Savoring Boredom For Longer Runs

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Savoring Boredom For Longer Runs

Post by AlinVille »

Wherever we look in this sexy, fast-paced world, we see enticements to inject our lives with the right measures of bold adventure that they presumably lack. From deep in our sofas we can watch soft-drink guzzlers skateboard across airplane wings, army-of-one commandos jumping into the sea from helicopters and white-collar clowns in SUV’s zooming across the savannah to outrun herds of angry rhinos. We have a natural desire, if not obligation, to change things a little, shake them up a bit to add some variety to our routines. So, with all that sexy, speedy, XGames excitement for sale, I have to wonder why anyone would ever pick up a pool cue.

As I’ve said before, pool is not an exciting game. And when we ask why it’s not more popular on TV, the answer is pretty simple: it’s BORING. Disbelief? How else can we describe a game that, when played at its very best, treats us to endless repetition of shots that most beginners can make with their eyes closed? The sooner that we catch on to the fact that great pool is boring and learn to like it, the more quickly we will improve.

When we play pool we must fight our propensity for change. For most of us, after only a few perfect shots, a voice starts to tell us that it’s time for something new. After all, we’ve been doing the same, boring thing now for two whole minutes. That’s four commercials. We’re trained to imagine ourselves shooting the next few balls while skiing 100 miles-an-hour, inches ahead of an avalanche. Since we can’t do that, we make a small, semi-conscious change instead; maybe over-draw the cue ball two feet out of position. Now we’re facing a bank shot and the excitement picks up a little!

Professionals resist those temptations and do not submit to the call for change. Top players know from experience that consistent pool springs from consistent behavior inside of an unwavering routine for every shot. They do not wait for difficult shots before applying themselves but bring the same, intense focus to every shot, especially the simple ones. It doesn’t take much to get out of position for one shot, an error that typically grows with each successive shot until the situation is hopeless. Somehow they have found a way to push through and derive pleasure, real thrills perhaps, from the tedious repetition of great pool. On those occasions when they play bad position or come to the table with a difficult leave, they have the strength and courage to make the great shot and resume control. That strength builds in stretches of dull, flawless play, which charges the batteries for those times when something extra is needed. Too many tough shots can drain any player; and all shot makers eventually wear out.

Most people do not experience long enough periods of great pool to know how it feels to break through the boredom barrier. But we can train ourselves. Just as a runner trains to go increasingly long distances, we can work on our mental stamina to stay at the table for longer runs without losing focus or seeking change. Our greatest foe is time and that voice nagging us to give back the table as we approach our usual limit.

Sometimes, when I look up at a TV and worry about pool’s popularity, my worst fears predict that we will be playing on skateboards soon. I wonder how our boring game grabs any attention at all in an MTV world that bombards us with relentless noise and constantly-changing, video images. Maybe trends will shift toward an appreciation for quiet perfection as relief from the static and hubbub. And, maybe they won’t. In the meantime I’m not asking how the word “adrenaline” finds its way into ads for paper clips or what we might possibly gain from having a million armies of one. My job is to keep shooting.

(Tom Ross on pool)
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