I have just come from an impressive display of sportsmanship: The First Annual Nile Beer “Sink the Black” National Pool Championship, Gulu District Competition. In brief, it was a two-day, 32-man single elimination billiards tournament held at the Buganda Pub in Gulu, Uganda.
I rolled up to Buganda tonight, Saturday, around 6 and was pleasantly surprised to see that we were down to the “Elite Eight” and that things were progressing quickly. The matches were best of 3 and there were 2 tables going at once. Some of the local pool celebrities were out; including Steven “The Machete” Atete, Robert “Smokin’” Bongomin, Deo “The Terminator” Moi, and, of course, Emma “The Cheetah” Ocitti.*
I very quickly noticed that these guys were not playing under the same rules that I am used to from the US. Apparently Ugandans, and maybe Africans in general because I have seen this in other countries, have come up with some handy new rules that make the game a little easier. They include:
1. If your opponent scratches, you get ball-in-hand (you can place the ball wherever you please) and 2 extra shots! Just in case you miss your first freebie, you can tap it in with your second.
2. If you scratch on the eight-ball, no problem! Ball-in-hand and two extra shots for your opponent, but you won’t automatically lose.
3. The most entertaining variant: You don’t have to declare which pocket you intend to sink the eight-ball into. It just has to go in somewhere. Anywhere. This rule encourages players at the end of the game, if they don’t have a viable shot, to just wind up and knock the bejesus out of the ball and hope it goes in somewhere. Very entertaining, and lots of cue balls ended up flying off of the table.
As we got to the final match, pitting Emma “The Cheetah” Ocitti against Robert “Smokin’” Bongomin, I was feeling pretty good about getting home soon, throwing down a couple of mangoes, and then calling it a day. Luckily, “The Cheetah” came storming out of the gates and won two of the first three games quickly. As I clapped a couple of times and turned to leave, I saw the referee (who was wearing a lifeguard shirt that added a nice touch of melodrama to the event) rack the balls again. I asked around and found out that the final was a BEST OF 9 SERIES. Nine, like 9. Like three times longer than all of the other matches.
Anyways, the game continued and the DJ kept playing that Justin Timberlake song “What Goes Around, Comes Around,” which I thought was appropriate because I had been standing there for 3 hours watching people walk around a table and poke it with sticks. Also, he kept playing this weird tugboat horn/air-raid siren sound that I think was the “Party Alarm” so everyone would know that Buganda Pub was crackin’ and everyone was invited, especially your mom.
Finally, though, “Smokin’” pulled his head out and won a couple, but “The Cheetah” went for the jugular and finished him off in seven games. Congrats, all hail Emma “The Cheetah” Ocitti: The Best Damn Pool Man in All the Land.
*I don’t know if these guys actually use those nicknames because I made them up. But they should
Posted By Bryan Lupton
Posted Jun 8th, 2009