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Carlo's Table

No Stress There!

90,000 fans bouncing around like Ping-Pong balls in Twister while 3,000 lbs. of low-fat high-muscle meat is staring at you, fully intent on ripping you head off. 

All you have to do is kick this oddly shaped ball 40 years through some uprights whilst allowing for the gusty 15 knot crosswind.  Make it:  An extra $400k and more women than you have seen in your life.  Miss it: You have to sell the house and move away before one of your kids disappears.

That’s pressure.

Remember the gal on TV who was complaining about her stress level at work?  Daddy says she should have come to work for him.  She responds “No stress there.”

The Stage setting:  A bunch of colored balls and pointy sticks and a table with 6 evenly spaced imperfections allowing gravity to lower a ball’s elevation by 6 inches or so for any ball suitably driven as to leak through the stairway to Hades.

You shoot like a pool god for days.  Some bar-sitter asks if you are a Pro and who is prettier in person, Jeannette or Ewa, and could you get him their phone numbers?  You are in dead punch.  Strangers even write in asking for the 7-out and you say yes, sight unseen.  But now it’s tournament time! 

Those little colored balls grow to enormous proportions and constantly get in each other’s way.  The pockets become variable sized creatures opening to swallow your cue ball and opponent’s 9-ball cheeses and shrinking to the size of walnut cups for your shots and his cue ball. 

The side pockets become like avowed Flirting Virgins, accepting nothing, but always showing lots of creamy smooth skin.  (The Flirting Virgins would be a great name for a pool team!  No?)  Long shots look like shooting at BB’s on a 12-foot long snooker table.  You are sure that your cue flexes like a fly rod on center-ball hits.

 I have witnessed an “A” player take deadly aim, drill an 8-ball shot and look up and see that he had just used the 9-ball instead of the cue ball! 

 I watched (along with 100 other players) as a big, powerful man who packs a sidearm as part of his profession calmly walked about the table shooting a game of 8-ball in the State Tourney.  So, you might ask, what is the big deal, “A” players do that, don’t they?

Well, after breaking and making a ball, it hadn’t registered yet that the 8-ball is what had fallen.  So he was methodically knocking off a ball at a time, apparently only thinking 1 or 2 balls ahead.  Even more amazingly, he and his opponent, a billiard magazine editor, had each had a couple of turns at the table during this time! 

Here is a man who is licensed to carry AND USE a firearm on us civilians and the pressure has a storm raging in his brain where he isn’t looking for the 8-ball, the goal-ball.  His opponent writes about pool and missed it!    

The crowd (no pressure when you are in the crowd) had been slowly figuring it out but nobody had any idea how to end the madness other than let one of them eventually see that the damn 8-ball was long gone. 

Or giggle.  Most chose giggling.  May, the giggles were beginning to mount.

Not me.  I started to look for ways to use and abuse the situation.  I figured that after the next shot he sent into the pocket already holding the 8-ball, I’d step up and say “Why’d you do that?  Are you nuts?” 

Of course I’d get a quizzical look in response.  “Why’d you just shoot the 8-ball?”  as I reached a bare hand into the pocket, past his last arrival, and withdraw the 8-ball sure as puppies piddle for a living.  Brain overload in his head just might make his head explode! 

Or if I came to the table with an easy out I’d wait until he looked away and say, “The 8-ball just fell in before I got to the table.  I know you didn’t knock it in but it must have been hanging on a thread or something.”  Then I’d set it back on the pocket edge and bang it out. 

He couldn’t admit he hit it in for that would be a loss.  Certainly it must have been on the edge or how else could it have wound up down in the pocket?  I'd have to add the or something so I wouldn’t wake up in the middle of the night having dreamt about my Daddy chastising me for lying.  I’d have my alibi down, even in my dreams.

We had a team 9-ball tournament to finish off the summer’s 9-ball league and had teams from all over Texas showing up in Dallas.  I had my moments of glory and enough dogs to never consider quitting my day job, but one memorable event certainly occurred.

I step to the table, partially jacked up but about to put an ugly safe on someone and maybe get a good swing at the 9-ball.  I was intent on the shot and positioned my bridge while looking at the shot.  Fool.  Look at the close stuff, too! 

So I proceed to thumb the 7-ball.  No big deal, just move it back, right?  Wrong.  That fargswargled 7-ball rolled to the rail and back, like a snail on a mission.  Too far out for me to dive and stop, besides, I’d probably magnify the damage. 

That 7-ball (whose parents never married) bumped the cue ball, giving my jolly elf of an opponent the opportunity to pronounce the word FOUL with such glee and giggle that I should have typed it F-gigg-O-le-U-gigg-L-le. 

I hereby hope the tip and shaft of everything he owns falls on the floor and get stepped on by someone with fresh gum on the heel of their golf spikes.

Pressure will make your brain skip a step here or there that should not be skipped.  I had rushed to the table to garner my victory and had drop kicked it into the next county.

That put them one off the hill and we stayed on the hill.  I had booted a hill game.  A teammate came to my rescue and took it off thereby avoiding starting yet another chapter for Carlo in the Pool Anal Annals of History.

Fatigue will make matters worse, for sure.  Years ago at the Las Vegas BCA Nationals we began play at 8:00 AM and STARTED our last match at 1:00 AM the next day with steady play the whole day. 

I broke, made, and selected my victims.  I pocketed two balls and was studying the table for my next shot and suddenly the lights went out upstairs.  Not in the ballroom, in my head.  I couldn’t remember which flavor I had.  No crap. 

OK, Carlo, simple solution, just count’em.  Sadly, my brain had lost any concept of any number over 3.  I could NOT count the balls on the table.

OK, I did remember I shot my last shot in that corner pocket and I figured out a clever way to get back to reality.  I’d just wander over to the pocket, peek down in the pocket, and see my last ball.  A stripe and I must be shooting stripes!  Clever, No?

Wander, wander.  Peek.  Peek again.  I peered down into the hole, and even leaned closer.  It was a bar box.  Think about it.  Duh.

Now I go back into wandering mode over to the glass window and step back like I’m studying the table so no one will know that I CRS (Can’t Remember Stripes.)  I’m cool.  Way cool.  Have you ever tried to look through beat up glass and figure out if a ball is a stripe or a solid?  Then try to figure out which ball is last in line.

The answer was to mentally say “OK, bucko, this is taking too much of precious brain power, so go on, get down on you knee, look in the glass, and get it right.” 

What silly pride I had that a 1,000 brain dead pool players would even notice that you are looking in the ball return and deduce you were stricken with a bout of the STUPIDS and would point and giggle for decades.  Nobody noticed, not even my opponent.

I think the answer was the same no matter how you cut it, just GET IT RIGHT.  Do not worry about how much time it takes, or if you look cool, or if anybody can tell at a glance you have a drop of sweat running down the crack of your butt and it’s giving you the wiggling shivers.

At least we don’t have two tackles, two ends and a linebacker trying to extract our liver without surgical instruments or anesthesia. 

I think I’ll stay with pool.  No stress there.


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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