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  • #16
    The LAg #15

    February 11, 2019

    The Lag #15
    The Brew ‘N’ Cue

    1032 McCallie Avenue, Chattanooga, Tennessee: look it up on Google Maps. There is a nice, big modern building which houses a women’s clinic and gyncology offices. It features a well kept parking lot and pristine grounds to welcome patients and make them feel safe in what was once a not so good part of town.

    Let’s go back in time to 1989. The big, beautiful medical center is nowhere to be seen. Instead, a run-down, single story building is on the lot. Probably built in the 1950’s or early 60’s, this building had surely seen better days. Originally, it appeared to have been small strip mall type of structure containing maybe 4 or 5 suites and an underground basement. In 1989, though, it was home to the place which will always occupy a special place in my heart, the place where it all started, and the place where I first learned that “pool” was more than just a game to pass the time while drinking beer. This was the place where I learned that pool was a culture, a way of life, and a religion complete with its own “gods” who controlled everything on the tables. I learned there was also a set of unwritten rules which could only be learned by those who were willing to allow themselves to be indoctrinated into the culture. This was The Brew ‘N’ Cue!

    The Brew ‘N’ Cue was a shrine to a dying era! Walking through the doors was like stepping into a time capsule. The decorum, the layout, the people, all gave it an aura which can only be found in the movies these days. On the other side of the front door was the bar area. A space approximately 25 feet wide and maybe 40 feet long with the bar running along the whole left side of the room. The rest of the space was filled with seating where patrons could sit, relax, and enjoy their beverages while watching the single television above the bar. Right in the middle of the right side wall, was a wide doorway which led to about 5 stairs going down into the pool room. Walking down the steps you were greeted by four 9-foot Gold Crowns with about an acre of real estate between them! To the left, against the wall was a pro-shop of sorts. In this pro shop sat Howard Barrett. Ball rental, minor cue repair, pool stories, and tongue lashings could all be obtained through old Howard, if he wasn’t asleep in his chair.

    Walking deeper into the dark, smoky room you would find a row of Valley bar boxes. 1 quarter would get you 10 balls. There was no “bar-banging” 8-ball played on these tables! No sir! 9-ball rotation was the game for these tables and they were reserved for action only! A free Howard Barrett tongue lashing was included for the poor soul who shoved a quarter into one of these tables with no intention of gambling! That’s right, it only took one time for me to learn my place was in the very back where the tables had all 15 balls and the price was two quarters! “Action only on these tables! Idiots and bangers in the back! Y’all stay off these tables!” Of course, there were a few expletives intertwined amongst the words of his main message. He made it very clear, to me anyway, that there were certain people, certain players who, whether I liked it or not, were more important to the establishment than me and my friends were, no matter how much beer we drank or seasoned fries we ate! Yes, in the back behind yet another wall with two wide openings was “the banger area.” If you didn’t have your own cue, if you had no intention of gambling for more than $1 per game, and if you couldn’t make two balls in a row (on purpose), this is where you played.

    I can’t be sure now how many evenings I spent back in the banger area peering through the doorway from our exile into the action area listening and watching wide-eyed as the hustlers and gamblers barked at each other, matched up, and argued over everything; which table to play on, how much to bet, what the spot should be, or if someone had moved the penny the wrong way. Occasionally one of those guys would make their way back to the land of the idiots and prey on the guy who had just purchased his new cue from Service Merchandise and thought he was a pool player. OK, that was me… That was when pool school really started!

    On weekend nights The Brew ‘N’ Cue would get crowded. Just a few blocks from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, it was actually a popular hangout for students. In the basement was a large room with a stage where live bands would perform and for a small door fee, patrons could go downstairs and party to their hearts’ content. I believe that is called, “getting lit” nowadays. Yeah, we knew how to “get lit” back in the 80s, too. We just didn’t do it around the pool tables! Upstairs in the pool room the lights were turned down, the music was never too loud, and pool was being played. In the pool room, pool came first! The Brew ‘N’ Cue was a pool hall, after all, and Howard made sure it was run like one!

    Of my group of friends it seemed I was the only one to have been bitten by the bug. Before long, I was going to the Brew ‘N’ Cue by myself. After being hustled a few times I finally realized there was a whole lot more to playing pool than I realized! I wanted to learn how to do it right! I sat on the sidelines and watched intently. I stayed out of the way and learned to respect the players who played this game. I would ask Howard questions. Much to my surprise, he was happy to get up and show me some things, if no one else was around. I was no longer banished to the back room. I was allowed to play in the action area, although if there was big action I had to make sure my small action was not in the way. We were usually a couple tables away from the high rollers. They grew to like me not because I was such a great guy, but because everything I won always went back into action. The money went up the food chain!

    The Brew ‘N’ Cue was the epitome of what a pool hall should be! Looking back, one of the great things was they made room for everyone, but everyone knew where they were supposed to be. Pool players have never been able to keep pool halls open. Pool halls have always had to depend on others for the revenue. The Brew ‘N’ Cue allowed the “idiots” and the “bangers” to come in, spend money, and support the room, but they did not allow them to run the show. Not all of the bangers understood why they had to play in the back. Not all of the bangers understood why they had to walk around the outside of the room instead of right through the middle of the pool tables, but they did understand that they had to do it! And you know what? They did it, and continued to spend money, and came back to do it again on another night! Another crazy thing that happened was occasionally one of those “bangers,” one of those “idiots” would fall in love with the game and become indoctrinated into the culture!

