Archive for February, 2013

I read recently about the International Olympic Committee dropping wrestling from future Olympic competitions beginning in 2020 and it made me sad.  It’s wrestling season here in the Pacific NW and sports pages are awash in images of hardened, wiry high school lads dressed in their tights, boots and headgear.  The photos range from headshots of competitors to full-on competition action.  I feel deep sympathy for those kids because with the IOC’s decision, their passion and effort and glory will likely not carry past their high school years.  The IOC has effectively taken all opportunity for future competition away from them.

 I’m sure they gave it due consideration, but there are a lot of reasons the IOC should not have dropped Olympic wrestling.  For one, wrestling could very well be the most basic form of human competition, the ultimate measure of domination.  There’s no proof of it because the media hadn’t been invented yet, but I imagine it harkens back to before Neanderthal times.  For another, where else would someone who doesn’t have a wrestler teenager get their fill of high-level wrestling except during the Olympics?

 In my mind, the IOC has made the most baffling and egregious error in the nearly 3000-year history of Olympic competitions.  It has been speculated that the IOC was swayed in their decision by the most basic of motivators – money, and that smacks of corruption.  There is plenty of international coverage over this mess they’ve created, and since this is beyond the scope of this blog I’ll just leave it here, let the reader do their own investigations, and move into what I really wanted to say.

 As I look at the sports world in general, I see a lot of issues.  Corruption, performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), money, and so on taint the amateur to professional ranks.  As a result of athletes breaking the rules, records have asterisks next to them, courts are full, entire sports are tarnished, pure competitors are not given the recognition they should enjoy, and grand jury investigations are constant.  So many issues and they all seem to be related to money. 

 Right now, sports are generally divided into two categories:  amateur and professional.  But the lines between them are either blurry or non-existent, case in point: high profile college sports.  My solution is to stiffen the rules in all levels of all sports to get back to pure competitions based on a level playing field.  Then I’d add one more category to the sporting world called the “Entertainer” level.  My solution falls out like this:

 “Amateurs” can only compete for medals and trophies.  They cannot win money; pure passion is their motivator.  (When I was a kid this used to be the fundamental rule, but this has been abused considerably over the decades.  Amateur organizations need to stiffen their backs and hold competitors to this basic rule again.)  Amateurs can receive sponsorships for their competition efforts only, such as clothing and equipment, but they cannot enjoy any other financial perks.  If there is any violation of these basic laws, they are booted up to the “Professional” level.

 “Professionals” compete for money and trophies, but the money is limited to what might be considered a very good wage for the average family, say no more than $50,000 to $100,000 for first place; no more $10 million dollar payouts.  Love of their sport, respect for their body, and a desire to make a decent living will be their motivators.  They can receive sponsorships from their competition efforts only, again limited to clothing and equipment, but they can wear logos, like PGA players.  They cannot use PEDs or enjoy any other competitive advantage except the skill and discipline they bring to their competitions through training.  If there is any violation of these basic laws or the laws of their competitive ruling organization, they “graduate” up to the “Entertainer” level.

 “Entertainers” get it all, they compete for whatever anyone will offer, and more importantly the lid is off – there are no restrictions.  They can abuse their body, they can use special equipment, they can do anything they want to get the upper edge.  The basic rules of competition are the same as their brethren in the “Professional” ranks, like field of play dimensions and how the game is played, but everything about their individual person or the equipment they use and how they use it is their own business.  Performers cannot get kicked out of this league.  It’s kind of like “Mad Max” for sports.

 There is a healthy portion of the viewing audience that will go for this Entertainer-level of competition to support it because the average population likes to see the grotesque and the unusual.  Purists will tune into the Amateur and Professional competitions, and sponsors will need to choose where to put their money based on the values they hold dear.  But the mass market viewers and sponsors will probably go for the Entertainer levels of play; like their predecessors from a couple millennia back in time at the coliseum to watch gladiators battle or Christians fighting lions or public hangings. 

 The possibilities are interesting to consider.  Imagine Entertainer-level golf where 500-yard drives are the norm.  Or unlimited speeds for NASCAR racing.  Or 7-foot NBA players swishing 30-footers, oh wait – they already have that!  How about giant human specimens bowling using an overhand delivery?  Maybe 200-mph serves in tennis?  Allow a level of play where the restrictions can come off and let science and technology and human greed rule this level of ultra competition.

 Instead of spending so much effort on restrictions and managing competitions, simply allow a place for rule offenders to go, set up a free-for-all competition, and let the people who are willing to spend the money decide how unlimited sports can entertain the world.  (Oh, and these Entertainer-level sports leagues must be international.  There’s no sense in restricting location either.  The USA doesn’t need to own it all.)

Let the games begin!

Above average week last week for “198,” but below average for “220.”

“220” Game:  Old Average – 49.65  New Average – 49.05  Goal Average – 70

“198” Game:  Old Average – 67.11  New Average – 68.10  Goal Average – 90

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A few weeks ago I was bored at work so I checked into the BTRT website looking for something interesting to brighten up my day.  I found under the “Blogs” tab a heading called “Free Stuff.”  Well, not one to pass up anything free (I’m also known as a “hoarder”!) I clicked on it to see what stuff I could pick up for nothing.  Lo and behold, it is Deby W’s blog offering tips to “220” and “198” players.

