Besides going out of one's way stealing Mike Massey trick shot magic, sometimes you just need to do one thing.
Sometimes you need to take a risk on a dare!
That’s exactly what I did on the way to Vegas.
Heading on a flight from JFK, I didn’t like my last row seat, so I asked luggage check-in to switch it to an exit row or bulkhead.
I was fortunate someone just canceled, so they gave me an exit row seat in Row 9. The flight otherwise was booked to capacity.
During the five hour twenty minute flight to Las Vegas, there was a large man sitting across from me. We briefly shared some small talk before takeoff he said, “Man, these seats are really snug” as he wiggled uncomfortably.
I merely acknowledged and replied, “Yeah, they really are.”
Three uneventful hours passed by, now there was only a wee bit more than 2 hours remaining. I and the robust gentleman struck up a new conversation.
He started first, “So why are you going to Vegas?”
I said, “I am competing in a major amateur pool tournament at the Westgate Resort and Casino.” WE then exchanged names and pleasantries. .
He then said, “Oh I live outside of Vegas and didn’t even know they had a major pool tournament there”.
I asked, “So curious, what do you do?;”
He said, “I’m a sports agent of active and retired Major League Baseball players, and I represent 63 known players”.
He also mentioned one of his clients was ex- baseball player Pete Rose.
Agent: “Hey, do you know Mike Massey, the “Tennessee Tarzan”? He is my favorite pool player! They call him “Tennessee Tarzan, because his legendary strength, his grip is so strong that he can pick up 8 pool balls with one hand”
I said, “Of course! Mike is an 18-time World Champion Hall of Fame Player and also master of trick shots. He sometimes comes to the Westgate to give clinics during the tournament. “
Agent: “Oh really! Do you think if you see him you can get me an autographed cue ball? OMG that would make my year, Kaju!”
Now mind you I had NO Idea Mike Massey would be at the Westgate participating at this tournament this year
That’s when I took a gargantuan leap of blind faith, and I replied,
“Let me tell you, not only will I get an autographed cue ball signed to you by the 18-time World Champion, but I am going to play him, and I am going to BEAT him!!
What had I just done? Was I frickin’ insane? I have no idea Massey will even BE at the Westgate, let alone thinking I could be playing and beating him!
Our flight landed in Vegas, we exchanged cell #s and I told him I will be in touch shortly in a few days with some wonderful news.
Upon check-in to the Westgate Resort and Casino, one settling in I perused through the program schedule and did not see Massey anywhere on it.
I asked the APA Nationals personnel, and they all told me that Mike Massey was not on the schedule, and would not be coming out to the tournament this year.
Well I immediately realized I’d taken a huge risk by sticking my foot in my mouth and it apparently had backfired.
Feeling severely devastated and mortified, for the next 3 days I played a few exhibition matches with “The Black Widow” Hall of Fame pro Jeanette Lee at one of her pool clinics so I could at least get her autographed cue ball as a consolation prize for my new agent friend.
Yes, I did play and get that cue ball signed by Jeanette, but man, I was not looking forward to telling the agent the bad news that his all-time favorite pool player was not to be found
The next morning I left my suite earlier than usual to go for breakfast inside the promenade of the resort, and instead of making my usual right turn off the elevator on the ground floor toward the restaurant,
I decided I would make a left and take a long walk past some of the vendor stands I’d not seen before. It was now 10:15 am, and as soon as I passed the vendor stands, I could not believe eyes!
There was “Tennessee Tarzan” this 6’6″ gargantuan of a man standing before me in front of a lone bar box, and since it was so early in the morning he appeared not to be busy.
Can this be happening?!
This was a 1 in a million chance, I couldn’t blow it now, I walked up to him and said,
“Mr. Massey, I’m Kaju and I’m a big fan of yours. It’s wonderful to meet you!”
Massey replied, “Oh thank you young man, what can I do for you.”
I said,” To be honest Mike, this may sound strange, but a good friend of mine who lives in this area is an agent for baseball players, and he is a HUGE fan of yours. So he told me it would make his year if I could somehow get a signed cue ball from the “Tennessee Tarzan” himself.”