    I don’t really know how long the Brew ‘N’ Cue stayed on McCallie Avenue. In 1989 my son was born. Needless to say, my pool playing was cut back a good bit, though not as much as my son’s mother would have liked. Living on the other side of the county from Chattanooga, my play was limited to the game rooms which were closer by, and the occasional trip to Chattanooga. I was attracted to another pool room with an old fashioned appeal and started playing there more often at the time not realizing what I was missing at the Brew ‘N’ Cue. Then one day I just happened to notice, the building was gone and with it an era of pool in Chattanooga was gone as well.

    There were other places to play in the city. The premiere pool room was Chattanooga Billiard Club in their nostalgic location on Cherry Street downtown. Shooters, turned to Parkway Billiards and stayed open after hours. CBC east opened in 1992 offering a more upscale billiard experience away from the college crowd. Hot shots, Diamond Billiard Club, EJ’s, Side Pockets, Double Hill Billiards, Breakers, many places came and went while some have managed to go the distance and are still there today. Ask any pool player from Chattanooga who is at least 50 years old about The Brew ‘N’ Cue. They all will tell you the same thing. That was the spot! That was Chattanooga’s Mecca for pool action! I think all of us really miss that place! I know I sure do! I wish there were more places like that these days but I’m afraid the days of the old-school pool halls are gone forever.

    This is The Lag… Hit ‘em good, my friends!
    "You can have the bragging rights, I'll take the cash!"-me


    • #17
      The Lag #16

      February 19, 2019

      An Honest Humbling for a Hungry Hustler

      It was 1993. I had been through my first divorce a little more than a year earlier. After spending several months getting my head back together I was back in the pool room. Picking up a cue after taking some time off turned out to be one of the best things I could have ever done, as far as playing pool is concerned. I had developed many bad habits with stance, posture, stroke, pretty much everything to do with how I played. But when I came back I had to relearn how to play and all of those bad habits were gone! Granted, I still didn’t really know how to make a ball, but at least now I had stronger fundamental base on which to build.

      The new, East location of the Chattanooga Billiard Club had just been built. It was like nothing Chattanooga had ever seen! The mystical, dark, dank pool room was becoming a thing of the past and “CBC” was the pool room of the future. It was bright, clean, carpeted, and spacious with 24 tables including a Snooker table and a Billiard table, four 9-footers and the rest 8-footers. Two large, raised seating areas offered plenty of room for spectators and diners to sit in comfy chairs to sweat matches or watch the big screen televisions while they enjoyed a meal from the full restaurant menu and drinks from the fully stocked bar. Darkly stained wood and decorative brass bars embellished the interior giving it that final touch of “upscale” distinguishing CBC as a billiard parlor instead of a pool hall. With a club membership, drastic savings on table rental and pro shop items could be had by any who were willing to pay the menial fee for the annual membership. This was my new hang out!

      Working 2nd shift at the Little Debbie factory since 1987, I had become somewhat of a night owl. I would rush straight to CBC after work and close the place down nearly every night. The night crowd consisted mostly of people my age who worked in the service industry or other local factory workers. There were a few guys who played better than the rest of us, but still not what I would consider good players.

      I don’t remember how I happened to go into CBC early the first time but what I do remember is the daytime clientele was a little different! These guys could play! Most of them were older, retired or worked from home, or just had money and didn’t really have to be anywhere if they didn’t want to. All of them would play for a little cash. It didn’t matter what table. They played 8-ball, 9-ball, Snooker, Golf on the Snooker table, even some 3 Cushion Billiards, and One Pocket! I, like most everyone, had started out playing 8-ball not knowing any other games existed. Then I learned about 9-ball. What a game, that 9-ball! Flog at everything, chunking for the cheese! Now, that was fun! So naturally, 9-ball was what I wanted to play when I decided I was going to show these old fogies what youngster could do! I could roll the 9 from anywhere, and I did! Sometimes, it would even go in, sometimes… What I didn’t count on was, these old guys just went ahead and ran out. What? Where was the fun in that? Well, I imagine having a wad of cash placed in their hands after it was over was all the fun they needed! What was that saying Fast Eddie coined in The Color of Money? “Money won is twice as sweet as money earned.” On the flip side of that coin, money lost is twice as sour as money spent. I came to realize pretty quickly where I stood in the pecking order. Once I got that figured out, I was ready to be a student of the game and these old guys were going to be my instructors whether they knew it or not!

      I started frequenting CBC during the daytime hours more often. Since they opened at 11:00 am, I had about 3 hours to play before I had to rush to work. The old guys were there every day and were more than happy to “gamble” with me for the short time I had available. Some days I would get so involved with playing that I would come down with horrible afflictions and not be able to make it to work. That happened way too often! In fact, my boss finally required a doctor’s note every time I was “sick” and unable to work. Fortunately, in those days medical insurance was actually worthwhile and a trip to the doctor for a cold, flu symptoms, or other minor ailments was relatively cheap. Yes, it was actually affordable before the Affordable Care Act! Anyway, so I found the most inexpensive and effective condition was viral Pink Eye. I found that out by actually getting it for real and missing two weeks of work while it ran its course. If I wanted a few days off work all I had to do was drive to the doctor’s office, dab a little soap in my eye and wait for the conjunctivitis diagnosis. BOOM! 3 days off work, minimum! I could play pool to my heart’s content! To this day I often wonder how I was able to keep my job at the plant for just shy of 25 years!

