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Carlo's Table



 And they are gaining on you!  If you just looked over your shoulder, even a crummy peek, I gotcha!  You're busted.

 A long time ago in a land far, far away I wrote a computer program, actually, a bunch of programs, to do stuff for a business.  The President of the company wanted something special as far as security. 

That particular computer was nowhere close to having any security features so I just made up a funky screen that instructed the user to place their thumb in a box I drew on the screen.  Then I'd wait a few seconds and continue.  It mattered not if you placed your thumb, your lunch, your privates or nothing against the screen.  It was a fake.  A sham.

There was not any technology in the screen to read thumbprints, but the Prez didn't know it and was quite impressed with me.  One time I had the screen up but no timer running and I had wandered away from the computer. 

The Prez appeared, sat down and pressed his thumb against the screen.  Nothing happened.  He pressed again.  Nada.  Then he looked at his thumb, cleaned the screen with his tie and tried again.  Nope-ski.  I had not yet heard the insightful phrase "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature!"

I quick-like-a-bunny sent a console message that displayed the message "LOOKOUT BEHIND YOU!" on his screen.  He jolted and spun around as several of us nearly wept with laughter.  He must have left his sense of humor at home that day and we came within a half-heartbeat of getting tossed out of the building.  Moral: Don't mess with the top dog.

Most of us climb the ladder of pool skill rather rapidly for awhile, then stall out.  If the level is below where we really think we belong, we do some study and a lot of practice or gamble for OJT and improve incrementally.  Player A rises to near the top while Player B stops short.  Steady play and you slide up.  A lot of time off and you slide down.  That's life.  That's pool.

All but one of us has players above us.  Because of the existence of a general pool playing public, any player remotely serious has 6 billion people they can crush on the pool table.  The fact that 5.9 billion of those people don't go to pool halls and 4 billion of them don't even know what a pool table looks like matters not.  We can beat them!

But then there is the top dog.  There is one in every city.  There is one in every state.  There is one in each cue discipline.  THE TOP DOG.  Worse yet, they generally stay there for many years. 

Some retire and never look back when a new TOP DOG arrives.  Some continue to play.  But, Mother Nature is a relentless wench.  She arranges for young dudes to be smitten with an obsession for pool and hands them a wad of time and energy. 

They are out there as I write this article frantically figuring out how to stop a cue ball.  They'll shoot a shot, then run around the table and set it up again and will be doing that thousands of times over the next years.  A few of them will have the mix of raw skill and tenacity to become quality players and climb the hill until they reach their level of play.

But out there is one who will become a top dog.  Probably several.  Many of us have been TOP DOG FOR THE DAY, namely we won a tournament but the next tournament normally erases that.  The TOP DOG wins most and sells first in the Calcutta.  Everybody says HI!

Now and then a TOP DOG will dominate for a decade or two or three or four.  If you knock off the TOP DOG once and then nip at his heels for decades, you are one of the TOP DOG contenders, and everybody knows it.  You are one of the BIG DOGS.

Some are classy TOP DOGS.  Some are doggy TOP DOGS.  It doesn't matter.  But the inevitable happens, after years of domination it becomes apparent that the TOP DOG is slipping a step and the pack gets overheated as all the woofing BIG DOGS slug it out to become the new TOP DOG. 

At this time the reigning TOP DOG spends his time looking over his shoulder and nervously knows his days are numbered.  Alpha male dogs become Beta male dogs or Alpha dog lunch.

Mother Nature, the bitch, normally arranges to drive off the King Alpha Male out into the jungle to live out his life sans underdogs, sans harem, sans companions and sans protection.  Other packs of carnivores will make short work of him the first time he is weak or injured or just naps too long. 

Pool players are different in that this is not Mother Nature's main show and we are not playing for survival.  We play for ego, fun, comradeship, and often money but seldom for our limbs or life, regardless of The Hustler.  Nevertheless, their ego will often make an EX TOP DOG totally stop play.

Do they still play a great game?  Yes.  Do they still know their stuff?  Yes.  Is it that they just miss a little bit more?  Yes. 

