The Long Hard Road to Experience

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ggThere are three methods to gaining wisdom. The first is reflection, which is the highest. The second is limitation, which is the easiest. The third is experience, which is the bitterest. ~Confucius

My first year in Vegas for BCA Nationals was 2007. This was also Kiss of Death’s first year together. Having no idea what to expect out there as an individual, as a team, or as the captain of a team, we still had rather high expectations for success. Coming from the NY pool scene is a huge advantage over many other areas of the US as tough competitors, exposure to high levels of play & players as well as tournament availability are all at our bridged finger tips any given day of the week. (I’m lucky, I know.) We knew we were quality players & had veterans of the event affirm we had a good chance to win, despite our rookie status in the event!

Guess what? We lost our first match. ~LOL~ All those NY pool scene advantages I just listed meant diddly. Call it scared, nervous, unsure, over confident, unprepared, whatever, that first match smacked us a humble pie right in the face. Now, the goal was to NOT go two and out.

THEN all the graces I sung about the NY pool scene; THEN they kicked in. We won the next like 7 or 8 matches in a row.  We were unstoppable.

Very late Friday night, we are playing against a really tough team that we maintained a dead even score with throughout the match. At hill/hill I find myself at the table, 2 stripes and the 8-ball in my sights and the weight of KOD’s continued run, their confidence in their captain, the NYC crowd’s full support, the other team’s dashing hopes and my nerves, ALL riding on my oh-so-virgin shoulders.

I sink the first ball! Hallelujah! Praise Jesus! One ball down and a tough backwards cut on the next to go before the 8-ball.

Team & crowd Cheer, Opposing Team & crowd Fear!

Backwards cut, slice & boom, I am one ball away from clinching the win for my team. I sing a little, “yes!” unconsciously do a mini arm pump (which I NEVER do) and focus on the 8-ball. A long 8-ball that’s nearly hanging in the pocket (well, this is bar table 8-ball so nothing is really long, but after 12 straight hours of the most nerve-wracking pool ever, in a hill/hill situation with my team’s ever pleading eyes piercing my fundamentals  — it’s a mile away!)

My only concern is hitting it too hard and having it come off the short rail & scratch in the side pocket, a shot I was bruised by earlier that day. So I hit it soft. I have Tony & Mika directly in front of my shot so my “straight follow through” reminder was in full effect. I shoot, I stroke, it’s heading toward the 8-ball in a dead straight line to make it….. going going …. Going … eh … what? Wait, it can’t be …. No! Please God NO! 

No!!!

A distant voice creeps into my head, “never slow roll the ball!”

Like a nightmare, the ball turned from a cue ball, to a bowling ball that I watched curve, curve, and curve, till it hit the 8-ball dead square.

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The crowd gasps, my opponent LEAPS from her chair, her team chants, “alright girl, you can do it!”& my team begins to slump over in their seats.

My heart sinks. 

I remember the walk back to my chair was long.  Very long.

That lump that starts to swell in your throat like a ball choking you, began to formulate as my opponent sunk her last solid, and then the 8-ball…

Open Hoover Dam, it’s gonna flood.

The torment of human frustration, whatever its immediate cause, is the knowledge that the self is in prison, its vital force and "mangled mind" leaking away in lonely, wasteful self-conflict.  ~Elizabeth Drew

No matter how many,

“Gail, it’s not your fault”

“Gail, it’s a team win & a team loss”

even Tony & Mika saying, “Gail, I watched it curve, the table curved the ball" 

there was no consoling me

No hole was deep enough to crawl into, no car fast enough to drive away from this, no bottle big enough to drown myself in, no sanctuary from my failure.  All I heard was that voice saying,

“I told you, never slow roll a ball! You failed.”

KOD settled for 25th place that year.  A great accomplishment for us newbies, but all I heard was that voice.  He tormented me. 

“You failed.”

That 8-ball has never left me. I went to sleep thinking about it for weeks, woke up thinking about it, stared at my office wall recounting it, playing the “what-if” game like a sadist!

After the trip, Gina Kim-Lipsky pulled me aside to talk. I’m paraphrasing but basically she said, “Gail, this is the rite-of-passage all players must endure to be great players. These heartaches are the things that make you stronger and more prepared the next time. That 8-ball you missed was a blessing, because later on, it’ll be a bigger event, a bigger moment, a more nerve-wracking time, and you’ll recall that 8-ball, realize the mistakes you made, and you won’t do them again. Be thankful, because you’ve got that lesson behind you and EVERY pool player learns that lesson at some point.”

A failure is a man who has blundered but is not capable of cashing in on the experience.  ~Elbert Hubbard

I didn’t realized how important what Gina had said was until I watched the WPBA US Open Match on ESPN that summer between Karen Corr & Ga Young Kim from 2003. (see the link at the end of my post)

No26_Kim This will break your heart!  I wish they showed the WHOLE last rack as it gave more insight into the total stress of the match.  In a nutshell, GYK went from devastation, to elation, then to complete and utter torment! 

Before GYK was the badass she is now, back in 2003 she was just another new face on the WPBA looking to prove herself.  ENTER, WPBA US Open!  GYK finds herself in the finals against Karen Corr!  This WPBA rookie can taste her first WPBA win! She feels it on her fingertips – yearning for it’s recognition, seeing it just in her grasp, smelling the victory! 

Little Devil Girl, on TV, against Karen Corr, for the title, in front of everyone –GYK missed the 9-ball. 

