Another Love Letter to Pool

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Dear Pool.

I know I said I would love you forever, and a part of me always will, but I’m starting to think we’d be better off as friends. Our relationship is so awful right now that no matter how much I give you always want more, and I’m tired. I still want you in my life, but I don’t think it’s healthy for me to be with you every single day.

I know this seems out of the blue, but you see, I’ve met someone. His name is Work, and he knows how to treat me right. Things aren’t always easy, but he makes me feel worthwhile, and the more I give to him the more I get back. He takes me to nice restaurants and buys me beautiful clothes, and makes me feel appreciated. I finally understand what a healthy relationship is.

It may sound cliche, but I do still love you, I’m just not in love with you. Maybe this time apart will make my heart grow fonder, but now that I’ve met Work I’m not sure I could live without him. Work isn’t possessive or jealous and it’s ok for me to spend time elsewhere. I really hope that we can remain friends because I would still enjoy taking trips together and spending some quality time with you. I think we should start over again. Try to rebuild some sort of relationship where we enjoy each other. Maybe we can spend the afternoon together a few times a week. Lunch will be on me.

Sincerely

Jennifer

When in doubt, blame it on the crazies!

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Try as I might to never comment on political issues, as the mother of a first grader, I can’t remain silent. I am sickened by what happened in Connecticut last week, and angry to hear anti gun control people crowing about guns not killing people, and protecting constitutional rights, and what we really need to look at are the crazies!

Yes, many of these shooters are mentally ill. Yes, the signs are usually there before these things happen. Yes, the system is failing these people and their families who, in most cases, were begging for help. And yes, something needs to be done in regard to this issue, but let’s not use this as a parlor trick to divert attention from one pertinent fact. What the overwhelming majority of these killings also have in common is easy access to legally purchased semi automatic assault weapons.

I would never own a gun because statistics show that gun owners and their families are more likely to be a victim of their own gun, than to ever use it against an intruder, but I am not against other people owning one. A gun, to me, is something that needs to be carefully aimed, fires once, needs to be cocked to be fired again, and needs to be reloaded after 6 or 8 rounds. A weapon that shoots 30 rounds in 31 seconds only has one purpose. Mass casualty. There is no reason for civilians to own guns like these, and I’m pretty sure our forefathers would have written things differently if AR 15′s existed.

Unfortunately, mass shootings will be a part of life unless all citizens are required to give up assault weapons, but sadly, this is a sacrifice that people who want these weapons are willing to make. I can only hope that congress decides to make the connection, and put the assault weapons ban back in place. It will still take years for this trend to slow down because American households are apparently saturated with semi automatic weapons, but we need to start somewhere. My guess is that if the original ban never ended, twenty first graders in Connecticut would be sitting on Santa’s lap, or helping mom bake holiday cookies instead of having their bodies prepared for burial, but what do I know? I’m just a pool player.

An Open Letter To Pool

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Dear Pool,

I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately, and we need to talk. I’m starting to think that our relationship is one sided and unhealthy. Don’t get me wrong…the good times are fantastic. In those times you build me up and make me feel invincible, and nothing has ever made me feel that way before. I truly appreciate those moments and I will cherish them forever, but what we really need to talk about are the other times.

You know what I’m talking about. I love you with all my heart and your indifference and downright cruelty toward me are an unnecessary betrayal. You keep me away from my friends and family for days at a time. You take my money and rarely pay me back. At times you humiliate me in public. You relentlessly point out every one of my flaws to show me just how insignificant I am in your world. How could you be so horrible to me when I give you so much of myself? I’m constantly working on this relationship, but nothing is ever perfect enough for you. I’ve been thinking about leaving you for good.

But who am I kidding? I am still hopelessly in love with you. I am under your spell and I don’t have the strength to leave you. I am a broken person, and sadly, I will continue to take all the abuse you have to dish out. All I am asking is that you ease up on me before you completely crush my spirit. I don’t know how much more I can take, but I can’t leave because in my heart I know there is so much more in store for us. I can feel it! As crazy as it sounds I want to be your number 1. I want to be everything you expect of me and more. So it is with this letter that I am professing my undying love for you. I’m too invested in you to throw it all away for something that will never make me as happy as you can when things are good. Please take it easy on me. We could be great.