      Every one of those daytime players had an impact on me and my pool game in some way or another. There was one guy in particular who actually referring to him as a “guy” seems somewhat disrespectful. He was, Mr. Allen. A military veteran from World War 2, Mr. Allen was confined to a wheelchair and appeared to be approximately 300 years old. He always wore a smoking jacket, an Ivy hat, and chewed on a half-smoked stogie as big around as the butt of a cue! Although smoking was allowed in CBC, I never saw Mr. Allen smoke his cigar. He just held it with his teeth and when he spoke, well, I think we’ve all heard or can imagine someone speaking with a large cigar in his mouth! Mr. Allen played One Pocket. He would roll around the table in his wheelchair bumping balls to the rail driving his opponents insane as they tried to shoot balls at their own pocket. I had seen the game before but never had any real interest in it. It seemed stupid and downright boring to me. If there are 6 pockets on the table why only use two of them? Yeah, crazy, what a dumb game, One Pocket! 9-ball was the game, baby! Roll them all, test the rails, one will fall!

      In my simple, little mind I was an up-and –coming player with high aspirations of “going pro.” I had watched both The Hustler and The Color of Money several times and knew how to handle myself in the pool room. What attracted me to this game of One Pocket was not the intrigue of an intellectual game pitting the wits of each player against each other in a strategical battle of chess moves on the pool table. No, it was the fact that Mr. Allen had seemingly no stroke, couldn’t reach the cue ball if it was in the middle of the table, and appeared to miss everything at which he shot! Mr. Allen drove a brand-new, bright, red Cadillac Coupe de Ville with a white top. That car was always spotless, immaculate! I had heard he lived up on one of the nearby mountains, either Lookout Mountain or Signal Mountain, which was also an indication of being well-to-do. Yep, that was my incentive to learn One Pocket. How hard could it be, anyway? Mr. Allen was going to be my meal ticket. He was going to make all this time off from work pay off. I was going to beat him out of his fortune, a little at a time every day until I could afford the finer things in life! So I asked him to teach me the game starting out at $5 per game. Of course, it was a hustle. It was perfect! I was going to pretend I didn’t know anything, let him drop his guard, and then beat him out of his cash! By the end of that first day I had barely enough cash to get to work until payday. Eat? Luckily, the Little Debbies were free in the break room. They weren’t much for sustenance but they kept my stomach from growling! Boy, oh boy! What a hustler I was!

      After that initial session with Mr. Allen, I was hooked! Needless to say, he put a humbling on me and made me realize I wasn’t quite as smart as I thought I was. I learned that One Pocket took more brains than brawn, and even though I might have been the better shooter, Mr. Allen could move circles around me! That became my daily ritual. I would meet Mr. Allen at CBC when they opened and play until I had to go to work, unless I called in sick. I’d like to think I was a quick learner, but in reality I don’t think I was. Mr. Allen would laugh and laugh at me as I would repeatedly get so frustrated I would start slamming balls around! Day in and day out we would play. For weeks, then months and I never finished a session ahead of Mr. Allen! I was learning though, and I put that knowledge to work at night, after work. The guys who came in at night would play and lose to me, just as I was losing to Mr. Allen. The more I played the game, the more I fell in love with it! No longer did I think One Pocket was a dumb, boring game. I was beginning to understand how complex and intricate it could be. I was learning how to out maneuver my opponents instead of relying on brute force and firepower to beat them. I was still a tiny, little guppy in a big pond, but I was growing. How much I would grow was up to me and destiny.

      As time went by, I did finally start to beat poor, old Mr. Allen. I was no longer gunning for his fortune, though. I had grown to appreciate what he had taught me and respect him not only as a player, but as a person. He had to know my intentions when I came after him to play. He could have broken me, but he didn’t. Instead he just played for a measly 5 bucks a game, doing what he loved and helping a young, cocky dude learn the beautiful game of One Pocket along with a little much needed humility.

      I don’t know what happened to Mr. Allen. I would assume that by now he has been gone for quite some time. I saw less and less of him as I dove deeper into this fascinating world of pool until finally, I had all but forgotten him. Again, life continued for me and I drifted away from the game. I can’t remember ever thinking of Mr. Allen again until just a few days ago when someone asked me how long I had been playing One Pocket. All of a sudden, a tsunami of memories flooded my mind and I have thought about almost nothing else! Maybe I’m getting a little sentimental in my old age, I don’t know. But I wish I could tell Mr. Allen how much I appreciate him and what he did for me. Back then, I really had no idea how great of an impact he was having on me. Now I understand. I never became the great player I once thought I could be, but thanks to Mr. Allen I developed a love and passion for the game of pool that would compete with anyone! That’s what Mr. Allen did for me and for that, I will be forever grateful! Now, I hope that somewhere along the way I have or I will spark that same passion in someone else and pass along the legacy of Mr. Allen.

