In the last column, which I called “Shark Attack 101,” we looked at the insidiousness of intentional sharking. We saw that sharking is a matter of degree and that anyone can be sharked under the right conditions. I left you to ponder several questions in the search for viable strategies to handle such occasions: What can you do when you are being sharked? How can you deal with the situation effectively? What strategies have you used in the past to stop shark attacks? I asked you to email me with ideas, but I forgot about the lag time between columns, so I’m writing this second part before you even got to see the first part. While I’m waiting for your ideas, let’s look at a few suggestions I’ve received from others. Welcome to “Shark Attack 202!”
I asked the following questions: What do you do when your opponent intentionally sharks you by moving his cue suddenly just as you go down onto the shot? How do you handle it? I presented these questions to people at different competitive levels and explained that I wasn’t looking for the usual knee-jerk answers such as “be mentally tough,” “just focus on the ball,” or “just ignore it.” I wanted them to remember when they had been distracted by an offending player and how they put a stop to it. I ran this scenario past experienced tournament and stake players, nationally ranked players and champions. Here are some of their responses:
Jim Cherry, a friend of mine and a tough match player, says he uses a humorous approach. He doesn’t confront his opponent directly but turns the tables on them with remarks such as “What’s the matter? Did you forget to take your medication today?” His tactic is to acknowledge the shark move and let his opponent know it wasn’t going to work on him. Cornbread Red once told me a similar response. After the opponent made his move, Red would say to him, “That ain’t gonna help you none.”
Another friend and experienced competitor, Cass Marchinowski, is more likely to take a confrontational approach. Like several others I talked with, he’ll ask the offending player nicely, one time, to settle down and play fair. “Then I let him know, in no uncertain terms, that this is not going to continue.” I never did ask Cass what would happen if it continued, but I imagine one of his options was to involve the tournament director. That can work sometimes, at least in professional events. Tournament director Scott Smith told me, “All you have to do is come and get me. If your opponent is intentionally trying to distract you, I will tell him to stop. If he continues, I can even call a forfeit on his match.” He went on to caution me, though, that all perceived sharking isn’t real. “One time,” he said, “I got all upset because I thought my opponent was trying to shark me, but it turned out he just had a nervous condition. He wasn’t moving on me intentionally.”
Grady Mathews, in his instructional video “Killer One-Pocket,” said that when your opponent is moving on you or “pouncing out of his chair” when it’s your inning, you must make him stop. Otherwise, he will destroy your tempo and concentration. In a recent conversation with him, I realized I was focused on the wrong thing in these situations. I was focusing on what I wanted to stop, not on what I wanted to have. Grady shared two words with me that made a difference. One was “still,” and the other was “behave.” He told me he walks over to the guy and asks politely, “Will you please be still while I’m shooting?” If it’s a gambling match and the player refuses to compete fairly, he’d find the room owner and ask if he can get the player to behave. “Most of the time, the owner of a place will make a player either play fair or quit.”
Anyhow, all of this reminds me of the basic premise I mentioned last month: You are not mentally weak if you can be sharked. You are not a wimp if you can be distracted by an opponent who will stoop to sharking to get his way. In the next column, I’ll wrap this subject up with some of your e-mails and also a few things I learned from Jose Parica and Danny Diliberto. Danny’s life story, by the way, is featured in the new book Road Player, which could practically be a text book on this subject matter. If fact, consider it required reading for Shark Attack 202!
Good luck good shootin’!