When I was a kid, 15 or 16, the old man took us down to the Jersey shore one summer. This was a time when pool was still the preeminent focus of my life – not girls, not drugs, not work, not any of the things that would later distract me. After checking into a motel, we all went our separate ways. I decided to check out the boardwalk. As I wandered around I came upon an arcade that was located on a pier jutting out over the beach into the ocean. A big fan of pinball machines, I eagerly entered. To my surprise, in the middle of the building stood a couple coin-op pool tables. I couldn’t resist.
I racked the balls up and, being primarily a straight pool player, I placed the head ball where it gave me a break shot. I made the shot and ran the rack. I threw in another couple quarters and repeated the feat. I hadn’t noticed, but while I was playing, a small crowd had gathered around the tables and when I was finished they gave me a round of applause. Much ado about nothing, I was thinking, since at the time I was routinely running 50 and 60 balls. So, I put the stick away and walked out without so much as a word. I wasn't trying to be cool. At this point in my life, I actually was cool. And, I had hair.
As I continued my exploration of the boardwalk, I came across a booth where people were throwing baseballs at kewpie dolls. Four throws, four dolls – win a prize. As I was paying the kid in charge, he suddenly brightened up and said, “Hey, you’re the guy who was playing pool this morning. Man, you’re the best player I’ve ever seen.” We threw baseballs for a while. He taught me that if I hit the base that the dolls were standing on, I could knock three or four dolls over at once. Then, he got someone to cover for him, and proceeded to show me around, introducing me, as we went, to people up and down the boardwalk as the best pool player he’d ever seen. I dug it, to say the least.
My game seldom impresses people, nowadays. Oh, I amaze the bar league players once in a while but we’re talking about people stuck on the bottom rung of the pool ladder – they’re easy to impress. But, last Friday night, at the Hayloft, I had a pretty impressive night.
Helped by a good draw, I moved along thru the winners’ side until it was time to play Chris, a lovely girl and a tenacious competitor. I knew I was going to have to play my best if I wanted to avoid a trip to the losers’ side. I won the flip, gave the tournament director a half a buck for the 8-ball break pot and – BAM – proceeded to make the 8 on the break, thereby garnering the $59 break pot minus $5 which I gave to Chris for giving me such a nice rack.
Next, I had to face Water Softener Jeff for the hot seat. He’d been playing a lot better than me, so far, but I figured my chances were a good 50-50. I won the flip and – BAM – I made the 8 on the break again. As you might expect, my consecutive 8-ball breaks kept the contestants buzzing for the rest of the evening.
My opponent in the finals and I agreed to split the tournament pot as it was after 11 and we both wanted to head home. Let’s face it, he was probably afraid I’d win the flip.