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.