All my heart,

Jennifer

Motivation

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Reasons not to practice:

My back hurts
I’m tired
I need to do laundry
I’m hungry
I want to watch my son’s karate class
I need to clean my apartment
I already practiced 16 hours this weekend

Reasons to practice:

I want to show my son that anything is possible

Back to work.

Who Shot ‘Ya?

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Part of being a professional player is maintaining professionalism when the chips are down. Not displaying anger at the table, being gracious when losing, and interacting pleasantly with fans after a tough loss are a few of the things that I feel I have mastered over the years. In short, part of my responsibility in being a pro player is acting like one, but now that I’m competing with the men more, I’m finding that sometimes I need to haul out my inner thug.

Now don’t get me wrong…I’m an absolute lady as long as my opponent is respectful, but when that line is crossed my short tempered Italian roots start to show, and I can’t be held responsible for the foul mouthed insults that roll off my razor sharp tongue.

This past weekend I played in a men’s open/pro event, and ended up with a second place finish. All in all my opponents were respectful and some were even complimentary, and although I appreciate their professionalism, those aren’t the ones I want to talk about. I really want to talk about my first opponent. A pool cue toting gorilla with a spray tan and “blue” eyes, who, appropriately enough, works for the department of sanitation, and could easily be cast in a new reality show called The Real Garbage Men of the Jersey Shore. To protect his identity I will call him Stanky Fernandez.

Stanky and I have some history that he may or may not remember, and for many years I looked right through him like the greasy, fingerprinted plexiglass in the Chinese takeout. That incident occurred back when they still had a womens pro event in Las Vegas. I was out in the arena playing my heart out, and after coming back from a big deficit, I found myself shooting a tough backwards cut on the 7 to close the match. I’m locked on the shot when a loud voice echoes across the arena “There’s no way she’s making this shot!”. I get up, and look into the stands. Stanky. Now keep in mind, before this point I had never spoken a word to him. We were just fellow New Yorkers who occasionally ended up in the same pool room. I felt fury rise up inside me as those sitting to his right and left admonished him for his loud outburst. I refocused. Now that the whole arena knew what he thought, I was determined to prove him wrong. I cut the ball in, ran out and won the set, but from that moment on, Stanky ceased to exist in the world of Jenn Barretta.

It would have been nice to keep it that way, but once I started competing in open events, our paths were destined to cross, and I would not only be forced to interact with him, but to (shudder) make physical contact. Stanky and I played each other in the last open event, when he found himself on the sitting end of the handshake. He promptly ran crying to anyone who would listen that he lost because he’s a rhythm player and I play so slow that he falls into my rhythm and blah, blah, wahhh! Whatever. In my estimation, he lost because his cueball is whack, and despite his big gorilla break, the balls don’t always land right outside the holes, but who am I to judge?

Fast forward to last Sunday. I walked into the venue and began to warm up. One table over I noticed that Stanky had arrived, and was also warming up. I watched the draw and saw that I got a first round bye, but noticed that Stanky had to play a good local player, and if he won, we would be squaring off again. I watched some of their match, and when his opponent was up 7-3 in a race to 8, Stanky attempted a thin cut safe, but missed the whole ball. His opponent, who is a portrait of good sportsmanship, asked, “ball in hand?”, Stanky, not surprisingly, replied, “I hit it.” As his antics are intended to do, his opponent promptly fell to pieces and lost 8-7. Believe it or not, I was happy with Stanky’s victory because, even though I would be forced to (shudder) touch him, I felt Stanky was a much better draw for me, and would have gotten his garbage collecting ass handed to him in the first round, if he didn’t cheat.

So here comes the rematch. We flip the coin, and I win the toss. Thankfully, it’s rack your own, which I’m sure the tournament director put in place just for him. I rack the balls, break and push out. Stanky looks at it for 5 minutes, making a big show of chalking his cue and taking extra sips of water before he gives it back. I play safe. Stanky looks at it for another 7 minutes. Ok, I get it. But what he doesn’t get, is that I play on the women’s tour. We’re on the shot clock in almost every match. I am 100% comfortable with it. In fact, I hope we get the shot clock because I doubt he’ll feel the same way. Stanky may run the balls quickly, but he’s going to need some serious time to make his sparse brain cells smoke when I put him in uncomfortable positions.

