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fupersly's blog
2nd one
1/27/2008 8:04:08 PM
I think I left off at Santa Cruz in my last blog, so let's continue the story from there...

After the 1998 Nationals, I felt like I could develop into a better player if I just focused my attention on the game and stuck with it. Well, the best way to get experience is to play, and I had never played a challenge match before that time, so I figured it was time to give it a spin. I challenged the two players I felt I had a relatively reasonable shot at beating at the time - Mike Adema and Dave Parmley. They were both better players than I was, but we had played each other in weeklies and I was able to get the best of them from time to time, so I figured it would be a good start for me. After all, even if I didn't win, I'd have the experience to use the next time we played. Well, suffice it to say that I didn't exactly light the world on fire right away as they both handled me reasonably well, but those matches certainly brought out my competitive side and gave me reason to believe that I could hold my own if I played well (which back then was probably not scoring on myself more than once per game).

The next period of my AH career is a little bit fuzzy, as I was continually disappointed with my finishes in major tournaments. I traveled to Arlington in 1999, only to lose to a 14 or 15 year old kid in a match that I'm still bitter about. (the ref thought I knocked the puck off the table, even though it was a defensive reaction to my opponent's shot - GAR!) I ended up taking down the Amateur Championship, losing only 2 games in the process (clearly, I was pretty bent that I couldn't get into a higher bracket), then performed the same way at the 2000 Vegas Nationals, losing to Clay Daniel in a tight 7-game set that I believe I had several opportunities to close out before it got to the 7th game. Again, I was bitterly disappointed, and although I did struggle a bit against Eli Barajas for the bracket win that year, I was at least happy that I had done as well as I could have following my elimination from the main bracket.

After Vegas, I felt unsure about my Air Hockey future - did I really want to keep banging my head against the wall in major events just to end up disappointed with a poor performance? I felt like I played much better in weeklies, but somehow couldn't capture that "feel" in a big event. But thinking about it now, I think I really just had no clear idea what winning those matches really required from me. I clearly had some talent, but I wasn't getting the most out of myself. Of course, the silly part of it is that the answer was right in front of my face - I lived in a house with an Air Hockey table and one of the good Pro-level players at the time (Dave Gray), and yet we barely used the table at all. I'm almost amazed that I beat anyone back then, simply because I wasn't putting in the effort necessary to develop a comprehensive game. I've always had a good cut and a pretty good right-wall under, but they weren't so good that I could beat more than a handful of people with those two shots alone. I finally realized I had to dedicate much more time than I had been in order to develop the kind of skills I'd need to make it to the next level.

Of course, things are never quite so easy. As the calendar turned to 2001, there was some instability in my personal life that caused me to keep Air Hockey at arm's length. I still regret this decision to this day, but I missed the 2001 Jillian's Nationals (by all accounts, the best Nationals ever held with over 100 players, a number which has still not been eclipsed) as a direct result of the turmoil in my relationship at the time. I really don't want to blame her, but it's always difficult to resolve feelings of resentment when your perspective is limited - and we were just so unhappy being together at the time, we didn't really talk about our problems in a healthy way and it led to us "separating" for a time. Although we still lived together, she did her thing and I did mine, and it was at that time that I realized I was a happier person away from her than with her. Difficult as it was to admit, I knew it was no longer meant to be.

One of the best things that came out of the split, however, was the fact that I now had an opportunity to do the things I wanted to do without feeling any guilt - to be able to enjoy the things I wanted to enjoy without apologizing for wanting to do them in the first place. It just so happened that in the summer of 2001, Mark Nizzi was going to be in Sacramento and was looking for a challenge match. I had heard of Mark from a couple of sources, but mainly from George Anderson, who played a challenge match with him earlier in the year and was impressed with his game. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I felt liberated and wanted to give it a shot, so I drove to Sacramento to meet and play a match with "the Niz"...

After going through the aventure of finding a decent table (actually, it was an excellent purple top), I'd have to say we were both pretty surprised as I managed to not only take the first set, but the second set as well. I think it was really more a matter of me playing well above my level while Mark was having a bit of a letdown, but I was one set away from shocking pretty much the entire Air Hockey world with an out-of-the-blue victory over someone widely recognized as an up-and-coming talent. Maybe it was the pressure of that realization that caused me to tighten up as the match went on, as I found myself up 3 games to 2 and (I think) 6-3 in the 6th game and couldn't find a way to convert. In fact, I would score only one more point against Mark - in the 7th game - to lose the set 4-3 and the match 3-2. Mark was VERY relieved after the match was over as he had promised to give his trophy from the Jillian's Nationals to anyone ranked below him who could beat him in a match (I think that was how it went, anyway). He was really complimentary of my game and I appreciated the kind words, but I knew I had let a golden opportunity slip away and was once again frustrated that I hadn't been able to play the way I wanted to when it counted the most. However, I wasn't all that shocked about it because I knew I still hadn't put in the time and effort necessary to be able to win those kinds of matches. I actually think that in the back of my mind, I knew that I just wasn't ready to win a match like that at that time - it was as if my brain found a way to convince my body to start missing shots (and believe me, I had my chances in that 6th game). Of course, I credit Nizzi as well for not giving up - he could have given in and not tried as hard as he did to block my shots or come after me with his own. That was an important lesson for me to learn, and gave me something else to think about the next time I found myself on the other side of that coin.

I think I'm pretty well rambling at this point, given that I'm not even in 2002 yet, so I'll stop here for tonight. I'll try to keep the gaps between posts a little bit smaller so you won't lose interest so easily, but I can't promise the next one will be a blast to read, either. ;) Hopefully there's enough in here to give you some perspective on where I've been, because it's key to helping you understand how I got to where I am today.

Blog History
Going Nowhere Fast 26 Mar 2015
Keeping Myself Honest 12 Aug 2014
Hatching My 2-Year Plan 08 Aug 2014
Only two entries? Weak... 23 Apr 2013
2nd one 27 Jan 2008
1st one 07 Sep 2007