i remember the days when i first started pool. you may find parallels; a number of players i know have similar experiences.
i’m talking about those marathon sessions when i first started playing. when i began many years ago, i played almost nonstop. everyday. six days a week. i averaged about 7-9 hrs/day, many times longer. i’m talking, basically, a pure, unadulterated obsession. i was obsessed. couldn’t stop. just had to get to the pool hall. and i knew nothing about pool! back then, earl/buddy/archer/david howard/rempe/varner dominated the scene, but i wouldn’t know who they were if you told me. (the filipinos had just started their intercontinental invasion.) absolutely clueless.
no matter. the obsession was there, knowledge or not. i just had to figure out how the better players at the PH could make the cueball travel backwards; that shot defied logic to my naïve pool brain. didn’t even know what that shot was called! didn’t even know what “shape” meant. playing rails seemed like advanced biophysics. center-ball shot? forget it. i didn’t possess a straight enough stroke for that. i was still hooked, despite all these unknowns and how-did-you-hit-that primitivity.
fast forward to present. now that i know more, pool seems less mysterious now. i’m not quite certain, but pool seemed more enjoyable when it was more mysterious. my enthusiasm crested higher when i knew jack s~* about the game. my focus was better back then. i still love pool, but the desire is nowhere as fervent as back then. i can’t decide which is better: being able to enjoy the game as a semi-connoisseur, or a zealous novice wanting to learn everything i could. am i just jaded?
i hear that for some, gambling or hustling in pool can become quite addictive. in polsky’s book Hustlers, Beats, & Others, he interviewed several hustlers as part of his research. some hustlers were totally hooked to hustling; when some of these folks quit hustling pool for whatever reason, they reported that quitting pool hustling actually hurt their bedroom performance. i’ve never gotten into gambling or hustling pool, so i’ll have to take polsky’s word on it.
but the itch; oh, the itch. no matter how long i lay it down, i always seem to return to the game. some say that once the game grabs you by the heart, it never lets go. bene gesserit sisterhood with its acolytes. opium on its users. pool on me.
so what is the divide between a singular pursuit of pool and useless obsession? what is that line? is there nobility in this pursuit? what defines that nobility? is it all vanities?
i guess that’s the question for the ages. in this, i’m the rube.
congratulations to kim davenport, btw, for his deep run in the 2009 US Open. davenport was defeated by lee van corteza in the quarterfinals. it’s fantastic to see an old vanguard of the game playing so strongly still.