Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Drinking and Pool, Lessons from Katniss and the Cueist

I thought I’d do something a little fun and different. I asked the same questions to The Cueist (the pool player of The Cueist Project section of my blog) and Katniss (the pool player of the Project Hunger Games section of my blog) about a certain theme to get their thoughts.  You know, to compare notes and all.

Being sober for almost 3 ½ years now, I realize it probably doesn't make sense that the first theme would be about drinking and playing pool, lol, but here we go!

All three of us used to drink while playing pool (the Cueist and I more than most, haha). But, drinking (while playing pool) had lessened for me towards the end of my pool journey as I became more successful, and so I wanted to know if it had for them as well, along with the any positive (or negative) impacts.

The first question was, “Do you ever take a drink to calm nerves? If so, do you still do that? Do you think it's effective?”

When I cannot calm my nerves, yes, I will take a shot. I actually did this in the first tournament of the year. I was playing a young lady that was just bouncing around the table making all her balls. For some odd reason, my breathing exercises were not helping me. I took a break (you are allowed one per match) and as I passed the bartender, I ordered a ‘Jose Cuervo dressed and chilled’ as I walked by.  I went to pee, came back out, and my shot was ready. I downed it right then and there and then went to continue the match. I was calm within 10 minutes. I ended up winning that match. And, that was the only alcohol I had during that 14-hour marathon that day.

And what about you, Cueist?  Do you ever take a drink to calm nerves? If so, do you still do that? Do you think it's effective?

The Cueist:
When I joined a new league team awhile back, we would always drink throughout the day during events. I'd get nervous, and thought I needed a drink to calm down. That was the captain’s way of coping with the nerves, and I thought the same thing. But that was more of a crutch, a habit, that I had developed over the years. Instead, I tried focusing on my breathing, PSR (pre-shout routine), and just having fun in order to get rid of the nerves.  
At an end of a season tournament recently, I heard from some of my teammates that they believed that since our team drank every league night, that we'd all drink that weekend, too.  Some of the players didn’t want to do that (I know, it doesn't make sense!).  But, a few of us made a pact to stay sober the entire time while we played. Once the matches were over for the day, we'd have a drink if we wanted to (okay, most of us wanted to, lol). We kept up the 'not drinking' during pool playing - with the exception of when we made it the finals - some of them needed a drink to calm down apparently. But personally, I didn't feel any more nerves without having a drink of alcohol. So, it justified that it was simply a crutch.

And then I asked them, “Do you feel you drink less, now that you are more successful in your pool game?”

I take my game more serious now, so yeah, I don’t drink as much. 
“Go on,” I nudged:

When I first started playing pool, I was excited to get out and get to hang out with other players and drinkers. Eventually I joined a league. The whole atmosphere was very new to me, but I loved it.  At one point early on, I won a few games over a couple of weeks (even though I was a true beginner), and I liked that feeling! So, I took my game more seriously.  
At some point, they made me the “anchor” for that same league team. One night I was buzzed and I missed the winning ball! (a shot that I make more often than not). I lost the match for our team. That feeling I did NOT like. Ever since then, I don’t drink as MUCH. Maybe 2 beers only.
I prodded some more:

“So, do you think you became MORE cognizant about not combing drinking and playing pool in the last few years because your game has improved so much?  Or, did that first anchor experience start you on that journey?”

Both, actually. I want my mind and concentration to be clear and strong for the amount of energy it takes to compete. I think many players forget that...that alcohol interferes with energy. 
Additionally, I feel like I should maintain a certain level of professionalism because I have some women tell me sometimes that they want to play like me. Or, “Wow, I want to be like you when I grow up.”  While that makes me blush, it is a positive culprit for me to drink less. Besides, I don’t want to become a cocky drunk that thinks they are unbeatable. Alcohol makes us fearless, right?

I asked the same question to The Cueist:

Do you feel you drink less, now that you are more successful in your pool game?

The Cueist:
You know that saying "dress for the job you want?" Well, it kinda goes along with that. While I don't necessarily have the want to be a full-time pro player, I started noticing something last year. There is a guy from Texas (Justin Espinoza) who was the one that made me notice it, actually. He used to drink at all the tourneys, etc. While he's such a great player nowadays, he made it a point to quit drinking while playing pool. And his performances in tourneys immediately jumped up a bit during that time. He kept hashtagging "soberpool," and it was one of those things that I just kinda kept in the back of my mind. 
That was it?

The Cueist:
Well, no, lol. In Vegas one year, I noticed that most, if not all, of the top pros don't even touch alcohol while playing. Why? Because it's their job to play pool. And you don't want to be impaired while doing your job. Sure, they were all hanging out at the bars at the end of the day, but while they were playing they did not drink.
Bottom line is that drinking and pool is one of those things that goes together like peanut butter and jelly. But if you want to progress and play at a high level, you really need to have your full focus on the match at hand. And any bit of alcohol will impair that focus. While I don't plan on trying to be a top pro or anything like that, I do have a goal to be move up in my league standings this year. And that means focusing as much as possible, to give myself the best chance to win. Drinking can wait till I'm done playing matches for the day.

Thank you to the Cueist and Katniss for your insight and experiences! You will help others with your honesty, and for that I am thankful.


Babylon Brother said...

Your writing is so clear and so readable now. Great job.

Melinda said...

Thank you :)