"Jim! Mark your pocket!"

I'm sorry, but when I'm running a table, I'm somewhere in space. It's an out of body experience: a union between mind and eye achieved through intense focus. When someone yells "Mark your pocket", as required by the APA, I come crashing back to earth. I am suddenly aware of earthly things, like eight balls, and I start thinking. When I think, my entire molecular structure breaks down, and I become a Chihuahua. My eyes run, and I vibrate all over. Chihuahuas may have their appeal, but I have yet to see one of those doggie looking things shoot a decent game of pool. They just shiver, and bark like hamsters on steroids. They excrete sticky stuff from their eyes that, I assume, keeps them from popping out. I should point out that I love dogs. But, a Chihuahua is a frog with hair, and visible genitalia. They were born for therapy. If anxiety is unhealthy, sex between Chihuahuas should prove fatal. And I don't think they are cute just because they are small. If small is a criterium, get a roach.

I play on another league (other than the APA), where it isn't necessary to indicate the eight ball pocket. Usually, it is pretty obvious to everyone where the shooter is aiming, and the shooter would not risk his or her reputation by cheating. I believe it is called honor. Many players will indicate the intended pocket by nodding or pointing in the general direction. It is, of course, a requirement of the rules. But we prefer the honor system, and have unofficially waived that requirement. If it a shot isn't obvious, the shooter will call it, as a courtesy. The opposition always has the option to ask. It is important to players at the Obelisk to be respected. This "honor system" allows a player to concentrate on the balls and not the rules. I don't know of any player at the Obelisk who would claim a pocket that wasn't intended. I don't want to know.

Of course there are fouls, and every player tries to force them on their opponent. But forcing a ball-in-hand foul requires skillful shooting, and is a critical part of the game. However, calling a foul when a player skillfully sinks the intended ball in the intended pocket, is petty. When I win, I want to know I have beaten the man shooting pool, not because I "stole" the game by any device, other than skillful shooting. When I am running the balls, a requirement to break my focus, in order to pick up a marker and place it near a pocket, is a nuisance that has nothing to do with shooting.

I don't know that I would object to the rule if it wasn't abused. What if the opposing team was required to remind the shooter to mark the pocket? After all, is it not the objective of the rule to remove doubt regarding the intended pocket? If so, those who would protest the shot should be required to question it in advance. Watching someone shoot the eight ball into an obvious pocket, and then scream foul, violates the spirit of the rule, and the game. Trophies and money are no substitute for integrity. Awards recognize achievement, and rules that negate achievement tarnish the prize.

I know. The rules are in fact there, and it is foolish not to use every device available to win. After all, the end justifies the means. Excuse me, but whether or not to use the rule is not the point. The vulnerability of the rule to abuse, as it stands now, is the point. I believe the rule should be amended to better reflect its purpose. In the absence of a referee, anyone should be allowed to remind the shooter to identify the intended pocket, and the opposition should be required to do it, or forfeit the right to protest should there be a question about the shot after the fact. The reason for marking a pocket is simply to remove doubt. The rule should not be a device for winning in and of itself. If the rule is just another challenge of the game, let's award or deduct points for things like chalking up, winning the coin toss, or brushing the table.

I am not criticizing the APA. I am questioning the abuse of one rule, and with intentions equally as innocent as those who made the rule to begin with.

The APA brings together a demographically diverse group of people with a common interest. It exposes new players to the advanced, and is a wonderful organization for new shooters to learn the game. It reduces our differences to a simple common denominator, and gives everyone an opportunity to develop new game and social skills. In effect, the APA is great place to filter out bigotries and biases, while in the common pursuit of team victory.

If you are an APA shooter, remember to "mark your pocket". But, as a member, consider promoting an amendment. When you are shooting, others are watching. Don't waste the opportunity to demonstrate integrity to those who may never have had the opportunity to learn at home. Maybe, at some time in the future, the rule won't even be necessary. There is nothing more satisfying than winning with honor. There is no win without it.

If you don't belong to the APA, please join and participate. It is a fine organization, and the competition is intense.

If you own a Chihuahua, don't take offense. I do understand their appeal and, after all is said and done, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I'm just glad there is something out there that shakes more than I do.

Happy Shooting! Jim & Pat


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