Sunday, September 30, 2007

A Day with the Moose People

As you probably know by now, I play pool in a league that meets every Monday night. The league plays three “sessions” every year that last for 14 weeks each. At the end of each session, the top three teams and one “wild card” team play a series of playoff matches. The ultimate winning team goes to the Tri-Cup tournament, where they compete with other winning teams. Win two rounds at the Tri-Cup tournament, and you move on to the Cities championship tournament. If you win three times at the Cities tournament, the league pays for your entire team to fly to Las Vegas to compete in the National Championship tournament. It’s the absolute goal that every team lusts after.

Unfortunately we did not win our playoff round last session. However, Russell (our team captain) got a call from the league a few weeks later, informing him of the date and time of the Tri-Cup tournament. “But we didn’t win,” Russell protested.

“I have you on my sheet,” the league responded, “If you don’t show up, your opponents will get a default win. Just come and play, nobody will make an issue out of it if you don’t say anything.”

So as a result of this clerical error, our team showed up today for the Tri-Cup tournament, which is played in a Moose Lodge hall. The league owns a bunch of 7-foot pool tables that are assembled for this tournament, including table lights. The tournament lasts one day, then the tables and lights are removed and stored until the end of the next session. The Moose Lodge sells drinks and food, putting up with a bunch of noisy pool players for a day to raise a little cash.

Here’s the hall, set up for one day of pool:


Teams sit at folding tables set up at the ends of the pool tables. Between each row of pool tables is an “isolation row” where competitors must sit when it’s not their shot. This is to ensure that other members of their team can’t coach them:


When we arrived, we were given our paperwork for the first round, and an envelope containing $100, which was our prize money for winning the playoffs, which we had not won. We were laughing giddily about it, wondering if it was some kind of FBI sting operation.

We put up our first player, and the match began. I wandered around the Moose Lodge, which was decorated with lots of moose-related stuff, some of which was creepy. This painting is hung beneath a large, blood-red, heart-shaped lamp. It depicts a small child praying, with the words, “God Bless Mooseheart” printed in the lower right.


I wandered into an area where there was an old man sitting beneath a gigantic moose head, which had a small Moose Lodge hat stuck between the antlers. “Do you want to join the lodge?” he asked. “We need young people like you.”


“I’m not that young,” I said, “I’ll be 60 next month.”

“I’m 86,” he said, “Everybody looks young to me.”

“Thanks, but I’m not really interested,” I told him.

“We have ballroom dancing every Saturday night,” he said, and then looked at me as though he had said the magic words.

I politely declined again, then headed over to the bar. Because the Moose Lodge is a private club, they had to station a member at the bar, whose only function was to transfer the money for each order. I couldn’t pay the bartender directly; I had to give it to the member, who handed it to the bartender, who then handed me my drink, even if it was just a Dr. Pepper.

My team had to win 3 out of 5 matches to advance to the next round. My team captain selected the members of our team that would play, and we won in four matches – I didn’t play. In the second round that afternoon, we once again won in four matches, and once again, I didn’t even pick up a cue. We turned in our paperwork, and were given another envelope containing $260. We looked nervously around for unmarked police cars in the parking lot, agreed to split up the ill-gotten loot on Monday night, and then headed for home. We’ll play in the Cities Tournament in June, 2008, and hopefully we’ll do just as well, whether we deserve it or not.


Anonymous said...

If you don't want me to turn you in to the NPTA (National Pool Tournament Association)it's gonna cost you a hundred bucks and a trip to Vegas! I have a sister there I would like to visit.

Tim Clark said...

I've met your sister. Stay home.