Monday, October 06, 2008

Billiards: A Rich History

I must admit that I am a lousy pool player. Every time I play billiards, I embarrass myself with inept play and countless errors, kind of like the Chicago Cubs in the MLB postseason. I like to play; I'm just really bad. I found a web site the other day that dealt with the wonderful history of the sport in all its different forms. First off, if you did not already know it, there are three kinds of billiards. First, you have carom billiards, which is played on a table without pockets, including what they call balkline and straight rail, cushion caroms, three-cushion billiards and artistic billiards. (If you think straight billiards is tough, you have not tried carom billiards--it's even more difficult!) Second, you have pocket billiards, which is very popular in the United States and is generally played on a table with six pockets, including 8-ball, which is the world's most widely played form of billiards. Third, there's what is called Snooker. Snooker is technically pocket billiards and is classified as a completely different kind of game--one of the oldest and very popular in Europe. Mary Queen of Scots was buried wrapped in her billiard table cover in 1586. She must have really played a mean game of Snooker! Some of my favorite folks loved the game of billiards, including Mark Twain, Bob Hope, Babe Ruth, Jackie Gleason, Teddy Roosevelt, Lewis Carroll and W.C. Fields.

A Twain Wreck

Last night I dreamt that I was playing billiards with Mark Twain.
But, things were not going well with Mr. Samuel Clemens on this day. He was beating me like a rug at eight-ball and wasn't in a particularly good mood.

"Uh, Mr. Twain?" I asked.

"Yes, son?"

"Was Tom Sawyer a metaphor for society's mistreatment of the young?"

"No, son -- it was a reason to get paid. I started writing it hungover and was drunk when I finished it." He blew smoke in my face as he said it.

"Was Huckleberry Finn the devil?"

His cue froze mid-stroke. I could tell it was not a good question.

"Son, those are some of the most ignorant questions I have ever heard. You must have had a really terrible American Literature teacher. Either that or you were dropped as a child. Now, are we here to play pool or talk? Because I have a date with Mae West in about an hour."

Please let me wake up, I thought to myself.

But, just then he sunk the 8-ball.

These dead celebrity pool tournaments were not going well. Maybe it was time to take Bing Crosby up on his invitation to play golf.