The match continues at a snails pace, when I break, make two balls and hang the ten in the corner. The cueball lands a foot away from the ten, and the one is in front of that. I look into the gorilla’s beady, blue contact clad eyes, point to the ten ball, and say “I’m going to call the ten”. I draw the cueball off the one, and pocket the ten. I go to rack the balls when he gets out of his chair. “You didn’t call that.” . (SNAP!) I can feel the breach in my temporal lobe, which normally curbs my animalistic impulses. “Don’t start with me, Stanky! Sit down and shut the fuck up, because I’m going to rack right now,” I yell, “this is the only way you could beat me. You have to cheat!”. (oh, god, did i really just say that?) He proceeds to call me a fucking bitch (Why yes, I am, thank you), and runs crying to the tournament director, who, being used to his nonsense, basically told him to go away. I rack the balls, and continue playing.

At 4-3 me, Stanky runs to the tournament director again, and asks for a shot clock. Is he really that terrified of losing to me? The tournament director was watching his earlier antics and, once again, Stanky was forced to do the walk of shame back to his chair. The score was soon 7-5. Now that his final bid for nonsense was rejected, he decided to play some pool. He used his big gorilla break, and broke and ran 2 racks. Good for him. You can win, but you’re going to have to play, son. He breaks the final rack, gets a shot at the one but, as what usually happen with people that have a weak cue ball, he gets in trouble on the 3, makes it, and sends his rock right at the hole. I get ball in hand and shoot a 4-10 combo for the win.

I walk hesitantly over to Stanky and debate whether I should shake his hand. He extends his first and I let my fingertips barely graze his as the gallery awkwardly snickers. I’m glad I got the W, but, just to make sure I didn’t get anything else, I ran for the hand sanitizer. The rest of my story can be read on NYCgrind.

Thug life, forever.

ps…while the above incidents are accurate and true, they are to be considered for entertainment purposes only, are not meant to be a character assassination, and do not reflect any ill will toward my opponent. Yeah, right.

pps…I’m not proud of my behavior but…oh, that’s such a lie. Never mind.

2011 World Mixed Doubles

It’s only been 2 months since I went to Hangzhou, China to compete in the Dragon Promotions 2011 World Mixed Doubles. I’m finally getting around to writing about it for one reason only. Jury Duty. More specifically, Grand Jury Duty. 30 days of sitting in a courtroom deciding whether to indict citizens of New York. I know it sounds like a long time, but it’s only 3 hours a day, and for a once aspiring prosecuter (me!), the whole process is fascinating. Anyway, as you can imagine, there is quite a bit of down time, and that extra time has allowed me to read, write and do the other quiet things that can be achieved on an iPad when you’re not in a noisy pool hall or sitting at home with a 5 year old that demands the iPad to play a game of Cut The Rope.

So anyway, back to China. When I got the invite to the tournament I didn’t know who my partner would be. Good chemistry goes a long way in a doubles tournament, so when I found out my doubles partner was Hunter Lombardo, I was thrilled. Hunter and I have know each other from around the pool scene for many years, and while we never played pool together, every time we are in the same room we end up laughing until our sides hurt. I like people who are open, impulsive and can go with the flow, so he was the perfect partner for me. Imagine my surprise when we discovered that we both travel with the same exact hair dryer. A match made in heaven.

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Considering we never played together, we played pretty well. Good doubles partners never point fingers, and help their partners get out of messes. We did that well, and when we lost, it was as a team. We ended up losing our first match to a team from Taipei. We played well, but so did they, and we ended up losing. Our next match was televised. The TV arena was on the ground floor of a mall in Taipei, and the production was extremely well done. I’m always impressed at how Dragon Promotions does live events so seamlessly. Recently I got some photos from that match that ran in a Chinese newspaper..

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In the next match we played team Japan, and got off to a great start. We played really well together and got a big lead. Then while we were on the hill, the wheels fell off. We both started making mistakes, and just couldn’t get out. In the end we couldn’t get it done, and we lost. We finished 9-12 out of a field of 16, but I think we had more fun than the other players.

