I love cliches. I had a good one illustrated to me by my father when I was a kid. My dad grew up poor in Memphis; he has these dried, gnarled bricks for fists and, according to my aunt, he once ended a fight by picking up and tossing a guy over a wall.
Dad underplays all this, of course; that's just how he is. Anyway, the two of us meet this guy at a car dealership, and Dad spends some time talking to him. He was fit, but small - maybe 5'5" and 135lbs. - and nothing much to look at. As we're leaving, Dad looks at me and says, "You know what, Brent, no matter how tough you are, there is always someone out there tougher."
I missed the point for a moment, before it hit me, "Him? That guy at the dealership?"
"Yup," he said. "That's him. He's killed more people than smallpox."
I was kinda shocked. "Tougher than you, Dad?"
"Please. I wouldn't fight that guy for any amount of money. He might kill me on accident."
We're luckier than that in our hobby. The worst that might happen to us if we throw down with someone tougher is taking a blow to our ego. In fact, one of the best ways to improve your game is playing your local veterans.
I think we all have a relative idea of where we stand on our individual, local scene. How does that translate - or does it at all - in the national scene? It's sort of a fad now to claim that such a thing doesn't exist, but I think it does. It's not well-developed, maybe, and there are plenty of people who choose not to compete... but it's there.
What's my point? I have two.
The first is that recognizing someone's achievement in a large tournament doesn't take anything away from your achievements. In discussions all over the blogosphere this year, I've read over and over again that such-and-such a victory means nothing because *enter reason here*...and doesn't that really translate into '...had _I_ been there I totally would have won.' That kind of ego is false pride, and does nothing for you - even if it were true, what's the point?
The second is this: failing to recognize you can improve will pretty much assure you won't. I'm good at this game; all things considered, if I bring my A game nobody out there is going to run me over; win, lose, or draw. On one of my favorite sites, I've seen it said more than once that this dude can beat almost anyone is 30 minutes. I choose to believe that's exaggeration for effect, as even top-teir players struggle to beat their peers. Hell, why else play?
The thing is, that's not me. This year I've accomplished several of my goals, but I also had to recognize the areas I needed improvement in. (If you're curious, that's primarily consistency and list-creation.) My goals this coming year are to improve further and play some of the top-tier guys in the regional tournaments and, hopefully, earn a place in Vegas. I'm lucky to play at a store with lots of great players, and it seems several of them may be interested in tournaments this coming year.
Remember how this post started? There's a guy out there who is THAT good, the betting man's odds-on favorite to win any tournament he enters. So I sent him my list, which he ripped apart.
(To Be Continued)
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