Somewhere, someplace, maybe in an alternate universe, there is a book entitled "The Correct Behavior of Bad Sportsmanship". If there was such a book, there would be a section that talks about proper behavior of a player when his competitor suffers a massive reversal of fortune. In that section would be recommendations for proper decorum of competitors, spectators, and friends. These gamesmanship responses to the player's tragedy would range from unsympathetic observations to expressions of heartfelt sorrow for the poor suffering victim.
This little sharking distraction would be fully detailed and documented in that section. This tactic is applied against you immediately after some sort of major pool table disaster. The effort to console you would be of such magnitude that it totally disintegrates your concentration for many innings.
In 9 ball, it would be offered up after a perfect and precise run of the first 8 balls, with an easy duck sitting 4 inches from the corner pocket. Confidently getting down on the shot, you setup and make the stroke – arise to the expected cheers of your supporters only to hear a massive groan fill the room. Also missing is the expected plop of the ball into the pocket. You instantly know you face a table disaster. And, as expected, there is the 9 ball resting on the edge of the pocket.
<Pause for you the reader to fully imagine the situation.>
This is when your opponent starts applying the Consoling shark and wastes no time in getting started. For the pool hustler, there are multiple benefits. First, he takes the knife in your heart and starts twisting it. Then he gets to extend your suffering over several games. All of these little kindly presented but vicious efforts are designed to throw your game off – helping him win the match and take his rewards.
Watching your face and reactions carefully, he begins the mental destruction of your will to win. With a sorrowful tone of voice, he pats your back, and says something like one of the following:
- "Don't worry. You can do better. I have faith in you."
- "That could have happened to anyone."
- "I wish there was a Do-Over rule.”
This is intended to remind you of your disaster which in turn delays your mental recovery and extends the time you apply personal self-castigation. While you are focused on your drastic failure as a pool player, you have little ability to play well. And, if you do start putting the experience behind you, your opponent cautions you to be careful so that a similar mistake is not made. He even wishes you good luck on a critical shot.
Most important - stifle your immediate reaction to turn around and punch him heavily in the bread basket. If you were to follow your impulses, you would be in police custody very quickly. Instead, use all of your self-restraint and put on your best poker face. Ignore him and don't acknowledge any communication from him.
Do not immediately resume play after a major setback. Take a break or a time out to recover your emotional equilibrium and mental balance. Get away from the playing area and perform a few physical exercises such as deep knee bends, a round of quick toe-touches, or a couple minutes of jogging in place. This burns off some of the emotional energy you are trying to keep under control.
Let the physical effort wash away the tense after-effects of the bad experience. Then do some deep breathing to fill your body with oxygen. Be careful to avoid hyper-ventilation.
Then, with your emotions back under control, and your brain ready to get back into the action, return and do your best with renewed intentions to win. You have a chance to recover if you can regain and maintain concentration on the shot at hand. You do not have a chance if you go temporarily insane.
Whenever your opponent attempts to shark you with this trick – smile. Say, “Thank you. This match isn’t over until it’s over.” Gird your loins with fierce determination and get back into the game.