Sunday, March 06, 2005

Down at the Y

Though this is my pool blog, I have no intentions of making it a chronological presentation. In other words, I’m going to skip around a bit. Still, I thought I might start off by describing my initial contact with the game of billiards.

It occurred in the late 1950’s in Dover, New Jersey, at the old red brick YMCA building which sat on the corner of Bergen and Rt. 46, across from the park known locally as the Dover Commons.

I had never put those four letters – Y-M-C-A – together until I was introduced to the Y by a young friend, Marty Sullivan. Marty lived downtown and because of that he amused himself with a variety of activities that were new to me, a lad who spent most of his free time in seclusion fishing or thinking about baseball. He spoke of the Y with such excitement I couldn’t resist his invitation to join him one day after school.

And he was right. The Y was a great place. The people who worked there were friendly and welcoming. It was nice to have a place to go to where you didn’t have to worry about people lifting their noses at you or ordering you to get lost. If you were a member of the Y, you belonged.

We’d go there everyday after school and amuse ourselves by shooting hoops, playing chess or ping pong, and occasionally by taking our turn at the pool table.

To be honest, I wasn’t terribly gifted as an athlete and little Marty (I call him that because at that stage, when we were in grammar school, I was one of the tallest kids in our class and Marty was one of the shortest) would beat me as often as not. Pool was no different. There is no pool gene. I was later to find out that my Uncle Nicky was one of the best players around. Still, I just plain stunk.

I remember one of the older guys telling us one day that the secret to making a shot when the object ball is froze to the rail is to aim straight through the center of the cue ball to the point where the ball and the cushion make contact. I occasionally resort to this technique, even today.

Anyway, I didn’t have the fever for the game I would later develop – at that stage of my life, playing pool was just something to do.

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