Monday, December 10, 2012

Standing in the Way

Competition is a very tough thing, in reality.  For those of us who are friends with our competitors, and for those of us who don't have a killer instinct all the time, competition can be tough on our souls.

Especially when awards and titles are on the line - FOR OUR FRIENDS.

Two weekends ago is the perfect example.  And I'll also throw in a league night from last season as a comparison, along with the 2002 World Championship finals and the NFL.

At the OB Cues Ladies Tour stop in Dallas in early December, I alluded that Kim Pierce was in contention for the Tour Championship title.  Also in contention was my bff Amanda Lampert.  Orietta Strickland had a chance also, but hers was the slimmest chance.  The real test would be between Amanda and Kim, who were only 50 points apart going into the final stop.

The "Tour Champion" title is one not many women have achieved on the tour.  Three women have won it 11 times between themselves:  five times in a row by Leslie Anne Rogers, then two times in a row by Heather Pulford, and then four times in a row by Lisa Marr.  So, they kept many other women at bay from the title.  With Leslie moving to Japan 7 years ago, Heather in California the last few years, and Lisa taking a hiatus from pool in the middle of this season, it allowed for a new champ to be crowned.  Also, that person would get all their entry fees paid next year.  Which is a nice bonus for such a strong title!

A lot of people (Kim and Amanda included) tried to figure out the statistics of how they would have to finish to see who would win the crown.  But even though Amanda was only 50 points behind Kim, Kim would earn even more points at this stop.  The points race was VERY tight!  If they happened to TIE with points, they would have a play-off.   BTW, the top points are:  200 for first place, then 160, 125, 100, 80, 65 and 50 points for 9th place.

Kim was put in the one-loss side by me, and then a round later, Amanda was on the one-loss side also.  On the one-loss side, ironically, Amanda and Kim ran into each other.  This would pretty much be a do or die situation for Amanda.  If she didn't win, Kim for sure would get the title.  If she did defeat Kim, she would still have to win several matches to secure the crown.

Amanda defeated Kim and gave herself a chance at the title!  But Kim earned 50 points for 9th place.  Now that meant Amanda would have to win by more than 100 points to win the title. 

After Amanda defeated Kim, she had to wait almost 12 hours to play her next match Sunday morning against a very tough player (Orietta Stickland) for 7th place. I think it would be immense pressure to even TRY to sleep with all the thoughts of what I needed to do to win the title. 

The TDs figured out Amanda needed to place 3rd to win the title, and if she placed 4th, Kim and Amanda would be tied in points and they would have to have a playoff. 

I also don't know how Kim slept.  It was now out of her hands, but she had to be restless with the unknowns, I'm sure.  She would come to the tourney on Sunday and sweat it out all day and see what would happen. 

As I mentioned before, I was on the winners side til Sunday.  As I reviewed the brackets, I noticed that if I lost my first match Sunday morning, I would have to play Amanda if she defeated Orietta. 

I actually worried about it.  I didn't want to stand in her way of the title, but I wouldn't just give up, so I would still fight to win.  BUT, I didn't want to be put in that position at all.  I fully admit it.  I understand pressure and wants and desires of competition, esp when titles are on the line, so to play someone who is gunning for something like that is pretty tough on those of us without a killer instinct. 

I won my Sunday morning match (somehow) against Jennifer Kraber, and then SHE had to play Amanda next, as Amanda defeated Orietta 7-2 decisively. 

Jennifer and Amanda went back and forth and back and forth.

The match goes 3-3, 4-4, 5-5, 6-6.  Everyone in the entire room is eyeing the match (including those playing their own matches, like myself, lol), as we all know the title is on the line. 

Eventually, at hill-hill, Jennifer runs out from the 3ball to win the final game.  This put Amanda in 5th place, which meant Kim won the title.  And as Jennifer made the final 9ball, I looked over at Kim, who was sitting far away, but close enough to see the match.  Her head fell into her hands and she started weeping.  Meanwhile, Amanda held it together and immediately got on her ipad, but she was disappointed.

