This feels familiar, I thought. There was no New York accent(just silence1 behind wire-frammed glasses), but the results were causing me Deja Vu:
I win eight-ball 3-0;(rather easily, I might add)2, then fall apart in nine-ball.
It’s the first game of nine-ball, and my opponent is looking a two-nine combo up and down. It wasn’t a gimme but it wasn’t that hard, either. I sat impotently in my chair, shook my head, and awaited my fate. This can’t happen again, I thought, I can’t blow a 3-0 lead for the second week in a row. Fuck, why did I leave him that shot and the game and...
He missed. I ended up winning.
He won the next two games of nine-ball, though, and the thoughts creeped back. Especially after I was running out, and blew - just straight up fucking blew - a cut on the eight ball.
He made the eight, but left himself tough on the nine. He missed, and left me with a cut in the side.
The next game, I was (again) running out before I scratched while making the six ball. Great, I thought, only three balls left on the table, ball-in-hand for my opponent. It wasn’t looking good; I stiffly swallowed while trying to shoo away thoughts of last week’s disaster.
My opponent took the cue ball, carefully lined up a shot on the seven, and nailed it - drawing the cue ball right back into the side pocket. I took the gift and the game.
I won the next game too, playing just well enough to win. Dan was rattled a bit. His manner away from the table - so quiet that describing him as ‘soft-spoken’ was equate to calling him boorish - broke briefly for a few seconds after each miss when he threw up his hands, spat out a curse, or slammed3 the chalk on the table.
After choking last week, winning 7-2 felt really, really good. I’d made a few shots that, in practice, I’d been working on. That type of reinforcement, assuring you that practice does indeed “pay off”, is crucial to my confidence as a player. Nothing is more frustrating than working and working on something only to have your muscle-memory and mental faculties fail you in a game situation; thoughts like you’ve worked on this, practiced it, studied it, so if you blow it...well it means all you’ve done is waste your time creep into your brain. Banishing them - with confidence - is a great feeling.
Or maybe that’s just how my mind works.
Alex had a rough night, losing 2-7, and Jen lost a close match 5-7. Mike, though, double-tapped his opponent with a 7-0 victory, his first perfect night. So, overall, we did very well and kept our second-place standing.
Which was good, because the next week, we’d be playing Mimi’s team again.
1Broken by the occasional, barely audible mumble. But a friendly mumble.
2That’s a half-lie, we traded an eight-ball back and forth but I never felt that much in danger because I left him long and he couldn’t make long shots. Still, it wasn’t easy - at least that game.
3Well, slammed for him - it was really more like “slapping” the chalk onto the table.