December 14, 2017
I originally wrote this in January of 2016. I thought I would share it again. Even though it is my story, it applies to many others as well.
January 30, 2016
Love and Pool
Recently, while in one of the pool rooms I frequent, I heard someone make a comment. This particular person is someone whom I respect both for his ability as a player and as a person in general. The comment was, “I have my own money, but apparently I don’t have my own time.” He was referring to the jealousy the lady in his life feels when he goes to the pool room. When I heard that statement I started thinking. You might say it triggered some old memories of past experiences, most of which I would rather forget. Nonetheless, there they were which leads me to this blog. It is my hope that reading this will help someone to make the right decision and if the young man who made the comment happens to see this, I really hope it helps to open his eyes!
Almost everyone who will see this has been bitten. Nearly all of us in this group have that one thing in common. We have all been bitten by the pool bug! Here is my story:
I started playing this game by accident. The recreation hall at the campground where my parents and I spent our summer vacations had a couple pool tables. If it happened to rain, I might have spent an afternoon banging balls around until the weather cleared. As I became older and started driving and hanging out with friends, I went to a local game room a few times, but honestly, I did not enjoy playing pool at all! In fact, if going to the game room and playing pool was suggested, I would opt out, choosing to do something else or just stay home. At the time it was my opinion that the game of pool was just silly and stupid. Having fun playing the game seemed impossible! I could not understand how or why others had such a good time playing it. Yeah, that was me all the way until 1989.
In 1989 I turned 21. I also found out on my 21st birthday that I was going to be a daddy (happy birthday to me!). One day that year while at my 2nd shift factory job, one of the guys talked about a cool little bar he had stumbled upon in downtown Chattanooga. He said they had a bunch of pool tables, the food was really good, and the beer was cheap! A group of us decided to check it out after work and we all met there later that night. The place was a dive! It smelled terrible! Most of the ceiling tiles had long since fallen from the leaky roof, and there did not seem to be anyone else within our age group in the place. As a matter of fact, it was all a bunch of older guys who yelled at each other, cussed each other then played each other! Anyway, our group gathered at a bar table in the back of the place. The beer was cold, the food, amazingly enough, was very good indeed! I had not played any pool in probably two or more years and had never played more than a couple games in a single outing. Remember, I hated it. But, I came along this time for the social value and was having a good time. I even put some quarters up and played a game or two! Then, as happens so often when alcohol is involved, someone suggested we
start playing for money with the winner keeping the table. I was unsure about this but had just enough beer in me to quash my inhibitions. I was about to play my first ever pool game for money! Little did I know, this was a pivotal moment in my life!
I think I was third, maybe second (it doesn’t really matter) to play. Evidently someone in the group had played a challenge table game before and kept things running smoothly. Up until now, my games had consisted of banging balls around the table, trying to move as many as possible, hoping to make one of “mine” without knocking in the 8 ball! Suddenly, I realized, all that had to be done was to hit the balls in the right place, and they would go in! I had never thought of that before! I won my first game! My opponent paid me, and then promptly put his quarters up to wait his turn to get back on the table. I won the next game as well; and the next; and the next! My pocket was filling up with cash! My buddies could not believe it! After all, I was the guy who hated pool, never wanted to play, and found other things to do if pool playing was the activity of the evening! Some of them actually had their own “pool sticks” which, of course, meant they were “good,” and I was beating them! They kept coming back for more. Game after game I won. I even figured out the basic concept of position play by trying to leave angles on each shot which made it easier to move the cue ball. Don’t misunderstand me. I was in no way running out, drawing the cue ball 3 rails for shape, or anything of that nature. I had no idea what a “stroke” was, nor did I know it was even possible to make the cue ball go backwards, until I saw one of the guys do it. But, I definitely had some sort of advantage over everyone else in my group and by the time I left to go home, I had pretty much busted every single one of them! Remember that bug I mentioned earlier? Yeah, it bit me that night! It bit me hard and I would forever be “infected” by the pool bug!
Pool had become a part of my life. I loved it! I wanted to get better. I went to Service Merchandise and purchased my first cue and case. It was official, I was a pool player! I started to frequent this dive of a bar and practicing by myself on the coin tables and occasionally on the biggest tables I had ever seen! I would go there every night after work, even if I didn’t have any money. I would sit at a booth in the corner and watch. I saw some pretty amazing things, things which intrigued me greatly. This was a culture. It was more than just a hobby to these old guys who were always in here. It was a lifestyle. Of course, little did I know who I was witnessing at the time. Howard Barrett, Vernon Elliott, Charlie Lane, Gene Cooper, and string of others whose names have long escaped my memory or I never knew, came through the doors several times a week. Night after night, week after week, I came and sat in the dark booth and just watched. They didn’t seem to even know I was there or if they did, they certainly didn’t care. They carried on with their barking and haggling and the money they were passing around made my head spin! I wanted so badly, to be good enough to do what they did! That is the story of how it all started for me. At the time, I knew nothing about a “pool bug,” and had no idea what an impact on my future those few weeks would have.
