Snooker Relationships

I learned to play Snooker when I was a boy visiting friends of our family at their home (and my birthplace) in Market Lavington, UK. Snooker is a billiard-type game- similar to the American game of Pool.  Aspects of Snooker/Pool suggest to me analogies for inter-relationships and the effects of communications between people. 

A Snooker table is set up with many red balls nestled cozily into a triangular frame, and several other colored balls arrayed as per regulation, around the green baize table. In American Pool,  a similar frame and set up is used. Using a ball propelled by a sharp push of a chalk-smeared cue tip, the aim of the game is to pot (pocket) all the balls in color order into side pocket nets before the other player can. It is a game requiring great patience and skill. I was never much good at Snooker or Pool  or any other games requiring ballistic skills.

Snooker is all about making balls go where you want them to go, using controlled impulse and momentum. The physics of ball collisions gets complex enough for books on the subject. That is why engineering students have to fritter away many hours understanding billiard ball mechanics, together with lots of other stuff that is not useful. Still – the biggest concept to grasp is that for balls of the same size/weight/material properties, the energy imparted by a cue into a ball is pretty well transferred intact when that ball collides with another ball. The same concepts are behind the kinetic executive toys with suspended steel balls bouncing against each other.

In conventional Snooker, you aim a ball to hit another with just enough energy so that it moves toward a side pocket, or it caromes into another ball which then moves into a pocket, or else hit two, or three, or four or more balls that all go into side pockets or roll to stop short of pockets; or … The possibilities are infinite, and may involve balls that you had no idea would be involved. Which means that success often involves snooker luck .

A variation of Snooker, which I invented for this post, is Blind/Deaf Snooker where you are blindfolded and wear ear plugs, and play the game by instinct only, with no visual or aural feedback. I predict that game will not be popular, but no doubt there are people playing versions of snooker like it because they enjoy the challenge. An even more challenging version, which I also invented today, would be Time/Kinetics Variable Snooker in which the balls change size and bounce properties whenever they feel like it.

Snooker is an analogy for the intended and unintended results of the interactions and relationships we have with other people. Conventional Snooker is actually a pretty poor analogy because real inter-personal relationships tend to be along the lines of the pretend Snooker versions I made up. Also: most people are not good at playing Snooker to win because it takes much practice to be skilled, just like human relationships take skill.

For example, if with great energy and force I propel myself into another person to score some point, or make an impression, we may both zoom across the table, disturbing others, and maybe one of us will plonk into a pocket never to interact comfortably again. Or: I may choose to gently roll into another ball, kissing it in a slight glancing impact, persuading a gentle redirection in action or attitude, barely noticed by others, but important to we two balls. My interaction with one person may also lead to reactions with other people, that I only learn about later; almost as if in my trajectory across the baize, I encounter balls that I disturbed in my initial smash. Sometimes one of my small, initial collisions results in unintentional, frenzied jostling between too-crowded balls n the far field of the table, remote from the initial impulse. Let’s call that gossip. (Thank you, Melissa A~ for that idea!).

There are situations where, like playing my Blind/Deaf Snooker, I have no clue at all as to the reactions of the balls I am interacting with because they provide me with no feedback. So why do I bother? Because, In the Fullness of Time, the blindfold will come off and I shall see the results of my shots. People also differ remarkably in their personalities: in other words, all the balls have different mechanical properties, so do not bounce in conformance with the simple physics of Snooker. And of course, people change from mood to mood as in Time/Kinetics Variable Snooker, where Snooker ball properties change from moment to moment. So what I put into my communications and relationships does not necessarily transfer equally. I can be energetically extrovert and the other person be stoically introvert, or lazy or indifferent, or just not understand me. On the other hand, somebody else, blowing up at my slightest interaction with them, may whizz madly across the table.

As a Jahns Lecturer I often presented to deadpan folk who nevertheless left my Lectures with ideas, conclusions, disagreements, and other reactions that I most often will never learn about; like the spinning and rolling of far-field balls following a grand Snooker play. So: I sometimes play Snooker well enough to make lucky Snooker shots, even though I am no good at ballistics…

By the way – a do-it-yourself Guide to Snooker/Pool Ball Physics (or, How Folk Collide) can be created by comparing peoples’ Briggs Meyers Temperament Index or their Keirsey Temperament Type. For example I am an ENFP, an Idealist-Champion (or Visionary). ENFPs may have muted professional to very big love bounces with their temperamental opposites, Guardian-Inspectors. (This ENFP/ISTJ/etc. stuff is useful if you are into self-help in your personal and business relationships. One book to start with is David Keirsey’s Please Understand Me II.)

About Ed Medley

Ed Medley has been on a random walk for over 50 years. Many scribbles and snapshots at this site are from his vagabond transits; others are from his decades of international experience in geological and geotechnical engineering, academia, and mineral exploration prospecting.
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