      This is The Lag…
      "You can have the bragging rights, I'll take the cash!"-me


      • #18
        The Lag #17

        The Lag #17
        Pride, Passion, and the Pool Gods

        Have you ever felt so discouraged with your game that you have vowed to quit and never play again? And then the next day or a few days later there you are, back in the pool room, looking for action or signing up for a tournament! How many cues have you broken in a fit of rage over a game lost, a miscue, or just plain bad playing?
        Living down here on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi I can’t tell you how many times I have contemplated throwing my cue case with all of its contents over the side of the Ocean Springs Bridge into Biloxi’s Back Bay, or the I-10 bridge over the Pascagoula River, or maybe even into Lake Ponchartrain on my way back from New Orleans. Despite pounding the bejesus out of my steering wheel and screaming at myself for miles during the drive home, I have never actually followed through with my empty threats of chucking my equipment into any of the thousands of creeks, rivers, lakes or bayous which cover more area than dry land in this part of the country. I have, however, snapped a cue shaft in anger over the way I was playing. You better believe that shaft learned its lesson and never played bad for me again! How stupid! Snapping an OB Pro Plus shaft in half is like shredding two $100 bills into confetti and tossing the wad into the air to watch it rain. I have witnessed thousands of dollars worth of cues turned into splinters during fits of rage, so I suppose I’m the lucky one with my little $200 shaft!

        What is it that causes these feelings, these actions by us pool players? Are we just that irrational that we will literally throw away hundreds or thousands of dollars over a mistake we have made? I mean, I have never seen a cue that makes bad decisions, bad games, lose more money than it has, or intentionally starts hitting balls badly out of the blue. And why do we threaten ourselves with quitting? Pool is a game for which a tremendous amount of skill is required to play well, but there is still a variable of luck involved, even at the highest levels. When we work hard to perfect our craft and then the pool gods come along and dash our hopes and dreams by letting a “banger” get the best of us in a tournament we tend to feel a bit hopeless, like we have just been wasting our time. Why strive to be the best we can be if we’re still just going to get beat by dumb luck? And let’s face it, some people are just more lucky than others!

        So we still have not answered the question. Why do we do this? Why does this happen? I don’t think the question can be answered definitively, only speculatively, maybe. All I can do is speak for myself and assume that I am among the norm when it comes to the psyche of pool players. I think I can sum it up in one word: passion!
        Those of you in the pool world who know me know that I am very passionate about pool in general but specifically the game of One Pocket. At 51 years of age I have been playing pool for the better part of 30 years and One Pocket for about 25 of those. Though I have never and will never be among the upper echelon of players, I believe I share the same amount of passion for the game as those guys. Just because it doesn’t translate into skill doesn’t mean it’s not there. I absolutely love the game and have dedicated nearly a lifetime of “spare time” to playing and mastering it. So, when something happens which undermines all of the hard work I have put into my game it is frustrating. For example: my opponent lays down a pretty good break. I have to study the table for a few moments to figure out what my answering shot is going to be. Finally, I find it and execute it perfectly. A few innings later, and I’m out of his break and have control of the table. I have one final move to make before I’m ready to start pocketing balls. I leave him buried in the stack with no way out. His only options are taking an intentional foul which would leave me in the stack, or he could jack up over a ball and attempt a long rail bank which would be catastrophic for him after the inevitable miss. How many of you can finish the scenario from here? He goes for the long rail bank, hits it so badly the object ball crashes into the stack breaking it wide open, and caroms into his pocket. Seven shots later the game is over after his “8 and out” from nowhere! Sure, it can be argued that his luck will not last, the rolls will even out in the end, and any other clichés of which anyone can think, all of which may be true. But the fact remains, it happened and the damage is done. I’m not speaking about damage to a bankroll or moving up on the scoreboard. I’m talking about damage to the mental game. I worked hard, I played the better game, and I stayed in control and lost to dumb luck. That will take a toll on anyone’s mind. Suddenly, instead of shooting with confidence and executing perfect moves, every shot is second guessed with a giant, “WHAT IF.” The elbow tightens up, the wrist starts flopping, the stroke gets jerky, all because in my mind my perfect game was not good enough.
        Now it is no longer dumb luck. Now I am just playing bad. My opponent is not “getting all the rolls” as I am claiming because I can’t admit to playing this badly. I’m allowing him to “freestroke” on me. Mad and frustrated, I can’t accept the blame so I have to lash out. My opponent is just lucky, the pool gods hate me, the table is playing terrible, my tip is messed up, the excuses pour out doing nothing but making me even angrier because I know the truth! The truth is I played bad! I allowed one moment of misfortune to get to me so badly that I completely self destructed!
        How many times have you watched a player self destruct? We sit in the crowd of sweaters watching a big money match or a tournament match between two key players and this happens to one of them. We can sit there, recognize what is going on and criticize it from our chairs, yet still fail to act accordingly when it happens to us. I believe it is all about passion.
        Being a pool player is a state of mind. I don’t believe it has anything to do with skill. Anyone who has the passion to play the game, whether they play it well or not, is a pool player. With that passion comes a certain amount of pride. What? You think pool players have no pride? Every pool player is proud! Some can just hide their pride better than others which can be a good thing for gambling, but you better believe every pool player has pride in what he or she has accomplished! When something happens to hurt that pride we can be irrational. I think that pertains to everyone. The anger we display, the irrational behavior, it all stems from our pride being damaged and making our passion seem like a waste of time and energy. When the anger subsides and the irrationality is finished, that same pride and passion takes over once again driving us to fix whatever it was that went wrong. Weaknesses in our mental game can prove to be much more detrimental than any bad physical habits we may have with our stance, stroke, or bridge. No matter how much we practice, how many lessons we pay for, if we don’t develop our mental game our improvement is limited. We have to learn to bounce back and recover from these occurrences. The pool gods are always going to be there wreaking havoc whenever and upon whomever they choose. It’s up to us to develop our own defense against them and learn how to learn from the lessons they give us.
        So the next time you see a pool player throwing his cue like a javelin, smacking it on the table like a whip, slamming down the rack and shaking his head in disgust, don’t write him off as a crybaby too quickly! He might just be a super passionate player being served a lesson from our beloved pool gods!