I became a father later that year. With that came responsibilities. I wanted to be a good father and husband, and I tried. I really did. But there was this one thing that kept coming in between us: pool, at least that what I thought and was led to believe. I thought I could be a father and husband, and still play pool. I could not understand the problem, but there definitely was a problem!
By 1992, I was divorced and living in my parents’ basement. After my divorce, I felt extremely guilty about my pool playing. I sold my cues and swore I would never play again! After all, it had ruined my life, right? Even though I had all the time in the world now, I was going to chastise myself forever by giving up the game I loved! That lasted about six months. I finally decided there was no reason for me not to do what I enjoy when I no longer had any marital obligations. I bought another cue and started back playing. This time, after the 6 month hiatus, my game actually improved by leaps and bounds. The break had broken me of most of the bad fundamentals and mechanics I had developed. I basically had to learn all over again, only this time I learned correctly, or at least closer to correct than before.
The old dive bar downtown, which by the way had been called, The Brew n’ Cue, had since closed down and the building demolished. There were a few other places in town to play but none had the vibe, the aura, the personality of The Brew n’ Cue! I missed that place and the old players who seemingly lived there. I would see some of them from time to time, but never again was I able to observe them in their natural habitat at The Brew ‘n’ Cue.
My pool game continued to pick up, little by little over the next 3 years. By 1995, most of the players in town at least knew who I was. I was still green and though my skills had improved, I was far from a force with which to be reckoned. Then it happened! Eyes the color of the ocean! A smile that could bring any man to his knees! And she asked about me! Once again, I was smitten! Lucky for me, at least I thought so at the time, she was a server at the pool room! How could I beat that? Well, to make another long story short, we were married in 1996. Wow! What a mistake I made! Funny thing, I realized it on the way home from the courthouse the day we were married! There had been red flags aplenty over the past year, but again, I chose to ignore them believing I could not play pool and be a good husband.
By 1998, I had all but quit playing again. I was involved with coaching baseball, trips to local BMX tracks, and of course, work. Occasionally, I would venture out for an evening at the pool room. That venture always came with a price which took several days to pay. Eventually, I decided it was not worth the nonsense with which I had to deal afterwards, so my trips became more and more of a rarity. Again, following the belief of the status quo that it was the pool playing which was bad, not that I had made a bad choice in women.
Several years passed by. She still worked at the pool room, only now she was the General Manager. I still had my full time factory job, yet I assisted her at the pool room, running tournaments, dealing poker, and other things for which I was paid. My pool playing was nearly nonexistent. I was at the pool room 4 nights a week, seeing people play, watching a little action now and then, but never was able to play. I was miserable! I started drinking heavily. It became worse and worse. I hated my wife, I hated my life, and I became almost suicidal.
There was something missing from my life and as obvious as it may seem by reading this, I had no idea what it was! It all came to a head late in 2009, and by mid 2010, I was divorced again. This time, however, the marriage, the divorce, had all taken a heavy toll on me.
For the next two years I struggled to recover, looking for ways to cope with all the triggers the years of psychological abuse had created. Finally, I was able to function normally again, and guess what… I started playing pool again!
Over the last 4 years or so, I have come to realize that the failed marriages were not my fault. For some reason society wants us to believe that pool playing is a bad thing. Honestly, it’s no worse than football, baseball, basketball, or anything else someone may do. I figured out that what we as pool players need to understand, is that pool is a part of who we are. When we make choices such as, with whom we want to spend our lives, we are often times blinded by infatuation. We allow ourselves to become smitten by a beautiful woman (or handsome man for some) and relish in the fact that they want to show us affection. This is where the mistake is most often made. It is nearly impossible for someone who does not play pool, someone who has not been bitten by the pool bug, to understand that the game is a part of us. To them, it’s just something we do to pass the time and there is no reason why we can’t just quit doing it and spend every free moment with them, doing what they want to do!
Before going into a relationship, we pool players need to accept ourselves for who we are, and be true to ourselves in our relationships. Someone who understands that pool is more than just a hobby, but an element of our personalities is very difficult to find, for us straight men, anyway. It took me until I was 44 years of age to finally find that person, and let me tell you, I am having a blast! Sure, there are responsibilities and obligations which accompany a relationship, but when the other person understands me and knows what I’m about, those obligations are easily fulfilled!
It is so easy to be seduced by the beauty and affection of those who don’t understand us, but there is a high price for that seduction! I’m here to tell you, there is nothing hotter than having a woman who loves you, sitting in your corner while you’re playing, and she actually knows what is going on! It was a long time coming for me but it was well worth the wait!
My advice to anyone who may be going into a relationship whether serious or not, be true to yourself! Don’t deny your passion for the game. It is not a vice, as some would have you to believe. It is a part of you! If the other person cannot handle that part of you, they cannot handle any of you! Hold out for the one who appreciates you, the whole you! It will be well worth it! If you settle for less, you will be able to deny your unhappiness for only so long before it consumes you. By then, it may be too late!
Kelvin Greenleaf ©2016
This is the lag…
Sponsored by Jacoby Custom Cues
Author: Kelvin Greenleaf
Editor: Shaylyn Troop