Barry Smith: Irrelativity
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado
My lack of sports knowledge is astounding. I’m just not a sports guy. But that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a good sports story.
Settle in, everybody …
Back in 1970, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis had a day off, so he took some LSD, only to realize too late that it WASN’T his day off. Six hours later he was on the mound, tripping and pitching.
“I can only remember bits and pieces of the game,” Ellis recounts in his autobiography, “In the Country of Baseball.”
“I was psyched, I had a feeling of euphoria. I was zeroed in on the catcher’s glove. The ball was small sometimes, the ball was large sometimes; sometimes I saw the catcher, sometimes I didn’t.”
He pitched a no-hitter that day.
True story, and one that always makes me think back on my own brief LSD-enhanced athletic career.
OK, settle in again …
London, 1989. I have a day off. Actually, I have several years off, so I take some LSD. A friend and I are wandering around London when, surprise, it starts to rain. We duck in to, surprise, a pub. A pub with weird, melty people sitting on stools. Oh dear …
We order beer, because clearly we aren’t quite inebriated enough, and make our way to the pool table. With some difficulty I rack the balls, choose a cue that doesn’t turn into a snake when I grab it, and we play a game. The balls are little lumps of dripping color streaking across the bright green background. We’re probably giggling.
Funny thing is, each time I go to shoot, I can see the geometry of the table, all laid out in a grid. I can see the projected path of the cue ball and the ball I’m attempting to sink. It’s all laid out before me, exactly what to do, in full color. Weird. I win the game.
Meanwhile, one of the regulars has put money on the table. So I play him. And I beat him. Badly.
I’m not a great pool player, but I did play a bit as a kid, so I’m familiar with the game. But I’m not THIS good.
Someone else challenges. I destroy them. This is weird. The instructional grid is more pronounced than ever. I’m in the Dock Ellis zone.
Next challenger, same fate. I can barely stand up straight, but each time I lean over the table I know exactly what to do ” and I do it. And a crowd has gathered. My friend is in the corner, grinning. We’re not playing for money, but these melty people are starting to seem a bit angry to me, as if I’ve stepped in and started hustling them. I try to roll a cigarette while the next challenger racks, but I’m tripping too hard to manage. Yet when it’s time to shoot, I’m Minnesota Freakin’ Fats.
The locals have called in their ringer. He’s good. Almost as good as I am. The game is down to the wire in the most silly dramatic way imaginable. He misses a shot on his last ball, leaving me with a straight-in, gimmie shot on the eight. He throws his cue down in disgust. Everyone in the room groans. I am about to defeat the pub’s last hope of putting me in my place. My friend isn’t grinning anymore. There’s a tension in the room that would be evident even without our LSD-enhanced state. We’re probably going to have to leave in a hurry.
I line up for the kill ” the easiest possible shot. And I blow it. The eight ball bounces around in the pocket and just sits there, ready to be sneezed in to the hole.
The challenger does a double take, picks up his cue, sinks the last ball and the eight easily.
My friend and I sink into the background while the next challenger racks. I successfully roll a cigarette. Nobody talks to us. We wait there until the rain stops, then we head back into London, looking for some nonsports-related adventures.
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