Today I wanted to take a moment to talk about how people act in a pool room. We all know that behavior in a pool room is seldom professional, in fact we almost expect the exact opposite these days. And if you play in a league or tournaments things can go to the extreme in terms of bad behavior. Anything from sharking to cheating to trying to intimidate someone, I’ve seen it all in a pool room and never been surprised by any of it. In fact, I am more surprised when someone does something honorable! Think about that for a second………how did we get that way?
No one enjoys being cheated, sharked, air barreled or any number of other things that typically happen in a pool room setting. Obviously there is always going to be someone who will do anything to get a edge when there is money on the line but what gets me is that I see people on a daily basis that would screw their own grandmother over on a friendly game. The core of it is that people have lost their sense of morality when it comes to pool, even at the highest levels we have constant reminders of poor sportsmanship. And please don’t think this is a pro bashing article, it’s not. It’s just that I believe that when you are at that level you are held to an even higher standard whether you like it or not. Fans are watching, and some of those fans are kids. Kids idolize their sports hero and start to act like them. When they see them acting like a two year old because someone got lucky slopping in the 9 ball they think that is acceptable behavior.
Be mindful of this when you play. If you win, act like you have won before. Treat your opponent with respect. And the same if you lose. I always make it a point to pick out something in my opponents game that I liked and tell them. The best thing you can do for your own game is understand the following statement “There is no shame in losing”. No one wants to lose, but even the best player in the world has lost more games than you will probably ever play. It’s part of the process so you better learn to lose with some dignity and respect. You will also find that when you can learn to accept a loss it releases you from a lot of unnecessary stress. If you understand that losing is part of the process you wont be afraid to make mistakes to the point where it cripples your game. Eventually you will learn how to control your fear and even use it to sharpen your focus.
I’m not saying however that you should make a habit of losing, but the simple fact is that you will lose from time to time. Everyone does. I recently played in a handicapped 9 ball tournament. I had to win 7 games to my opponents 4. I broke and ran the first game, then broke dry on the second rack. And that’s where the wheels fell off the cart. My opponent was a 14 year old boy with limited skill, but he possessed one equalizing skill in the game of 9 ball. He hit the balls hard enough that anything could and did happen. He did something to me that I have never seen before. He slopped the nine in 4 times in a row to put me in the losers bracket. And these slop shots where a thing of beauty! He had zero clue where the balls were going and was just as surprised as I was when the 9 went….and went again and again and again!
When the match was over he walked up to me with his head held down in shame to shake my hand. I told him this, “Don’t sweat it, I have won and lost before by the luck of the slop shot. Remember this when it happens to you someday and it will take some of the sting out of it. It happens, it’s just the nature of the game. Don’t feel too bad about it and don’t take pride in it. Just shake hands and go on to your next match, good luck to you. ” Maybe he learns something positive from that maybe not but one thing is for sure, if I acted like a horses ass stomping my feet and crying to anyone who would listen he would have picked up on that and would have walked away with a bad taste in his mouth. That’s not the impression I want to leave with anyone let alone someone that is just getting started in this game.
If we make it a point to lead by example ( a good example ;) ) the future will take care of itself. But if we live only for ourselves and don’t care about tomorrow our sport will continue to decline. We can all do a little to leave this game a little better than we found it. No one is entitled to poor behavior. No matter what your skill level, even if you are the greatest player on the earth, that does not give you the right to disrespect the game or your opponents.
So if you love this game try to remember that the next time you play. Play with dignity, show some class, because you never know who you may be influencing be it good or bad.