By Greg Price
While there was Unfinished Business in the boxing ring last month, so too was there unfinished business at The Royal Bar in Taber with two heavyweights of pool playing.
In one corner was none other than myself… the Minnesota Fats of Taber if you will.
No, my skill with the cue is nowhere near the level as the character portrayed by Jackie Gleason in 1961’s The Hustler, but rather our immense girth matches up quite well.
In the other corner was well-known Taberite, farmer and father of former NHLer Devin Setoguchi, Dale Setoguchi.
The Royal has become a bit of my watering hole besides The Tank during Wing Wednesday after particularly stressful work days. My co-worker Trevor Busch and I cross the street from our Taber Times office to go split a pitcher of beer and shoot a few games of pool once or twice a week.
The frequency of my pool playing in recent months has upgraded my talent level of ‘blind one-armed man’ to ‘slightly above mediocre.’
After one such excursion, I was about to leave when I saw Dale sitting in a group of people I knew and decided to sit down for a visit.
A few topics were explored like how the local boxing card went off earlier in the month, how great the Pittsburgh Penguins are (well, not that one, but it is a favourite topic of Setoguchi’s that I bring up regularly with him, knowing of his alliance to the Philadelphia Flyers.)
As the conversation was about to wind down, the topic switched gears to billiards and my frequency playing the game at The Royal.
“I see you playing here a lot, but I bet I could still beat you,” Setoguchi boasted.
The group we were with got all wide eyed… a muffled gasp could be heard as it seemed like time was standing still for a moment (OK….maybe I’m using some artistic licence here).
I looked over at my opponent as we started the stare down. I gauged my opponent… was this man a wizard with the pool cue or was it simply the braggadocio of the liquid courage of a couple of Bud Lights speaking?
“It’s on like Donkey Kong” I yelled, inspiring all those within earshot, much like William Wallace did in that scene off of Braveheart.
The opposition picked the pool table and one word of advice I can give anyone who shoots pool at The Royal — know your terrain.
The difficult east table was picked in which there is the dicey north portion of the table wedged nice and tight to a wall.
That little bit of intel would have been nice to know, which ended up playing a pivotal role in the match. We both duked it out like prize fighters, we both battled through adversity like true champions — continually whining how there was no chalk available when we missed an easy shot. If that excuse proved too repetitive and tiresome, I had my impending tennis elbow and the sun being in my eyes in the enclosed building as spare excuses to my futility.
In the end, there was only two balls left to sink, the 8-ball for Dale, while I still had a solid and to the 8-ball. Dale missed his shot to put the game away, in which he hooked me behind the 8-ball for access to my remaining solid.
Digging deep in my study of trigonometry and channeling the power of positive thinking that bordered on the edge of cockiness, I spoke without a moment’s hesitation of ‘no call,’ with the hopes of simply banking the cue ball off the rail and grazing the one solid ball of my own that I had left.
I did more than that as I grazed my ball and left the cue ball in the dreaded ‘No Man’s Land’ near the cushion on the north side of the pool table.
Setoguchi had to raise his pool cue to an uncomfortable angle in order to even muster a shot and avoid the wall. The rough terrain swallowed him up and he scratched on the 8-ball — resulting in the win for Team Price. Those are the sweetest two words any underdog has heard who never stood a chance in sport… ‘De—Fault’ De-Fault!!!’
Bloodied and defeated, Setoguchi demanded a rematch on the ‘better table’ which I quickly agreed to and cheaply didn’t pay for.
The two gladiators did battle once again, and once again the two gladiators found themselves in a similar situation. Setoguchi only had the 8-ball left while I still had one more ball to sink besides the 8-ball. But this time there was no wall to save me, but rather that cruel mistress of trigonometry once again.
Setoguchi’s shot was the infamous 8-ball three quarters of the way up the table and being smack dab in the middle. A cut into one corner pocket likely means a scratch of the cue ball in the corner pocket beside it.
“Look’s like a scratch shot to me,” I said as Setoguchi lined up his shot, as I kept my good sportsmanship intact. Setoguchi looked up at the heavens and then looked at me with a sneer (artistic licence once again) as he delivered his shot. Indeed God hates a coward, but perhaps he hates those who are bad at science and trigonometry as well.
Setoguchi missed sinking the 8-ball, but the cue ball once again found itself a home in one of the pockets, and once again Price found himself victorious.
A 2-0 record with the 8-ball never being needed to be sunk for the wins. One day minstrels will be singing about my heroic victories.
I am now waiting patiently by the phone for my sports drink and shoe endorsements to come flooding in.