        Hit ‘em good, my friends! This is the lag…
        "You can have the bragging rights, I'll take the cash!"-me


        • #19
          The Lag #18

          The Lag #18
          $20 Per man, $2 Hickies

          Golf, on the Snooker table, in my opinion one of the most fun games ever invented in cue sports! I was introduced to this game back in 1992 or maybe it was 1993 at the Chattanooga Billiard Club where there was a nine foot table which had been converted into a Snooker table with all the spots for the numbered balls as well as the “D” on the headstring for Snooker. As if learning to play Snooker was not difficult enough with those tiny balls and oddly shaped pockets, the “old guys” had to put regular America pocket billiard balls on that table and play Golf! I remember wrinkling up my forehead and asking, “What?” Of course, being the youngster with an ego made me the house sucker and before I knew it, I was playing Golf on the Snooker table!
          I would like to think I may have actually won a few games, but I don’t remember for sure. More than likely, I did not win any but I do remember playing that game was really, really fun! The games in which I played were relatively cheap with 5, 6, or maybe 7 of us playing. Once all the hickies were added up the winner usually made out like a bandit! Like rotation ring games, the best player did not always have to win. Once a player started to get a few hickies, it became more and more difficult for them to catch up. Many times, the hickies would outnumber the price per man and even playing 25 or 50 cent hickies would add up to several dollars in our friendly game.

          During this era the Chattanooga Billiard Club, or CBC as it is still called today, was getting quite a bit of action. Players were coming through town and taking on the best we had to offer. We had a few players and a couple of guys with sizeable bankrolls who didn’t mind putting those players in the box to take on the likes of Wade Crane, Gene Cooper, or a young, heavyset kid with super soft hands who called himself, Jeremy Jones. When these guys came through town inevitably there would be a game of Golf on the snooker table. When the prices of these games would edge up towards the title of this blog entry, I could be found on the rail watching the big dogs go at it! I remember that it didn’t seem to matter who was playing or how much the wager, someone playing would get their feelings hurt over the amount of hickies they were being charged. This would lead to some often times loud, colorful language which, to those of us on the rail, was quite entertaining! When the game was over and the bills were being passed around, there was always someone grumbling and wadding up his bills as he threw them on the table. Then they would flip coins and go again and someone else would end up being the whipping boy.
          There was one such game with a high price tag being played one busy evening. This game was probably 7 or 8 handed but I don’t recall exactly who all was playing. I may have been known to ingest a few chemicals during that period and my memory of that time can be somewhat foggy. I know I was playing 9-ball a few tables away and my buddy, Chris, was in action playing 9-ball on the table directly foot to foot with the snooker table. Keep in mind I was pretty green but I had figured out that if there was “big” action, I did not want to be playing on any table directly adjacent to the big action table. I guess Chris had not figured that out yet, though he should have because he worked there! Anyway, this particular night he was off work and in action with someone probably playing $2 9-ball or maybe races to 5 for $10, something along those lines. Anyway, you get the picture, he was playing cheap, really, really cheap, right next to the guys who could have made a mortgage payment with what they would win in that one game of Golf! Chris was winning and he would holler down at me after every game with a big grin on his face (no, he didn’t do any chemicals he was just high on life!) to let me know he won another one. So of course, I would look over at him in acknowledgement and try to read his opponent for signs of giving up. Well, Chris had hollered at me, and I stopped to watch him break the next game. Did I mention that Chris was even greener than me? Yeah, he hadn’t been playing long so needless to say, his stroke did not always strike the cue ball where he intended to strike it. Yep, he might have hit this break shot a little low on ol’ Whitey! Or maybe a lot low! That sound, that horrible, horrible sound made when trying to draw the cue ball and it’s cued too low scooping it into the air, that’s the sound we all heard. Me, Chris, his opponent, and all the guys playing Golf, turned to watch the cue ball sailing through the air right toward the Snooker table! Everyone was frozen and the ball seemed to be floating in slow motion, but no one could move to try and deflect it away! When it landed squarely in the middle of the Snooker table it made that other awful sound heard in the pool room of a ball being slammed into the slate. As soon as it hit, everything shifted back to normal speed. The cue ball made it to the head rail of the Snooker table without touching a ball and immediately careened back down the table at warp speed. Before anyone could do anything to stop it, it had hit the top rail twice and was heading toward the bottom rail again. It never disturbed any balls in the Golf game! Not one! It didn’t touch anything! Somehow, Chris had managed to hit it straight, with no spin, and it had gone back forth twice without disturbing the high-action Golf game! He got lucky! I don’t think any of those guys would have physically hurt him, but I bet he would have gotten quite the tongue lashing from several or all of them! Though he could play dumb at times, Chris was not. He was a quick learner. After retrieving his cue ball, he and his opponent moved to another table as far away from the Snooker table as they could get! The Golf game continued with the old guys chuckling and shaking their heads at the antics of the uneducated youngster!

