Bar Room Sports Part II: Chicago Billiards Beckon
Did you know that the sport of what we call "pool" is really classified under a bigger heading of billiard games, or "cue sports"? Did you know that what is now an indoor American style of pool playing got its origins in the outdoors of 15th century Europe?
It may surprise some people that a few known enthusiasts of pool playing include Mozart, George Washington, Babe Ruth, and Abraham Lincoln among others. There are many engravings and etchings from hundreds of years ago that can attest to pool playing, even if at an obscure and rudimentary level. Add to this, if you search on the online Chicago billiards museum (http://www.chicagobilliardmuseum.org), you will discover lots of visuals and documented history about how Chicago discovered and perpetuated its love for the sport of American pool.
Fast forward to our modern era and its continued participation in bar room games which require skill, such as that found in American pool playing, or what is referred to as 8 ball. Many years ago, pool got its start in the outdoor lawn games which consisted of variations of balls (juxtapositions and sizes) and rules. If you go to a pool hall today, or simply a place which has a pool table, the tables resemble what refined the sport in the 19th century; the sport takes place indoors, typically in reachable proximity to where alcohol is served, and occurs on a roughly seven to 10 foot pool table of rectangular shape. In 8 ball, which happens to be the American variety of cue sport, solid and striped balls are racked up into a triangular shape to be "broken" by the first player wielding a cue stick. The cue stick hopefully makes contact with the balls that are set up, and WHAM-O, with some luck, the balls hopefully roll and sink into the appropriate pockets in the table, adding up to a score.
So if you have played a couple rounds of pool with good company over a sip of beer, then you know the inexpensive pleasures and personal competitiveness of this sport. If you haven't yet played pool and this article intrigues you enough, then you should check out a local place to get acquainted with, thus becoming the next great Chicago pool shark.
This is the official place where Martin Scorsese shot scenes for "The Color of Money." This is an old-fashioned kind of joint, where you ascend a staircase lined with framed pictures of past champion pool players that have chalked their cue sticks here. There are more than 40 tables and the rates to play are fair (fair enough for a student on a shoe-string budget). Good Brunswick tables, good balls, with a café offering cheap eats too, such as hot dogs and pizza.
Wi-fi geeks can get their cyber on while they hang out here. Both musical and comedy events are hosted in the front café area, where an extensive tea and coffee menu (along with junk-food eats) is served up alongside alcoholic beverages. The gallery displays local art by local artists for added viewing pleasure. This place has a low-key feel, while adding in modern-day elements such as eight flat-panel TV's for the spectator sport enthusiasts.
This place has a treasure for Snooker cue game fans and yet-to-be-fans; an over century old, 12 ft antique Snooker table. (Snooker is another form of pool playing that originated via Englishmen in the Indies back in the day). Also, while enjoying some pool, you can dine on fried sweets, such as Twinkies, candy bars and Oreos, (for those who throw caloric intake to the wind). They have a greasy menu to go along with your beverage of choice, though they do not offer alcoholic beverages. Good rates and specials rotate.
Although they only boast of two spacious pool tables, this Lincoln Park bar does also offer up darts and Fooseball to those interested parties. Both drinks and cheap eat specials are offered on a daily basis. Lots of flat panel TVs will divert your interest here, if you so desire.
So, get on out there with a few friends and practice your hand at landing a corner pocket. It won't cost you too much, and you might find a hidden talent at shooting that cue stick and/or of devouring munchables and brews. Nonetheless, the American act of playing a few games of pool seems to be sticking around for a while in Chicago, if not, throughout the world.
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