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P O O L    S H O O T E R

The Adventures of FastMikie
in search of Truth and Beauty in the art of pocket billiards.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Effortless Poetry of "El Maestro"

"El Maestro"

My Triple Play team had a "bye" tonight. So I'm working on my short-range pop-kill-throw shot when the phone rings...

Tony calls and wants to shoot some pool, wants to get in some strokes before the 9 Ball Blast this weekend. So he passes closer pool halls, and comes all the way to Del Mar, to shoot some balls on my funny-rolling table. I'm honored. Maybe I'll learn something...

What I learn is that I have so much to learn that it sometimes seems hopeless that I could ever learn it all, that I would need another lifetime to achieve the skill of The Master.

I have had the privilege of watching Tony shoot pool about once a week, at least, for the past year and a half. You would think it would be a yawn by now. But it remains one of life's most fascinating experiences to me, and to many others.

When Tony is on (and he is rarely "off"), the balls literally melt their way off the table. It appears so smoothly, so swiftly, so naturally, so beautifully. And this happens rack after rack, without even the slightest appearance of trouble. What 99% of us would consider a difficult, or even impossible shot, he finds the pocket we never thought about. His cue ball seems to have a small motor in it, and it motors its way to the perfect place for the next shot, the only place on the table which will allow him to get in shape for the 3rd shot down the line, and for every shot next in the rack. He sees it all in advance, and he plays out the rack as if in a movie of his own creation.

The technical skill with which the shots are executed is without flaw, of course. What elevates Tony's performance at the table is the creativity he displays. Sometimes he will take a perfectly simple straight in stop shot and instead make the cue ball travel three cushions to get the same position, just so that he doesn't have to walk around the other side of the table for his next shot. Most shots have plenty of options for how a shooter could do it, and Tony seems to have them all in his head simultaneously, and his computer is always balancing effectiveness, efficiency, safety, and playful artwork! And all this stuff is going on in his head, his expression never changes, and he never slows down, and all the balls just melt off the table.

Most people miss the subtle things that happen when Tony shoots pool. I'm just starting to pick up on some of it. It goes deep.

It just doesn't seem possible that someone could be that good at pool. I have seen professionals shoot pool, up close. Tony makes them look like amateurs. While we are struggling with the elements of reading and writing, Tony is creating effortless and beautiful poetry.

And yet, this a man who is trying to teach a pig to sing. You would think he has more intelligence than to try such a thing. But the pig appeared before him one day, and expressed with all his heart that he wanted to sing. Is it really possible to teach a pig to sing? El Maestro knew that he must attempt this great challenge.

I am that pig. I want to sing pool.

The writer in me will write the song into this journal.


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