By Jim Meador

For the most part, I've enjoyed advancing age. Its just that my "most parts" aren't advancing with it. I shoot pool about 90% as well as I did in my prime pool years (between 35 and 45 years old), if the win/loss ratio is the only measurement of success. (It isn't, but I will qualify that viewpoint later.)

Think of people as cars. With age, they might still run, but they can't be pushed but so hard. There is a loss of compression as parts wear. They can't be depended on under stress, and they become inconsistent and temperamental. The driver (brain) might want to go faster, but the engine just can't provide the power. As we age, our nervous system can't deliver the brain's message without dropping part of it on the way. It can't be avoided. Age is a consequence of living, and so far I find it a fascinating experience. But then again, I like a good itch to scratch. I have lived, and continue to live for the pleasure of it. I leave my past, like rotting compost, to those poor souls who seem to be fertilized by it. I am on the web, and they see no advantage. I would also like to rocket to the moon, and that is certainly to no one's advantage, unless I got stuck up there.

When I shoot young players who have great eyes and motor skills, I am forced to depend on my experience. I'm a pretty good thinker, and I am patient. Kids will make mistakes. They will take that stupid shot to prove they know a good stupid choice when they see one. They will often "lose it" under pressure. They will do something...young. I can wait.

I have only recently discovered these facts, probably because I have only recently had to. And I am not criticizing young people. Being young is their job, and when kids are too smart it scares me. Players like Mike Coltrain and Charlie Williams are from the Village of the Damned. It's in their eyes. Balls jump in the pockets to hide. (Mike Coltrain shoots often with Johnny Archer in the Brass Tap & Billiards in Raleigh, North Carolina. Charlie Williams, a college freshman, shoots at Cue Masters in Norfolk and Virginia Beach, and has recently been seen humbling players at the Obelisk in Newport News, Virginia, where I hang out.

My advise to shooters who have concrete arteries, noses like road maps, and eyes that focus like a camcorder in a disco? Use your experience like a hammer. Don't expect to get the same position you did 10 years ago. Don't even try. Concentrate on that ball of fuzz you're aiming at, and let your opponents show you how good they are...while they lose. No, you won't win as many as you did when you could read this text without squinting, but you will win enough to feel good about yourself.

My advice to young shooters? Don't make any bets with that old man in the corner rubbing his eyes. Save your money. But if you must disturb him, play smart. Don't make the mistake he's waiting for. You can out shoot him. Just don't get out thunk. More importantly, pay attention to his table management. If you must lose, learn something in the process. I wish I had a dollar for every time I have "set up" my opponent to scratch. Young people jump all over shots more experienced players reject out of hand. A good hustler doesn't have to miss on purpose to reel in a good fish. He simply controls the other man's game. Don't fall for it.

Now to qualify my earlier remark about winning percentage not being a good measurement of success. I would rather have time for my game to improve, and lose more, than to have a good winning percentage and know I have reached my peak. Young men can improve their shooting skills and the mental game will follow. My mental game is improving because I can't trust my shooting skills, which are declining. Success is not where you are. It's where you're going, at any age. Now, shut up and shoot pool, kid!

For the record, The picture above is of me. I just played with it in Photoshop. Next to pool, I love my Photoshop most.

Happy Shooting! "Pops" Meador

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