“I still can’t believe I am even here talking to you, Mike. The APA people told me you weren’t coming this year! What happened?”
Tennessee Tarzan replied, “Yeah, at first I told them I wasn’t going to make it this year. Then yesterday I decided to change my mind and told them on a whim I’d be coming to set up shop”. “I’ve been doing this gig so long, they always let me come whenever I want to.”
OMG, can this really be happening. I could hardly compose my thoughts, my mind is racing a mile a minute!
On the 4th day here by pure serendipity I am meeting Mike Massey who isn’t even supposed to be here – and I now have an opportunity to get that autographed cue ball!
And just when you thought things couldn’t get crazier, everything goes completely off the chain!
Mike said to me, “So what’s your rank?”
“In APA I’m a 7.” I responded
Mike replied, “Okay, I will tell you what young man. I was going to give you that signed cue ball anyway for your friend, but since it’s not busy now, play me a set.
8 Ball, APA rules. Best 3 out of 5.
You get to break.”
I practically fainted.
Wake Me Up, I am Playing a Living Legend!
Completely shell-shocked, all I could say was
“Yes sir. Surrreee.”
Tennessee Tarzan walked up to the bar box and proceeded to rack the balls. I had no idea where I was, was this a dream or was I still in Vegas?”
He said, “Good luck, you man!”
So I broke the rack, and made a ball on the break. Still my turn.
Table looks good with only few problem clusters. So I made 4 balls in a row, and then missed a long cut shot. Tennessee Tarzan’s turn.
I sat down in my chair, not expecting to get up again.
Yep, and that’s exactly what happened.
Mike walked up to the table, ran out all his balls by breaking open a problem cluster before his last shot, then after making a tough shot on the key ball (the ball prior to the 8 Ball), made the 8-Ball cut shot in the corner pocket.
I’m down 1-0. Next rack.
I break, and this time I break “dry”. For those who are not familiar with pool, that means I did not make a ball on the break.
Mike Massey comes up and takes solids. He runs the next 6 balls. He attempts a one-handed cut shot…oops! I don’t believe it, but he misses on the 4 Ball! Now it’s my turn. I proceed to run 5 striped balls of my own, and then I have a long but makeable shot on my 11-Ball.
I aim and shoot, I can’t believe it! I over cut the ball. He comes up and “smells blood” and there is no denying him this time. He runs the last ball and then banks the 8 Ball for the win.
Now I’m down 0-2.
Damn, I could’ve had that rack! My fault, can’t do anything now. My back is to the wall, I need 3 wins in a row. Well at least I think he will give me an autographed cue ball!
One thing I began to notice, was that a crowd was gathering around the small bar table in the Westgate annex, watching our exhibition match. By the third rack, the crowd gathering was becoming rather sizable.
The next game I break and make 2 solid Balls. I go on to win this rack, as I played a lock down safety by “snookering” the cue ball behind my 1-Ball, forcing Mike to “kick” at his striped ball, which he missed.
Lucky me. Mike usually hits that kick shot. With ball in hand, I ran out the last ball and the 8 Ball. My first rack win.
I’m now down 2-1.
Now comes one of those legendary racks.
Here we go.
Starting with the break of the 4th rack, I make a stripe.
Off the break, I run the next 4 Balls; however after making the 4th ball I get “snookered” or blocked behind Mike’s striped ball. I now have to kick at the 9-Ball and make contact with a rail, or Mike will get ball in hand and almost certainly will run out all his solids.
“Slow down and breathe” I say to myself, as I measure the kick shot with my cue.
I lean down slowly and shoot the cue ball with soft medium speed off the long rail first, and incredibly it connects cleanly with the 9-ball and makes it straight in the corner pocket. Unbelievable!!
Even Mike after this incredible shot immediately said, “Hey, what’s your name?” I walked over quickly and told him “Kaju, thank you!”, but did not waste any more time to come back to the table.
However, now I can barely see the next striped ball nary a sliver of the 15-Ball. So I play a long “skim” safety off the 15-Ball and leave the cue ball down table. Good clean hit, but is now Mike’s turn.
Mike proceeds to make quick work, running 6 solid balls in a row almost effortlessly.