It is just that their ego just can't handle not being TOP and they, under their own steam, wander into the jungle to await their fate.

Either that or they cease public play and only play their neighbor, a few friends, and by themselves while lamenting changes in the game's rules or the deterioration of the personality of the sport.

More than 99.9999% of us always have a bunch of damn dogs above us and a bunch of damn dogs nipping at our heels. 

A close friend once said, "Losing?  Losing?  Losing doesn't bother me, I do it all the time!"  I love taking his money, but he'll only bet $10.  Oh, well.  Then I buy his beer.  So we play for ego, fun, company, and maybe a little bit of money.

If our ego is never trained to believe we are THE TOP DOG, then when our ego gets a beating, what's new?  Our ego will heal.  Have no fear, the ego part (for ALL male players) is a tremendous influence but fun, friends and the possibility of a few quick bucks are enough for most of us to keep coming back for more abuse.

Early in my pool career I was the new dog who could do stuff today that I couldn't do yesterday and not as much as the next day.  Kind of like my income.  Then things leveled off and even though I was still climbing the ladders of success I started glancing over my shoulder and saw many that would never catch me, saw a few that about to shoot right past me and saw lots of those damn heel-nippers.

Maybe that is why they call it WOOFING when top players get together?  Maybe they are trying to set up a match where they can emerge as TOP DOG, be it for tonight or forever?   Maybe that is why it is called DOGging a shot? 

I just played in the Texas State Open 9-Ball tournament with full knowledge that with my best game ever I still wouldn't win it.  It was against a field that had so many BIG DOGS that the best I could hope to do was to trip up one or two of them and at least run over the smaller dogs.  I finished 25/32 of 128 and had fun. 

The guys who finished 2nd & 3rd acted sick and hated their (great) game.  I offered one of them $50 for their cue.  I guess not expecting to be big dog made it possible for me to have fun except for that 7-ball I hung that would have given me 17/24.

TOP DOGS, when their day has come, need to reflect on the wonderful fact that they had their time, can still play a mean game, can have lots of lesser wins, and have lots of comradeship to enjoy. 

Maybe they are so used to defeating contenders for the TOP DOG slot that some Top Dogs have lost the "fun and friends" parts of the game.

When an EX TOP DOG totally ceases play, withdraws from leagues, skip both major and minor tournaments they are only punishing themselves.  The remaining BIG DOGS are very, very happy to have that great player sidelined. 

The great player has, by their own decision, moved from being the TOP DOG or a BIG DOG ahead of us all the way to the 5.99 billion that don't play.  Sure, we know their names and can spot them in a room of 100s of players. 

Why?  Because we fear they may be jumping back into the fracas and just might be the dog we face! 

We are nice.  We compliment their game.  We tell others what a wonderful GREEEAAAAAAAT game they play, but we still want them to sit on the sidelines and smile knowingly because WE know they can still beat us.  I hate that.

This seems to happen to top players in their 50s or 60s.  I don't think there as ever been a TOP DOG in their 70s, but maybe it has happened.  So what is a TOP DOG to do?  We all hate to see a great ballplayer slip to the minors and then become the towel-boy.  Yeah, but quitting is not good either.

Carlo (in the middle - breathing through his mouth)

I'll never be the TOP DOG but I will be able to enjoy the game of pool at all levels for as long as I am ambulatory.  I'll still be whacking at balls, still looking for that perfect game, and rejoicing in a good out. 

All the while, sitting on the sidelines, are EX TOP DOGS who just don't run anymore because their ego won't let them look at another dog's butt.  They are Pool's Royalty in their own minds.

Me, I just thought that was what the Pool World looked like: a long line of dog butts stretching out ahead of me as far as I can see and stepping lively because of young heel-nippers. 

My trick as a dog in the middle of the pack:  I just learned to breathe through my mouth, close my eyes now and then, and just enjoy being able to run and run and run and run and run and run and run and run and run.


Nobody paid me any money to put these links here, I just thought they deserved it.  Tell them Carlo sent you, maybe they'll buy me a beer.

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