Sports Academy: Under New Management

As noted last month, the Sports Academy Pool Hall has become my favorite evening outing. I especially enjoy the girls there who with their pool skills and enthusiasm are wonderful to play with. If available, I like to gather up three of them to make competing teams for Eight Ball. I choose one to be on my side (Team America!) while the other duo represents the home country. The contests are both competitive and lively, especially after I spring for a couple rounds of tequilas. Surveying the table after the break, working out the next shot with a cute Thai leaning against me, is my version of nirvana. 

They say nothing good lasts forever and in the case of Sports Academy, my winter of contentment has come to an unexpected end due to the new boss. First of all, one of the tables has now been set aside as a Challenge Table. It’s the same concept as King of the Hill with the numero uno having to fend off any and all comers. The winner stays in; the loser retreats to the bar after shelling out twenty baht ($.66). 

There has also been a change in the specials being offered. Where before there was free pool from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m., now it costs two hundred baht ($7), though you can play an hour longer and enjoy cheaper beer. I suspect this was done to discourage the late afternoon Japanese players, who rarely drank anything other than water and promptly cleared out when the clock struck six — as if they feared turning into pumpkins six hours early. Hard to make much money from customers like that.

These two “improvements” have made it more difficult for me to get a table when I arrive around 6:30 after finishing dinner in a nearby shopping mall. The Challenge Table is not available for extended play without special permission, and the others may all be in use by players wanting to get their full two hundred baht worth of enjoyment and subsequently not clearing out until seven.

Still, these are inconveniences that a fuddy duddy like myself can eventually adapt to given enough time (maybe two years). But what has truly saddened me is that one of the girls, Newt, has quit, apparently unhappy with the new manager’s style. This is a real loss. In the past few months her pool playing had become superb. It had gotten to the point where she was a threat to run the table at any time, or come tantalizingly close. Always on the opposing team, I knew I would have to bring my ‘A’ game to have any kind of chance against her. Rarely did I emerge victorious. She would mercilessly mop up on me and my partner for the evening while making it look so easy, taunting me with a little dance after making yet another game-winning shot. At the same time, she was always helpful  to any of the new girls who happened to be playing, giving them advice on where to leave the cue ball and how to hit banks. Although I would chafe at the punishment she happily dished out, I developed a real respect and affection for her — something I am only now beginning to realize.

I suppose I will continue to visit Sports Academy (assuming I can get a table), but the allure is greatly diminished. Being repeatedly thrashed by Newt forced me to improve my own play; I came to love the challenge. Finding a replacement — a pretty Thai girl who can play a spirited, tough game of Eight Ball — will be a daunting task.

Newt, I already miss you…

My nemesis on the far left and me, in happier times.

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