In earlier games, Mike was occasionally shooting one-handed and showing off, but suddenly he stopped. I said to Mike, “Go ahead and shoot one-handed.” There was a cut shot on the 1-Ball remaining, an easy 5-Ball in the side pocket to get to the other side of the 8 ball, then the 8 Ball near the side pocket.
Tennessee Tarzan replied, “Oh no, I learned my lesson earlier. I can’t fool around with you anymore, I have to remember you’re a 7.” Meanwhile, there was a medium cut shot on the 1-Ball along the rail about 6 inches away from the corner pocket.
Mike goes down on the 1- Ball shot – and after all that talk shoots the shot one-handed – and I can’t believe it ! – he misses the shot and “hangs” the 1-Ball right in front of the corner pocket!
Wow, I’m still alive!
But I have a difficult run-out with 2 striped balls remaining on the table plus the 8-Ball, and I know I cannot miss!
Very difficult order for any player, even without the pressure of feeling smothered by the moment and the crowd. So here it goes.
I begin by sharply cutting the 15-Ball in the side pocket, then run the cue ball with outside English off the opposite short rail to a position along to the opposite long rail for a long tough follow shot on the 14-Ball into the opposite corner pocket.
The 8 Ball is somewhere in the middle of the table, so I will need to stroke this long 14-ball with top inside English, and come around the cue ball 3 rails to get position on the 8-Ball in the middle of the table.
So I get down on the 14-Ball shot, and execute a perfect down the rail inside English shot with medium speed, with the cue ball coming around the table off 3-rails off, the ball still rolling, rolling, and rolling…..
Dammit! The cue ball is terribly too close to the 8 Ball.
Now I will have to make a ridiculous cut shot with the balls very close together– and also make sure I do not foul – to pocket the 8-Ball for the win, and not scratch and lose!
I go down to “measure” the shot, come up again and take a few deep breaths, and now my concentration is laser focused. I am totally zeroed in on my target!
As I pause my last warm up stroke, I take an extra split second to visualize an imaginary line going into the pocket, and use the 8 Ball and that line as a final point of reference.
Then I struck the ball firmly with low outside English on the cue ball, spinning the cue ball to avoid a scratch in the side pocket; subsequently the 8-ball blasts toward the corner pocket and hits the outside rim of the pocket.
My heart suddenly stops.
All within a split second, the 8-Ball jiggles, and JIGGLES around the outside edges of the corner pocket – and sinks in!
Meanwhile, the cue ball I struck the 8-Ball with spins off the long rail, and reverses direction spinning with speed toward the opposite corner pocket and looks like it will scratch – but Mike Massey’s 1-Ball that he left hanging in front of the pocket from his previous one-handed shot stops the cue ball from falling in- preventing a game-ending scratch and preserving my victory!
A miraculous rack win!
Suddenly I am now tied 2-2 in a games with the 18-time World Pool Champion!
Could I ultimately make good on the final promise I made on the flight to Vegas with Pete Rose’s sports agent?
Well, this was only made possible because I decided to take a risk on a dare.
The Business Lesson we can learn from Pocket Billiards
Forging relationships in our personal and business lives at times requires taking a calculated blind risk.
Certainly there are times in life and in the course of our online business when we reach a crossroads; and in order to succeed we need to “take a risk on a dare.”
However, developing this special intuitive skill requires great experience, trust in one’s own ability to deliver, tolerance for ambiguity, and “nerves of steel.”
No risk, no reward is what they correctly say!
Don’t shy away from these opportunities in business, we must seize them and take charge!
This special skill set will require the following:
- Learning to recognize such special opportunities when they appear
- Learning to be comfortable with some amount of ambiguity
- A strong non-aversion toward taking calculated risks
- Possessing a strong will and determination to succeed
- An “Improvise as I Go Along” approach
- A willingness to accept one may embarrass themselves
- Strong interpersonal skills
- Pure guts and a slight bit of blind stupidity!
Stay tuned for the finale “Kaju vs. Mike Massey” rubber do-or die Game 5.
And to see how everything turns out between Kaju and Pete Rose’s sports agent.
This will all be in “Take a Risk on a Dare, the Finale Part 2”.
Thank you for reading this pots, and feel free to make any comments.