English Amateur Billiards Association

EABA : The Billiard Monthly : February, 1911

The Billiard Monthly : February, 1911

Things that Matter in Billiards

4. SPORTSMANSHIP AT THE TABLE

Our leading subject this month carries us on to rather
delicate ground. It has been mainly inspired by observations
made by the writer during the progress of professional
matches, at some of which incidents have arisen
which have provoked the mental query:–“If it is
impossible as is so often asserted for amateur billiard
players to play like the best professionals, might not all
professionals endeavour, at any rate in regard to the great
essential of sportsmanship, to act during play like the best
amateurs?”

When gentlemen—and these may be either amateur or
professional—are playing against each other at billiards,
golf, or any other game no matter how strenuous may be
the conflict or how important the issue the dominant feature
and keynote in everything that is said and done are
mutual courtesy and cheerfulness. A gentleman regards
even the loss of an important game as a small loss Compared
with loss of temper or self-control or that due consideration
for an opponent apart from which the deportment
of a gentleman is not easily distinguishable from that
of a “bounder.”

For, unhappily, there are “bounders” amongst amateur
players just as there are gentlemen amongst the professionals,
and it should be the great end and aim of all lovers
of the refined and intellectual game of billiards to seek to
eliminate, by their consistently gentlemanly and cheerful
demeanour under even the most irritating circumstances
the “bounder” tendency wherever and whenever it discloses
itself.

Let us give a few illustrations of what we mean. The
game is going consistently against one of the contestants,
and from no fault of his own. The balls are seized with a
bad attack, so far as he is concerned, of witchery or devilry,
and, think, plan, or play as he will, he can do nothing right.

Facing a difficult scoring position every time he comes to
the table he brings off the stroke only to be faced with
another position equally unpromising. Going out for it, he
misses the cannon by a hair’s breadth, the cue ball at the
same time slipping through a space between cushion and cannon
ball little more by measurement than its own diameter.

Pursuing its course the cue ball pulls up for a nice halfball
in-off for his opponent, whose next stroke is a drop
cannon resulting in a happy little grouping around the spot.

Hope, nevertheless, revives, for the opponent, playing a
trifle carelessly, misses a “sitter” and is on the point of retiring.

His star is still in the ascendant, however, for the
red object ball, off which the intended loser had been designed,
makes a bee line for a pocket, is spotted, and the
“break” is resumed.

Now it is that the true nature of the much-tried and
unfortunate player discloses itself. Out of his inwardly
surging feelings almost anything may come. It may be
sarcasm, impatience, tamper, or a dozen other things, and
in the case of the “bounder” it will probably be all of them
combined. The player, however, who loves his billiards for
its own sake and who has the philosophy to reflect that all
such afflictions are sent to him for his good and that in a
scientifically exact game whatever happens must have some
sort of a sound reason attached to it, comes triumphantly
out of the ordeal and continues to survey the proceedings
with a pleasant smile, whatever he may be inwardly thinking.

The advantages of this attitude are many and obvious.

Preserving his own self-respect, he obtains in addition a
tacit recognition amongst the onlookers for restraint
amounting almost to saintliness, and—which is an important
playing asset—returns to the table unruffled and in
full command of his nerves and cue.

As the case has been thus far stated the opponent has
done nothing to annoy beyond taking such chances as the
game presented to him and making an occasional fluke.

But if such opponent be of the “bounder” type, he will not
stop here. His mission, as he sees it, is not only to continue
to score himself, but to prevent his opponent by any
device within the laws of the game, from doing anything.

Standing in the line of aim and doing those little unobtrusive
things which are so painfully obvious to the striker,
is one of these expedients, but by no means the worst.

Audible conversation with non-players—an irregularity from
which some members of clubs are not free—may be indulged
in, including “asides” which are intended to reach
the ear and, perchance, to impair the self-control, of the
striker.

Do professionals, especially, who squabble in public play
over minor points, and say rude things to each other; who
change their seats when their opponents appears to be set
for a break for others in the most frequent line of aim;
and who ostentatiously scrutinize their opponent’s placing
of the ball in the D when the necessary positioning for a
difficult fine stroke is on its extreme verge; realize the
immensity of the harm that such tactics and attitude do to
the morale of the game? If they did we feel convinced
that the two or three glaring offenders in these respects
amongst them would, by general pressure or persuasion,
be brought to see the wisdom of restraining their tempers
and of treating their opponents and the paying public at
matches with a due amount of gentlemanly and sportsmanlike
consideration.


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