          The Snooker table did not last long at CBC. Aside from the Golf games, maybe few games of 6-ball rotation, and the occasional game of Snooker the table sat dormant and was not much of an asset for the establishment. After removing it along with the billiard table on the other side of the building, two 9-foot Diamonds took their places. To this day those Diamonds are still there, right where once were a 9-foot Snooker table and a 9-foot Billiards table. I believe that was 1993 or early 1994. I have not played a game of Golf on a Snooker table since! It’s just not the same on a regular table. Those sure were some great memories, though!
          This is the lag…
          "You can have the bragging rights, I'll take the cash!"-me


          • #20
            The Lag #19
            April 18, 2019

            A Day in My Double Life
            5:30 am
            My alarm goes off, waking me from a rare deep sleep during which I was dreaming about flying Jeeps doing aerobatics, and playing pool at the flying Jeep air show. I sit up, remove the ear plugs from my ears and the black sleeping mask from my face. It’s the beginning of a new day in the life of me, the lowly warehouse clerk.
            6:30 am
            I’m dressed and ready for work, but I am frantically packing my bag for my life after work, aka, “Life after death!” Yes, it’s Thursday and I have a 9-ball tournament to run tonight. So, I pack my tournament bag making sure all the necessary items are in there; my records book, sign up sheets, Calcutta sheets, Break & Run sheets, all forms I use to keep meticulous records of all my tournaments, my tablet, envelopes, pens, Chromecast unit, extension cord, “RESERVED” signs for the tables, and a shirt to change into after work. I grab my cues and head down my hallway to the front of the house, stopping in the kitchen to grab my 44 ounce coffee cup.
            6:45 am
            Finally, I am navigating out of the neighborhood, through the maze of school children and their millennial parents who never learned that standing in the middle of the street and not looking both ways before crossing the street can be dangerous, much less taught their children anything of the sort! Parents who are still children themselves and seem to think the fact that I’m in my car driving on the street while their little snot-nose brats are playing tag in that same street, should be an offense worthy of the death penalty! Once past all that I merge onto I-10 eastbound, headed toward Alabama and dodging the abundance of stupid drivers who use this thoroughfare every morning.
            7:30 am
            I walk into work. I’m almost always the first one there. I shut off the security alarm system and clock in as a feeling of doom and gloom settles in to make the next 8 and a half hours seem like an eternity.
            8:01 am
            My cell phone rings, it’s a call from home. Always worried when I receive a call from home during work hours, I answer it quickly. I am informed that I left my cues leaning up against the wall in the kitchen… Great… Now I can’t even practice. Oh well, right now I’m playing the worst pool I’ve played since I was learning to play so I don’t need them anyway. Hell, I don’t deserve to even own a cue, the way I’m playing now!
            9:15 am
            After answering several phone calls and emails, all of which were totally unnecessary, redundant, and just downright ignorant, I start writing this, in between more calls and emails.

