The Wild Thing or Not
Many people know that I love baseball and pool which seems to go together and especially when regarding the pace of the game. Neither one was designed to be played against a time clock as is basketball and football. Certain game situations just require study and sometimes a lengthy defensive struggle to avoid allowing your opponent a great opportunity to shoot. Individual players also play at a variety of paces between shots suited to each person’s style. Some players have a semi frantic or hyper shooting speed, Luc Salvas and Lou Butera, and other are very methodical and deliberate, like Buddy Hall.
This characteristic is also existent in baseball and Chicago Cub fans may remember the Red Baron and the Wild Thing. Rick Sutcliffe was a large man that had red hair and a dominating fastball with accuracy, thrown from such an easy and smooth motion which added to his control but also deceived the hitters as the ball seemed to be “on top of them” much quicker than anticipated based on such a slow methodical throwing motion. Rick was successful for so long that his effectiveness and hair color yielded the nickname, “Red Baron”. The polar opposite on the Cubs was the closer known as the “Wild Thing”, Mitch Williams.
Mitch was left handed and was used in the final most tense moments of the game; However, his “electric fastball” was frequently erractic as far as accuracy, but unhittable when it found the strike zone. Good days produced rapid total success but all too often he would create problems from extended periods of wildness which allowed batters to reach base due to four consecutive pitches out of the strike zone. This wildness could occur at any moment and seemed caused by a rapid jerky throwing motion which did not allow for consistency. The manager would insert the legendary, “Wild Thing”, and the crowd along with the manager and players would begin the daily rollercoaster ride of emotions and frustrations that had to accompany this style. The manager even had a commercial brought on by the drama and stress produced where he was seen in the dugout using a product to settle an upset stomach caused by nerves. Once during an interview Rick as was asked about his throwing motion compared to his wild counterparts, his answer was, “when i’m pitching it looks like a man throwing from a lawn chair and when Mitch takes the mound it looks like a man pitching which his hair on fire.”
Pool players also play at differing speeds and tempo, some are slow and still others play much quicker yet neither is right or wrong just individual. Frequently situations arise that require some thought and a touch decision must be rendered on a circumstance that does not possess a certain and correct answer. These moments exist for everyone regardless of their playing tempo; However, once a shot selection has been determined while stalking the table or standing behind the shot and you initiate the stroke execution process bending over the cueball, then the amount of time spent over the cueball should be uniform and constant irrespective of the shot difficulty.
Consistency in the stroke execution is best produced from a uniform and precise cue delivery pattern that uses a uniform span of time. Frequently a threatening shot will crop up and the fear of an error will cause us to try to avert an error by applying some additional time, care, and extra focus. This aids inconsistency with the sudden change in tempo and the extra time spent is often accompanied with some indecision or second guessing regarding this difficult situation. The phrase, “paralysis from analysis” can apply and we can enter so many thoughts of “what if” that a clear mindset during the stroking phase does not exist. We then attempt the most challenging shots with some hesitancy or mental ambiguity which creates a mental fog and the level of exactness needed is just not present.
Once you establish a shot selection and begin the stroke delivery process you must be commiteted to your decision. “Miss with commitement not ambiguity”. Take your time in between shots evaluating and decision making and even should you choose the wrong shot spend your effort in a focused optimistic stroke delivery and your success with all shots “right or wrong” will increase. Present a confident up-tempo pace once commencing the execution phase after the decision phase, no more thinking! The mindset of aggressively attacking this confrontational shot will and has served many well. Despite my mention of a committed attitude and the up-tempo pace used to pocket though shots we must still use the slow final back-swing and the cruical smooth exchange from back to foreswing, just do not stand over the shot using a much greater time span and practice swing count than usual. Implement uniformity in your stroke execution and time frame on all shots, not carelessness on the less difficult and greater care on the more demanding shots. Imporved percentages on the crucial shots will soon be yours from the use of a clearer thought and execution pattern.
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I took a road trip to get out of the Wisconsin winter in January of 1979 and after driving less than 200 miles got snowed in for a few days