|My first experience with any kind of "table hockey" was in pre-school. I remember playing on this small wooden crate/box with two open goals on each side. I don't remember how the puck slid around or what we used as mallets, but I did figure out that it was easier to shoot straight shots.
Years later in 1991, I began my AH career. I was 15, worked in a mall with my buddies, and there was an arcade, Aladdin's Castle. We were somewhat competitive, and we all started playing on the Brunswick browntop on our breaks. We then all got hooked and the guys who ran the arcade would let us all play after work. I remembered my lessons from pre-school and would just aim for a corner and hit straight shots. I was also able to control the puck a little better than everyone else, and this allowed me to be the best amongst the group. This is pretty much true in all sports, who ever can control the basketball, football, baseball, or puck the best, has a clear advantage over the field.
I found a tournament in Mountain View on Friday nights, and since I didn't drive, I had to catch a train and then run 4 blocks to the tournament site. So instead of partying with my friends, I was hanging out with "unique" AH individuals. I pretty much kept to myself and came because I loved the competition, the intensity and adrenaline of a close, gut-wrenching, 6-6 game. Trying to defend the top players in CA was like a test of my nerve and discipline. One of my first "a ha" moments was against one of the top local players at the time, Ray Bersabe. He had a dominant cut/rwu attack, and after many, many matches of flinching on his cut, I was finally able to "stay for the straight". Once I overcame my fear and didn't flinch on the straight shot, I conquered him.
I don't remember much about my first Nationals in 1991. I must have played in it because I'm reminded by Mark Robbins that he has me on tape or something. I remember my mom driving me there, because she just wasn't quite sure what AH was, and what I was doing, also because I didn't have a license yet. I remember a white room, Paul Marshall with his headband(and he weighed 40 pounds less). I have absolutely no recollection about the rest or where I finished.
If it wasn't local, then I wasn't there, as I was a teenager in high school who hadn't traveled very much since migrating from the East Coast to California. In 1994, the Internationals were held at Santa Clara Keystone. When someone whispered, "there's Tim Weissman, he's the best player in the world," I took a gander. He did have an aloofishness and confidence that seperated himself from us mere mortals. Everyone would line up their quarters to play him, and he obliged. I had an exciting tournament, close, close matches versus Venezuelans. Played a Venezuelan who would put one leg up on the table and attempted to "surf" while playing me. Took a game off Billy Stubbs(yes!), then he shut me out the next game. Won my brackett, finished 9th, but felt I could've beaten the number 7 and 8 finishers. Oh yeah, and Owen "The Natural" beat a short bearded dude. I didn't know dwarves were good at AH! This would be my last tournament till 1999, as I started college, began working 3 jobs, and tried to get laid.