            Now, obviously my day has not ended yet so the rest of this is not true history. But, I can base the rest of this on my typical Thursday, which I will do.
            From here on out I will be answering more calls and emails, maybe loading out a few customer pick ups, all while basically just wishing someone would shoot me in the head or a stray missile from North Korea would hit the warehouse, taking me out of my misery! I stay in trouble for my customer service skills, or lack thereof, never following customer service protocol and actually telling customers the truth, even if they don’t like it! I just can’t seem to grasp the concept of simply telling them what they want to hear to get them off the line! Also, being the writer I am, my response to some of the emails can be somewhat harsh. Apparently, I have a way with words which, when I want to do so, I can make the recipient feel very, very stupid. Evidently, some of the folks up in the corporate offices and the main customer service department have had their little feelings hurt by a few of my responses to their emails. What can I say, though? If you ask a stupid question, you’re going to get a stupid answer! Thirty seconds of research might lead some of them to the answer for which they are looking and would save them from the humility of being called out by me for their ignorance! Sorry, I have my own job to do instead of doing your job for you! Until 4:00 pm, this is my miserable life. This is who I am during the day.
            3:54 pm
            I have my desk cleaned. My keyboard and mouse have been shut off. I have already changed shirts, put my contact lenses in my eyes, and have my little day bag containing my glasses, contact lens case, and some medications from my recent illness, closed up and ready to go. I am, at this point, waiting for the clock to tick over to 3:55 so I can clock out and put an end to this work day!
            4:00 pm
            I am in my car once again dodging traffic in Theodore, Alabama and headed to Northwest Mobile where Runway Billiards is located. That feeling of doom and gloom is gone. Thoughts of order numbers, ceramic tile, hardwood, rolls of carpet and padding are nothing but a distant memory. None of that is my problem any longer! I’m on my way to my happy place!
            4:30 pm
            I have already carried an armload of stuff into the pool room. I am setting up my tablet with the chromecast, getting my paperwork ready, and laying the “RESERVED” signs on the tables I’ll be using for the tournament. It’s a precaution I take just in case a group of power drinkers comes in before the tournament and wants to camp out on one or more of those tables.
            5:00 pm
            By this time I am usually either practicing by myself or in some light action. Since my illness, which lasted most of February and March, my pool game has fallen off tremendously! So, I have become reluctant to play even if it is light action because I am so frustrated with my game. Practice, I suppose, is what I really need, but since I left my cues in the kitchen this morning I suppose practice will just have to wait!
            7:00 pm
            I will be sitting in my chair at the end of the bar from where I run the tournaments. I’ll be ready for sign ups from participants and selling tickets for the Break & Run pot.
            8:00 pm
            It’s Thursday so the Calcutta will be starting. Hopefully there will be lots of players and bidders to make the Calcutta a good one!
            8:30 pm
            Sometimes it‘s a little later than this, but most of the time it’s right around this time when I start loading the names into the tournament program to start the bracket. As soon as I finish and the bracket is set, I will call the first matches and the tournament will begin. Once the first matches are going, I will count the money, figure the payouts, and divide it all into their respective 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place envelopes. Now, I can settle back and watch some pool! Running the bracket is the easy part. For the next few hours life is grand!
            11:00 pm
            This is the approximate time of the Break & Run drawing. I do it when the tournament gets down to the final 6 players, 4 on the one-loss side and 2 on the winners side. Sometimes we get to that point more quickly than others, but I try to do the drawing no later than 11:00 pm, or very shortly thereafter. As soon as the Break & Run attempt is finished, the tournament is back underway with the final 6 players. This is the time when I try to pay the closest attention to what is going on, who is playing whom, the scores of the matches, any incredible shots, safety battles, break and runs, any information I might need to make my tournament report, which I will write on Friday from my desk in Hell, a little more interesting than the norm. Many times, as the tournament gets down to the final few players, the matches start to take a little longer. Players are being more cautious and taking their time looking for patterns and lining up their shots. No one wants to finish fourth! Usually, even third place is a decent payday with the Calcutta money, so getting knocked out on the bubble due to a careless mistake is something everyone wants to avoid. What it does do, is make for some very good matches of pool for the spectators who remain in the building to witness.
            1:00 am
            On most nights I am on the road by now, headed back home. Occasionally, we will still be finishing up at this hour, but that is a rarity.
            1:30 am
            I pull into my driveway, load up my arms and trudge to my front door. Joyce has gone to work so the house is empty with the exception of Drillbit. Drillbit is my 6 pound, 10 year old Chihuahua who thinks he weighs 100 pounds and is only 2 years old! By this time he has been by himself for several hours and needs to go outside. I put down my armload of stuff, turn on the outside lights, which I’m sure my neighbors love to see at this hour, and we head out into the back yard for Drillbit to walk around in circles sniffing for that perfect spot to lay his waste material. Sometimes that spot can be very elusive making the search time seem like hours! Finally, after “doing his business,” and hiking his leg on every fallen twig, fence corner, and plant that is taller than the grass, he is ready to go back inside.
            Once back in, Drillbit gets his treat, takes it to bed, curls up and is asleep before I can even get my shoes off! I still have to get my coffee pot ready and take out my contact lenses before crawling into bed at about 2:00 am. As I close my eyes, knowing my alarm is going to rudely interrupt my slumber in less than 4 hours, my mind always starts replaying events of the day. What order number was that? What a shot on table #2! What did that customer say? Who won the hot seat match? That crazy woman in customer service wants what? Who played on table #1 after the Break & Run attempt? How many balls did he make? Where did I put that Return Authorization? That was a great out! Who shot it? Did I finish that requisition? Is the light bill due tomorrow? I need a new tire for my car. How many more days until the Buffalo’s tournament?
            5:30 am
            My alarm goes off… Somebody shoot me!

            I know I’m not alone. In fact, most people who play pool or run tournaments also have day jobs. Unfortunately, having a “real job” seems to be a necessary evil. I wish that was not the case! I wish everything I did in some way had something to do with pool, but I suppose I need to keep a place to live and eating is also a bit of a necessity! So, we do what we have to do. We go to work. Our pool games suffer, maybe even our mental health suffers, but we keep doing it. We live the double life because we love the game!
            Hit ‘em well, my friends! This is The Lag…
            "You can have the bragging rights, I'll take the cash!"-me


            • #21
              The Lag #20
              April 25, 2019

              The Red Coats Are Coming!

              What is going on, here? American pool has been struggling for, well, always! Occasionally someone will come along with a great idea that will turn the game around and give “pro” players the income they deserve for their lifetime of hard work and sacrifice. Yet, somehow, it never works out. There is always someone within the organization who is overcome by greed and, in the end, causes the whole process to fail setting pool back even farther. Or, maybe it’s the players who don’t trust these organizations so they come up with their own ways to beat the system, trying to make sure they have themselves covered when the inevitable end comes. Whatever the case may be, as a whole players, fans, promoters, all want the same thing. That is, for pool to be successful in the United States of America.

