opinion by John Woods
Before the tip is chalked, before the table is surveyed, even before stepping up and agreeing to play, a challenger must be aware of and confident of their personal integrity and character. They have to be somebody because nobodies never win.
There are elements of the mythology of the poolroom that strike to the core of humanity. That is what makes great sport. But it is not the glory of sport that drives many players to the game.
Pool may strike another chord that rides closer than symbolic fantasy to the real world of winning and losing. The real world is a cutthroat chaos of legal and illegal free market entrepreneurs backed up by those lucky enough to play with the big boys.
Shooting pool offers that opportunity to anyone with interest and the skill to compete. Its not real life blood sport, but playing under the wrong circumstances might be. To win and then survive, a player first needs to be somebody.
Sometimes, that somebody is indeed a character. If they are great characters, we call them Legends.
Being in a poolroom, unlike other public places where we remain anonymous, requires a person prove who they truly are.
They are a regular patron or not. They know some regulars or not. They bring their own cue or they donít. They can make a ball or they canít.
They want to get better but never practice or take lessons. They can make a few balls then choke for the money. Or they are there every day, playing a couple of hours or more, studying books, magazines, on the net, watching videos, getting better and better.
But even more revealing of a playerís character is their understanding nothing is certain and nothing demonstrated or proved until a player stands center stage with no option but take the shot.
That is what courage at the table is about. It is having more confidence than fear that oneís actions and no others will control entirely the world between the rails.
Self-confidence is more than the product of study, practice, and analysis. It is the foundation of a playerís game and the basis of their capacity to make a shot.
For many players, self-confidence is a fragile fleeting condition that plays on their emotions like a winter wind on a plastic bag in a shopping center parking lot.
But having confidence to be somebody is not about the technology of pool, mastery of a game, or the distractions of a moment. Being somebody is about confidence in oneself as a person. That is the reward of sport billiards offers anyone who accepts the challenge of playing well. It is a by-product of discipline.
Technical confidence comes from mastery of any opportunity presented by the lay of the table. Here is a simple recipe: one part study, ten parts practice, and eleven parts analysis. Repeat as often as possible.
Multiply that by weeks, months, and years. Study how the legends and professional players stand and shoot. Listen to top local players if they offer advice. Study your opponents and yourself as you play.
Find a coach to focus your goals and interests. Test every opinion. Be ready to separate fantasy from fact.
But you cannot do any of these things if you are not somebody. (Everybody knew it could be done, but Nobody did anything until Somebody stepped up).
Being somebody is about respect among players who are humbled by the challenges of serious play and are awed with wonder to witness a series of perfect shots.
Winners are somebody. We want to be winners more often than losers. Winners have objectively proven they are somebody. When they are stars that light a room, we congratulate their victories and wish them success. Isnít that any serious playerís aspiration?
Being somebody is the first step. It is only after deciding to be somebody that any confidence in the technology of pool can nurture the courage it takes to calm down, concentrate, and make the shot.
Pool most touches the core of human potential by offering the opportunity to be somebody. How as players we respond to that challenge defines the essence of our character, and we reveal that entirely anytime we are at the table.
Copyright all John Woods 2009/10