enough, you had to execute.
The strategic opportunities in games like 8 Ball and 14.1 were prodigious, and since I fancied myself as a pretty sharp guy, I thought this was the game for me. A good hook could be almost as satisfying as a great shot. Sadly, my execution wasn’t up to my creativity, and I started fighting with my pool mistress.
My fling with pool didn’t last. By the end of that sophomore year, I was burned out; I broke up with pool.
I transferred to Boston University for my last two undergraduate years and since pool was inconvenient, and I was much busier with studies and work than in previous years, I didn’t play any pool at all. Once thoroughly out of the habit, I never thought about it again until 2005. One day I noticed an old cue from my college days hanging in the back of my closet and within a week I found myself in a pool hall in St Petersburg.
I got a table by myself and started hitting balls. Within 10 minutes I was overtaken with long forgotten emotions; I knew that I would never again quit this game. I was just like Celine Dion’s singing of Jim Steinman’s classic, It’s All Coming Back to Me Now. Everything was forgiven, I just had to experience those feelings again. The song still gets to me; play it to feel what I mean.
I’ve been playing regularly for almost 5 years since then, and have loved every minute. Sure, I’ve been irritated on a number of occasions, but I think because I’m older, and I like to think wiser and more mature, that this time the love will continue to grow stronger over time and not die out. Much like the love I have for my wife. It burns more brightly today than ever before, even though we’ve been married 37 years.
Links to all past editions of PoolSynergy are on the PoolSynergy – History and Schedule page.
My Previous PoolSynergy Posts
Thinking Your Way to More Pool Victories
My First Big ‘Aha!’ Moment in Pool
Three Outside Influences on my Pool Education
Some of My Favorite Pool Players
10 Reasons Why Gambling is Bad for Pool
Attitude is Everything
Poolosophy: Pool Student’s Approach to the Game
Fixing Pool – An Outsiders View