              So along comes Match Room Sport. They started in the 80s promoting Snooker and grew from there. Everything they touch seems to turn to gold. When word started to spread that Matchroom was taking over the US Open 9-ball hopes were high in America that this just might be the jolt, the shot in the arm American pool needs to get back into the limelight. Some big numbers were being thrown around. Participation for the Open skyrocketed! The amount of allowed entrants was doubled by Matchroom bringing in even more money. Anticipation among American pool fans ran extremely high, higher than it has been in many years! Everyone was on the edge of their seats to see what kind of miracle Matchroom Sport was going to pull off.

              Then it happened. Rumors started to surface about the added money and how, even with double the original players, the added money was going to remain the same. The Americans were, once again, seemingly sabotaging this new US Open 9-ball tournament before it even started. They weren’t satisfied. American keyboard warriors went on the offensive attacking Matchroom as if this was all just some sort of master plan to rip off pool players and the American public.
              As the tournament progressed, things died down somewhat as all eyes were glued to the free stream. Then, when the tournament was down to the final 16 players, the stream was no longer free. Talk about an uproar! It had been free all week, why now, when the action was getting so hot, so tense, so thrilling, were they going to charge for the stream? I guess no one has heard of “supply and demand…” Facebook was flooded with posts of crying and whining about the stream from the same folks who cry about the lack of money in pool. That was all that was needed to thrust the keyboard whiners back into action. They surely weren’t going to pay to watch the stream so they might as well get back to moaning about pool. After all, if Matchroom Sport was going to come along and steal all the glory for which these small time streamers and promoters sought for themselves, they were going to do their very best to achieve fame for being the one who brings them down!

              Look, I am no one. I have no clout. I have no say in anything. What I do have is an opinion as a small time player, very small time promoter, and a big time fan. I have done my part in my small corner of the universe, to try and make pool great again. I run weekly tournaments with no handicaps, I promote them on social media, and I write reports on every, single one of them after they happen. I also write this blog as a way to share my thoughts and feelings for this game I love. I don’t have a gazillion dollars to throw into the pool world and fix everything. So I do the little things I can do with the means I have. The way I see it, Rome was not built in a day. Matchroom Sport has come along to pick up the pieces left by those who have exploited the game for the last 40 years or so. Matchroom Sport is a business with its own interests in mind. That being said, I believe those who run Matchroom are smart enough to realize that what is best for the players and fans is what is best for them as well. Let’s face it. Any event with 256 players is just huge! It takes an army of personnel to run such an event. The only way an event of this size can be successful is to attract fans, vendors, and of course, the players. Fans, vendors, and players are the three key components to getting started. A structure cannot be built with two pieces, but three will complete it. Once it is built, then the fourth component can be brought in, sponsors. Not many sponsors are going to be willing to take on a project from the ground up, but present them with something that has already been built and has room to grow, and their interests will most certainly be piqued!
              This is Matchroom’s first US Open 9-ball. They took something which was completely wrecked and started over. They paid out what they said they would, and as far as I know, the players will be paid in a timely manner unlike in years past when a player may not have received his winnings for several months or a year. We have all been involved in conversations over the years discussing what it would take to turn pool around and I think everyone has agreed that it will take something big. Well, Matchroom Sport is pretty big. They have the means to do it and do it right. That’s not to say that no mistakes will be made along the way. Those in charge are human, after all. But judging by their reputation, I think Matchroom is a good fit for this and over some time will take American pool to the next level! What we as American fans need to do is support them. If there is something with which we or the players don’t agree, we can let them know and still be supportive. There is no need to fish for reasons to boycott them already, geez! Instead of being jealous because you weren’t the one to pick up American pool and turn it around, be happy that someone and something with the power and means to do it is doing it! This could very well be the beginning of what we have all been wishing would happen! Let’s give them a chance!
              For the naysayers and jealous ones calling for players and fans to turn their backs on Matchroom, how about we just turn our backs on you! You look for ways to ridicule every idea but your own and claim yours is the only true answer. You claim to have the best interests of the players in mind but yet no one else, in your opinion, can do anything right. You’re not willing to work with anyone else all because you want the credit, you want the glory, and you want your name in lights as the savior of American pool. Well guess what, someone can do it better than you! Now is your chance to show the rest of us who are tired of hearing and reading you complain about everything and what everyone else is doing, that you really and truly want the best for American pool and its players. Show some support for what is happening and most of all show some respect for a company that is willing to do what Matchroom Sport is doing!

              I have no stake in this only my passion for pool. I don’t claim to know everything about what is going on and I certainly don’t think I can pull this shipwreck back up. I have nothing to lose here nor am I looking for anything to gain. I only hope that Matchroom Sport can put American pool back in the headlines and turn it into something big again during my lifetime. I hope I get to see that happen whether or not I have anything to do with it, but I am without a doubt, ready and willing to help in any way I possibly can! I hope all of you are as well!

              Hit ‘em good, my friends! This is The Lag…
              "You can have the bragging rights, I'll take the cash!"-me