Pics were taken of Kim, announcements were made of her title, and she posted all over facebook - just as I would have done!  I was very proud of her, but at the same time disappointed for Amanda as I knew she fought so so hard for the title all weekend.

All of the matches Amanda and Kim played all weekend were crucial.  Each and every one of them were key to the points, to the race, to the title, to the player.

But what surprised me was that the opponents who played them felt pressure, too. 

Someone who played Kim expressed to me they felt bad having to play her.  They said if they beat her, she might lose the title.  But, we all still felt we had to fight and not give up, even though we FELT bad about it. 

Even when I played Kim I felt bad for winning, but I could live with it because it was on the winner's side and I knew she could do well on the one-loss side.  Kim is never out til she's out!

Jennifer told Amanda and I something very interesting later on in the day.

Jennifer said she was told right before her match with Amanda that the crown was pretty much on the line with that match.  If Jennifer won, Amanda would not win the title.  If she WON the match against Jennifer, that would put her in 4th place, and then Kim and Amanda would at least tie and have a playoff.  Or, Amanda could go on to place higher and win it outright. 

So when Jennifer played her, she also felt the pressure or uneasiness about the situation.

She told Amanda and I, "Right before the match, I was told about the points and how close it was.  I called my boyfriend who is my tough-love confidante and told him the situation.  His response was. 'what are you there for?' "  Which gave Jennifer the mental okay to fight and win and not worry about what is at stake for Amanda.

I found it very comforting, as weird as that sounds, that Jennifer also felt the same way I did had I had to play either of these players on the one-loss side.

Neither player would want us to GIVE them matches, they want to win everything with pure sweat, good play, and determination; no gimmees.

But I was surprised at the amount of pressure it put on their opponents all weekend long. 

This happened to me at the last night of my women's league season last Oct.  Before the match started a friend told me she was in contention for the Top Shooter, but she would have to win 4 out of the 5 games.  When she met up with me last that night, I felt SO badly for going for the run out.  I wanted to dog it, but in my heart I was SO torn.  I couldn't just give her the win by dogging it; I had to still play MY game.  It would not be fair to the other person in contention.

I felt SO much pressure as I made ball after ball.  I eventually screwed up shape.  "Whew!  I may not win, but I tried to win," lol, I told myself.  But I banked my last ball well for shape and ended up winning.  I felt SO badly!  I hugged her and said, "I am so sorry." 

"What for?"

"Because of the Top Shooter...."

"OH!  I already won that two games ago - the other person lost most of her matches tonight and I already won it."

Oh thank God!

I told her it crossed my mind to maybe let her win and she told me, "Don't EVER do that."

Pressure to COMPETE well is sometimes tougher than we realize. Notice I didn't just say "pressure to WIN" is tough. 

I know this is no comparison, but take for example the last two weekends in the NFL where players have lost their lives.  The teammates of the Dallas Cowboys and the Kansas City Chiefs go on the field, playing their little hearts out for their lost teammates and friends, but their opponents don't just GIVE them the wins.  They still fight, no matter what; fight hard.  These two heartbroken teams want to win SO badly, but their opponents still play hard and tough, even though they also know their opponents are playing FOR their deceased friends.

It also reminds me of what happened in 2002.  Earl Strickland and Francisco Bustamante were fighting it out in the finals at the 2002 World Pool Championship.  But it was what had happened 3 days earlier that was on a lot of people's mind.  Francisco's 7 month old daughter had passed away suddenly.  I know how Francisco played - he played FOR his daughter; in her honor.  But how could Earl fathom to defeat Francisco in his worst hour?  Granted, Francisco had played all three days up until the finals to meet Earl even after that horrific news, but I think it would be very tough for me to play my hardest knowing that he just lost his child.  Earl had never won the title, so he focused on that.  Earl won 17-15, even trailing at one point.

I realize life and death is no comparison to awards, but the point is that no matter what is at stake, opponents still need to compete, no matter what is on the line.  I had not seen in a long time how much pressure there was on the OPPONENTS, not just the people fighting and yearning for the titles/wins.

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