Just the other week I posted about how I had found (again) my stroke and how I was so excited to have it back, that my game went up, I had newfound confidence.  Well, those were good times.

Last Monday’s league match was quite odd.  All day I had been fighting a headache (which I almost never get), so I took 2 tylenol (first time in probably 8 months I’ve had medicine of any sort).  It took the headache away pretty handily, but something else happened.  I took the pills around 6, went to play my match at 7.  I didn’t play well, but the weird thing was my mental state.  I didn’t have “medicine head”, but I had absolutely no interest in the game.  I was playing horribly, but just didn’t care.  Even when I tried to get upset at myself, to get some blood flowing, to make me focus on the match, it just didn’t happen.  I’d walk up and shoot a shot, not even looking at the table to see where I need to be for the runout. I just shot balls in (or didn’t, as it happened).  And yet, I still didn’t care.  I was getting FOUR games on the wire from this guy, and I should’ve won as he wasn’t playing his best game either – but I just couldn’t focus.

I know asprin isn’t a “downer”, but it really felt like it at the time.  So bizarre.  I mentioned this to someone else and they were equally as surprised.

The following Wednesday, I went to The Break to get some practice time.  I went back to the same table I played on last time and had a terrible night; out of spite.  I wasn’t going to let the table freak me out.  I start warming up and the table isn’t backing down. So, I switch some drills, to work on some shots that have been giving me trouble lately; and I break out the Jim Rempe training ball to see how accurate I’m cueing.

It turns out, that for a large portion of my shots, where I address the cueball in all my pre-shot strokes, isn’t anywhere near where I actually hit the cueball.  Anything with draw is off by a full tip.  I’m hitting the CB a full tip higher than my target location, sometimes I hit a full tip high and off to the right! 

Line-up and all pre-shot strokes point to here:
The mark on the CB after the stroke:

This was shocking and depressing to see.  It was pretty consistent as well.

I deliver the cue straight through, with no side-swing pretty well – so I’m left to assume that my timing is way off and/or I’m subconsciously raising the tip to avoid scooping the CB; which is obviously happening.

What’s even scarier is that 95% of the time, I’m getting the CB reaction I expect; which tells me that I really don’t understand what’s happening with the CB as much as I thought I did.

However, there is one “saving grace” note to add: After I thought about the actual physics of how the tip interacts with the CB, it makes more sense that where I address the “center of the tip – to the cue ball” wouldn’t actually be where the “tip hits the cueball”.  The tip is round, the ball is round – I’m lining up the centers (so to speak), but when I don’t hit the dead center of the CB, I also don’t hit the center of the tip.  I hit with the edge closest to the equator of the cue-ball, which is automatically going to look like at least a half-tip wrong – in the direction of the 0,0 axis point of the cueball.  What I mean is, if I’m aiming with low left english, the section of the tip that makes contact with the cueball, is actually the top-right (as I look from behind the tip) section of the tip closest to center/center on the cueball!  Similarly, if I’m aiming with high-right, the area of the tip doing the work is the low-left (from behind) portion.


After realizing this, I felt a lot better about my stroke – but unfortunately I didn’t come to this realization untill several days later when I just couldn’t understand how I could be so wrong.

So, a word of caution about the Jim Rempe ball: you will drive yourself crazy trying to get the chalk-mark where you think you should, until you realize that where you aim and where you hit, even with a perfect stroke, is not the same.

Back to my results: could I be more accurate in cueing? Absolutely.  After all, the reason I brought out the Rempe ball was to see if I could remove some effort from the swing and still get the same action.  And while I think I have a pretty good stroke, there’s room for improvement.  I have problems hitting center/stun with power reliably (I usually over-stun and draw the ball, or to counter that, I’ll put follow on the ball accidentally).

The depressing results of my practice Wednesday carried over to my Master’s match Thursday and I gave a couple games away that spelled my demise.

Friday, I thought about just not playing at all, but realized that I needed to get back in the saddle, so to speak.  I finally made it up there around 11pm, and again, was not having a good time.  Thankfully, some guys and I got into a doubles 3-cushion game.  I was SO THANKFUL to be playing something other than 9/10 ball.  I mean, I love those games, but man I really miss solving puzzles at the table.  I played 3-Cushion the entire night.  Most of that time I had my 12″ 8oz extension on my cue as well; which was both awkward – then awesome.

During that little session something great happened: I had fun.  Pure and legitmate fun.  Just fun.  No pressure, no practice.  Just plain old good times.  I don’t play 3C, in fact I’ve only played about 4 times ever; but I find it fascinating.  I love looking at 50 square feet of table and visualizing the (hopeful) route of the CB around the corners to get within a 6-inch box. Every shot is a stroke shot, hard or soft, gotta have a clean stroke.  I love watching the balls roll and spin and fall into line to hit the 2nd object ball for a point.  It’s wonderful.  It’s creative yet somehow still logical.  I love this game.

Whatever was happening with my arm before, seemed to have worked itself out, cuz I received a nice comment from a guy who’s quick to spot when my stroke is off, offering that it looked “smoother than before”; which he had witnessed my Monday match.  I’m hoping that tonight’s league match will pick up where Friday’s fun (and stroke) left off.