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And we definitely had the best hair.

My New BFF’s!

You’d probably never know this, as scarcely as I update my blog, but I love to write. One of the reasons for my lack of blog entries is that I am stretched very thin, and it’s difficult to find the time and the peace and quiet that are required to write something meaningful. Thankfully, my new BFF’s at Pooldawg have commissioned me to write articles every 3 weeks. If there is one thing that motivates me, it’s big brother breathing down my neck, so every 3 weeks I will be delivering a short manifesto that you will hopefully learn something from, or at least enjoy reading. The following is a link to my first article. Enjoy!

Thoughts from the Electric Chair

10 things that tell me you’re a great player…or not.

It’s been a very long time since I’ve written, so luckily, Samm Diep recruited me to post a top 10 list along with many other pool industry bloggers. Strangely enough I had already planned to write this post, but just needed a little push, well ok, maybe a big shove, to get it done.

My top ten things are mostly tongue in cheek, but there is at least a grain of truth in each one. Of course these are all generalizations, and there will be exceptions to every rule, so please refrain from telling me about your mom’s second cousin’s ex husband who is a world champion even though he regularly snaps cues in half when he misses.

10 Signs You Are A Great Player…Or Not

1. A great player doesn’t whine. Do people run from you when your matches conclude, especially if you lose? Do you go trolling for the first sympathetic ear that wants to listen to every layout, every roll, every game you gave away? News flash: Nobody wants to listen to that. Great players know it, and when they are asked about matches they usually respond in 3 word answers. I played bad. He played great. I got lucky. Any more than that is TMI.

2. A great player always takes responsibility for losses. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people cry about losing to their opponents rolls. Hell, when I was a younger player I used to do the same thing (sorry to everyone who had to listen to that). Let’s face it, yes, people get rolls in pool, and yes, sometimes they seem to cost you the match, but it’s very rare that you have no opportunities or make no mistakes. It’s just part of the game, especially when you’re opponent is playing well and you’re not.

3. A great player sees the match clearly, and gives credit where credit is due. If your opponent is running racks and you miss a 2 ball in one of your three opportunities at the table, you should recognize that you were outplayed and you didn’t lose because you played like crap. Which leads me to the next point…

4. A great player either speaks kind words to their opponent at the end of a match, or shakes hands and says nothing at all. They don’t say “I played like shit” or “you got so lucky” or the cringeworthy “wow, I played so bad I can’t believe I won.”

5. A great player never throws temper tantrums at the table. Unless they’re Earl Strickland.

6. A great player has contempt for their opponent on the table and respect for them off the table. It is ok to want to bludgeon your opponent with the dull side of an axe while you’re playing, but great players never engage in fights, name calling, or the silent treatment simply because they lost the match.

7. A great player usually plays with a fairly simple cue. Top players are usually sponsored by cue companies that make cues for the masses. Occasionally a great cue maker will sponsor a player, but usually they really don’t make enough money to do so. People with large collections of expensive cues, or people who switch cues like Imelda Marcos switched shoes are probably not great players because great players know that it ain’t the arrow, it’s the injun.

8. A great player is a great sportsman. Everyone has their own line to draw here, but truly great players will call fouls on themselves. Most will tell their opponent if they are shooting the wrong ball or breaking out of turn. Many will give advice on shots that came up during the match when they are playing weaker players. All of them will look their opponent in the eyes and give a firm handshake at the conclusion of the match, win or lose.

9. Great players don’t disparage other people’s games. Most great players know how difficult pool really is, and know that there is a slow progression to greatness. Most of them remember being at the lowest levels of the game, and remember what it took to get to the highest level. Players who cut other players games down are just projecting their own insecurities.

10. Great players have fans, but more importantly, haters. Yes, that’s right, you haven’t really made it into the upper echelon of pool until someone you’ve never met is disparaging you on the Internet. So the next time you’re on the pool forums and you read about how someone’s grandma could give you the orange crush and your girlfriend looks like Jocelyn Wildenstein, just sit back and revel in the fact that you’ve finally made it.