At the time, the one that caught my attention was “Tips for Breaking Playing 220.”  While I hold the record for making the most balls off the break in a match (TBB), I wondered if there were some tips for breaking patterns that might help improve my scores.

TNR_10ball_crop

The photo above shows Deby’s recommended pattern from the blog with the two and three balls behind the one, and the four and five in the middle of the bottom row.  I’ve always racked the two and three on the bottom row and the four and five behind the one ball.  I’d never tried it like this, so in my next match I laid the balls up like this and gave it a whirl.

As I mentioned in last week’s post, I sucked.  I was hitting the one ball OK off the break, but I struggled getting from the two ball to the three ball where they were parked near the two side pockets.  Either they were sitting on the rail or other balls were in the way.  I shot a 33 in “220”and then figuring I needed do better I played another match and shot a 43, not good enough to make any money, but good enough to significantly lower my average.

Last week I went back to my old way of racking the balls, with the two and three balls swapped with the four and five.  When I hit the break square (from the middle), the two balls behind the one ball slide quietly toward the side pockets and the two middle balls on the bottom row bank off the bottom rail then mosey up to the corner pockets where I’m standing.  The six and seven balls bounce off a bunch of rails, but if I hit it right, they don’t hit anything.  The 8, 9, and 10 don’t do very much but spread out laterally.  I’m usually left with the 1-, 2-, and 3-balls up at one end of the table, the 4- and 5-balls near the side pockets,  and the 6- and 7-balls at the other two corners.

I like the 2- and 3-balls at the corner pockets.  I feel the side and the end rail at the corner pockets give me more options for controlling and positioning the cue ball.  Using the other rack pattern that leave the 2- and 3-balls near the side pockets, I only have the one rail to use.  Using my rack pattern, when I clear the 1-, 2-, and 3-balls, I’ve usually opened up one half of the table and can work on the 4- and 5-balls which should be sitting near the side pockets.  Sometimes I have to avoid the 6- and 7-balls, but often they are down near the other two corner pockets.

The result last week was that I shot a 61 and took first place in last week’s BTRT tournament.  It was nice to see the old patterns again that I’ve grown used to over the months.  But I felt good about at least trying something new to either learn something or justify what I’ve been doing.

Deby’s post on breaking for “220” is good because there is some valuable information in there.  It should be read.  Beyond her post there isn’t much other guidance out there offering alternatives to her racking pattern.  If you are looking to try something new to maybe help your “220” average, try my pattern and see if it helps.

“220” Game –            Old Average: 49.35    New Average: 49.65               Goal: 70.00

“198” Game –             Old Average: 67.00    New Average: 67.11               Goal: 90.00

Last summer I played in a golf league.  Every Monday night at 4:30 our team would lace up the spikes, grab our clubs, buy a beer (or several), and tee off against another team for 9-holes of pretty friendly competition.  At first, the averages and handicaps started high, but as we shook off the winter rust and settled into our old forms and habits they eventually fell, settling at a plateau that was pretty similar to where we all left off at the end of last year. 

 It was fun to be out there on those sunny Monday afternoons, swilling beer, smacking the ball, telling stories, and looking forward to the “19th Hole.”  So much so, that we’d kind of forget that we were in a competition ultimately playing for a first prize of over $1,000 for the winning team at the end of the season.  After the first couple months, we had all become a little complacent.  We were all in a bit of a rut.

 The middle of summer is when those fund-raiser scramble tournaments start coming up.  I probably play in half a dozen or so a year, and by chance, I was invited to one with some reasonably competitive guys who played at my caliber.  We knew with our team we had a shot at scoring well, so we worked at scoring that day.  We took second place in the one-day tournament and took home some loot for our effort.  It was good to be on the podium again!

 The next time I showed up for the Monday Golf League, I noticed I had just a little more desire to do well, a little more focus, a little more intensity.  The drive and competitive juices from the scramble tournament a few days earlier carried over, and as a result my average rolled off that plateau that day and my handicap started falling over the rest of the season.

 Last week, I showed up at the pool room for the weekly Behind The Rock Tour tournament night.  I bought my beer, hit some balls early to warm up, and signed up for the regular matches.  I shot OK in “198” then did poorly at “220.”  I did bad enough that I figured I needed to play another to redeem myself.  It didn’t happen.  Overall, it was a pretty blasé night for me.  I was going through the motions.  Things felt OK when I was down on the ball, but there just wasn’t that vision or drive or that something that forced me to focus and pocket the balls the way I know I can.

 The next day, DW emailed me and said “I think you need to spice up your pool life. Having a date once a week with BTRT is getting boring. You need something to spike your interest.”  I laughed and replied, “What?  Gamble?  Play One-Pocket?  Another room?  Get some instruction? Scotch doubles?  Play a tournament?”  And with that last sarcastic entry it struck me: I had done just exactly that to accidentally spark up my golf game six months ago – and it worked.  She was right: I need to do something different now to keep me fired up for the benefit of my pool game.

 “Variety is the spice of life,” as the saying goes.  I think that applies to everything.  So my suggestion is that you try something different.  It might just be the kick in the pants you need to improve your game.  Change up your competitions to get and keep that fine edge, to keep that interest so you can look forward to working on your game and improving.  To keep the fire in our bellies, we all need to mix it up!

 “220” Game –   Old Average:  50.45      New Average:  49.35      Goal Average:  70.00

 “198” Game –   Old Average:  68.33      New Average:  67.00      Goal Average:  90.00