02 August 2014

Pool - The Gentleman's Game

It has been said that women say about 7000 words a day but men only 3000. I don't find that very hard to believe having associated with both. Men generally don't talk a lot. And that's what I love about pool. Just last evening I played three games without saying anything more than 5 words to the two gentlemen I played total. You walk into the place, buy your tokens and place them in the queue of tokens at the corner of the table. You watch quietly, waiting for your turn to come up. When your turn comes up, the champion (as he is normally called), who won the previous game, removes the pool balls and sets them up. The challenger (who was waiting his turn) is the one who gets to play first. And the game begins. No how-are-you's, no what's-your-name's, no where-you-from's just straight up business.

In fact, putting up wagers doesn't require any talking either. Yesterday, for instance, I won the first game pretty convincingly. When I looked up after setting the balls up I found that they guy who had come up to challenge me had placed K20 on the table. I shook my head and waved my hand indicating that I wasn't interested. "K10?", he asked, which I also declined and on the game went. Turns out I made the right call turning his wager down. He was superb. He won the next two games we played and I tapped out.

That's not to say there's no room for conversation. If you feel chatty and are fortunate to find yourself playing an opponent who doesn't mind a little conversation, you go ahead and chat.

I call it the gentleman's game because there's no arguing when playing pool. There's no need for a referee. And there's always a degree of mutual respect. Even the most pathetic player is not laughed at or scorned. Everyone just watches in silence. At the end of the game, courteous players offer a handshake saying, "Good game." And the great thing about it is, while it takes some level of ability to be really good at it, with sufficient practice, anyone can learn to play a decent game of pool! I do hate, though, the silent tension that sometimes accompanies the game. There are times when opponents kind of size each other up and have an attitude about them as they play but it never escalates beyond mere body language.

The trouble with pool particularly in Zambia is that it is generally associated with drunkenness because it is typically found in bars. That's probably true almost all over the world but more so here. At least in other countries, pool tables are found in homes and there are pool parlours. Both of these are rare in Zambia. And it is quite perilous for young teenagers because they go into bars intrigued by the game and soon pick up a thirst for what everyone seems to really be enjoying around them as they play away. It isn't long before they begin to drink as well. It's quite unfortunate but the average individual you see who is good at the game probably drinks as well.

Despite it's bad rep, I love the game. It's a great recreational game and surely is the gentleman's game!