Her face was complete devastation.  Her pain, evident.  It was torture watching her heart break into a thousand little pool player pieces.  I knew that look, that pain, that disappointment.

Then, everything Gina had said made sense. 

Show me a guy who’s afraid to look bad, and I’ll show you a guy you can beat every time.
~Lou Brock

I began watching players in a different light, all levels – more clearly, more maturely, more tenderly.  I saw the truth — Rookies and pros ALL miss these balls. All feel the heat. All sweat. All fear, all of them have panicked before.  And every single pro out there has missed a crucial shot, that they’re embarrassed to say they missed.  The difference between the beginners & the pros though is how quickly they let those shots go….

I think when you miss certain shots in front of people, you immediately think everyone is saying, “How could they miss that?!?!!”

A few may think that, but MANY more players, especially veterans of the game will understand and sympathize because they’ve been there before, they’ve felt that disappointment, they’ve felt that loss, they’ve felt that vulnerable moment of sadness, and only their wisdom sees it as a stepping stone to getting better & stronger.

No one likes it, but EVERYONE goes through it.

No doubt, you need to determine why you failed and work on getting the practice and knowledge to never let it happen again.  But more importantly you need to walk away from that situation not weaker, but stronger!

Get back on the horse a wiser wo(man)!

I still miss. I still fail. Pool is a game that never allows perfection, it’s an endless pursuit to the unachievable utopia. But this year in Vegas, I found myself in mild bliss during a déjà vu.

There in front of me, laid the 8-ball from two years ago. The dreaded, don’t scratch in the side, and for the love of GOD, don’t slow roll it, 8-ball!

My team was watching, Tony was watching, many of our NY friends were watching. I saw it & everything came flooding back…

— and I giggled! 

olga & TROut loud, I laughed! Grabbed for the chalk, regrouped, chalked my cue, stepped up to the shot, got in position, & with all the confidence a graduated rookie could have, I hit that 8-ball with low right at medium speed, sinking the 8-ball, clinching the win & saying farewell to a Gail that no longer exists.

Olga & Tony high-fived me and said, “You were smiling when you shot that ball?  Did you see what we saw?”

I said, “yes, I saw redemption! Sweet, Sweet Sweet Redemption!”

🙂

FYI — the below link will take you directly to the Corr vs. Kim match I referred to earlier — it’s a part of a compilation of Billiards Digest’s 30 Greatest Final Matches from the Last 3 Decades provided by Predator Cues!  OMG, I’m in heaven!  Every single one is AMAZING!  Enjoy!

GYK & Karen Corr 2003 WPBA US Open <-Click

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~ by g2 on December 9, 2009.

11 Responses to “The Long Hard Road to Experience”

  1. […] 2009 BCA Women’s Open Team Champion, Gail Glazebrook, Confessions of G Squared, shares a valuable lesson she learned during the 2007 BCAPL nationals in Las Vegas. Her colorful blog not only puts a smile on your face but is filled with shot diagrams, photos, and wondeful anecdotes. In her article, she not only tells about a new way to shoot a shot but about her new found confidence in The Long, Hard Road to Experience. […]

  2. What a great story! I enjoyed every word; you made it come alive.

    And what you say is so true. We’ve all been there, the best learn from it and get better, tougher because of it.

    I’m glad you were able to settle the score in such a poetic way, it had to make that victory the sweetest one you’ve had.

  3. What a fun post! Love the writing, the inset quotes, the diagram — the whole package.

  4. Thanks for sharing such a tough moment in your pool playing history. It gave me a new way to look back at some of my own failures. I was there to see full redemption as you and your KOD teammates won the Open Team title in 2009. I was so impressed with the whole team, the heart you all showed and the support you gave each other win or lose.

  5. I’m a 36 yr old who’s been playing pool for the better part of 25 yrs. I’m sub .500 for the first time ever in my local pool league and hoping my time of redemption comes soon. Thanks for the great story!

  6. Great story Gail, one that you know I can definitely relate to! The game is full of heaven and hell moments, and the “hell” moments will indeed make us stronger!

    “…watching her heart break into a thousand little pool player pieces.” Indeed!!

    I am so proud that I got to help redeem KOD in ’09! 🙂

  7. ACK! I just checked here to see which article was yours and saw that my comment isn’t here. (probably forgot to wait for confirmation before closing the browser. sigh)

    It’s interesting timing, I think, that I just saw that match with GYK recently – and still more interesting that I recently lost a match (albeit for fun) because of slow rolling a ball. You can be sure that I won’t be slow rolling anything after that. If there’s a scratch potential, I compensate with just enough english to get around.

    Great quotes!

  8. Thanks Gail, this only reassures to us developing players that we are not alone in this quest for redemption, our time will eventually come I’m glad it came for you and that you were willing to share it with others.
    I’m sure if we recollect our thoughts even after a winning match we can find ways to fine tune our habits to help minimize these agonizing events…. I’m working on it…

  9. Amazing post sis…

  10. […] a flood of memories came to me, the most vivid was the 8-ball from Vegas 2 years ago with KOD. ( Recap?  Click here. ) I said to myself, "Gail, just one more ball.  You can do it.  This time, […]

  11. […] The below shot I spent a lot of hours crying over.  In a nut shell, my entire team counted on me making this ball for us to continue on in the tourney.  After a great shot to get on the 8-ball this way, I watched the 8-ball hang.  A full recap of this shot is HERE.  <-Click Me. […]

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