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Why we Love to Play Pool

A short story about what draws us to pool and billiards and why we love it. It was originally published in the July 1996 issue of "Players Choice" magazine under the title "Poor: Why We Love It".


Why we Love to Play Pool

Why does man play pool? What is it about the game that appeals to the human psyche? Why does your heart beat a little faster, your hands instinctively start sweating, your mind start planning out shape every time that you hear the "crack!" of a break?

Well, theories as to why we do what we do abound. Freud thought everything we did was related to our sexual desires (Yeesh, wouldn't he get a kick out of NBC's Thursday night schedule?). Nietzche felt that man's belief in a higher being was to blame for all of his anxieties (My favorite bar bathroom graffito: "God is dead"-Nietzche "Nietzche is dead"-God).

The point is that everybody has their own opinion as to what impels us to do what we are driven to do. Well, here's mine.

Man (humans, for the politically correct) enjoys the game of pool for two reasons: his love of nature, and his need to rebel.

What does a love of nature have to do with a game played indoors? Everything. What color is the felt on most pool tables? Why, forest green, of course. What is the standard for table tops? Natural slate. What are sticks made from? Titanium? Stainless steel? Aluminum? No, the finest sticks, as well as the cheapest ones, are all crafted from wood.

It's interesting that in many outdoor sports, natural materials are going by the wayside. Twenty years ago, solid persimmon was the only choice among low handicap golfers for construction of woods. The hackers used laminated wood, which was cheaper.

Today, well, when was the last time you saw woods which were actually made from wood? I laughed when I first heard the term "metal wood." I love the innate humor of the oxymoron. Today, it's taken for granted that "woods" are no longer wooden. If they ever make a comeback, we'll have to resort to the strange concept of "backwards naming." We'll have "wooden woods," like we have "wind up watches."

Why did golfers give up the wood in woods? Because golf, as an outdoor sport, is not bound by traditional needs to keep things primitive and natural. No, when you're standing in the open air, you don't feel a need to keep hold of the natural aspects of the game.

Of course, the indoor persuasion of darts has turned into a high tech sport. But dart players are different from pool players in very fundamental ways. How many times have you imagined yourself as Fast Eddie, or Fats, or any number of other sharks while you were playing pool? You just don't do that when you're playing darts.

No, when you're playing pool, your mind is often taken back to earlier times. You might be thinking about when you first learned the game, or when Willie's record for consecutive shots was shattered, or when your grandfather hustled during the Depression. You think back to a time when things were more...natural.

So, while in nostalgia land, who wants to be holding on to a cold piece of metal? You appreciate the warmth, the subtle imperfections, the personality that a wooden cue stick holds. It's just like the difference between a walk down a wooded path, or a stroll across a parking lot. Which would you prefer?

As far as rebellion is concerned, well, where did your Mom tell you to stay away from when you were 14? The pool hall, of course.

The pool hall is where any number of vices would regularly take place, including smoking, gambling, and heaven knows what else. In other words, it was teenager's heaven. Of course, you made a beeline there when Mom wasn't looking.

There's nothing shady or illegal about the noble game of billiards, but the rebellious connotation that it has endures.

So, when you chalk the stick and stare across a lot of green at the three sitting tight on the rail, you're The Rebel. You don't care what Big Brother says. If you manage to pick up a couple of bucks tonight, he'll never learn about it come next April. Yeah, I'll be home late tonight, Ma.

Pool—it's natural, and it's just a little shady. Enjoy it.

Why we Love to Play Pool

  • Title: Why we Love to Play Pool
  • Author:
  • Published: 6/15/1995
  • Last Updated: 3/6/2022 6:12:44 AM
  • Last Updated By: billiardsforum (Billiards Forum)

Why we Love to Play Pool

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