View Full Version : Feeding The Right Beast

11-21-2004, 05:43 PM
This article is an excerpt from my first book, Stroke of Genius. Though I wrote this article several years ago, I still get a lot of feedback about how this article has helped many players. I hope you can find this useful in pool and in life.
Good Luck & God Bless

Feeding the Right Beast

Blackjack David Sapolis

Many years ago I had the pleasure of meeting a Sioux Indian named Johnny Black Wolf. Johnny was sort of a quiet guy, more of a drinker than he was a pool player, but he still knew more about the game than I did at the time. He was good at straight eight on the bar box. He'd play you for anything from a bottle of beer to a hundred bucks, it all depended on how thirsty he was. Johnny won more than he lost, and he never did complain, nor did he ever seem phased by the outcome, be it good or bad. Johnny seemed to have ice water in his veins. He always remained focused on what he was doing, never flinching, gasping or even commenting on anything that was going on around him. He just drank his beer and shot the balls into the subway when it was his turn to shoot. He was boring to watch. He just slow rolled the balls. One night I saw something that amazed me about this man, and that is what this story is about.

Two guys came into Dunphy's bar in Harrison, New Jersey and start watching Johnny as he's shooting a game of eight ball with a local player. The men were tall, dark, rough looking Italians from Brooklyn. Johnny was wearing his hair in a ponytail, with the locks in back braided. He had a black Stetson with adorned with eagle feathers. Johnny's body was shaped sort of like a bowling pin, and he wobbled as he strutted around the table in his black cowboy boots. Johnny wore genuine turquoise Indian jewelry around his neck and on his fingers. He was quite a sight to see in New Jersey at the time. The two strangers started taunting Johnny as he made his way around the table. "Tonto shoot pool with kemosave." One snipped. Johnny played as if he did not hear them. The comments became personal as they attacked his clothes, his heritage, and his name. Johnny shook it all off and remained focused on what he was doing. I believe he was up by about $200 at the time. Then one of the strangers challenges Johnny to a game of eight ball for $100 a game.

"I thought you guys just shot arrows?" One of them snickered.

"You think he shoots pool with his bow and arrow?" The other laughed.

Johnny ignored their insults and played the taller of the two strangers. The more they insulted Johnny and made crude remarks, the better Johnny played. Nothing they said or did seemed to bother Johnny at all. I'm not sure how much money Johnny won that night, but I know that he won the respect of everybody in the bar. The two strangers ran out of money, insults, and patience. They left the bar never to be seen again. Being young and full of lots of questions, I asked Johnny how he remained so calm when it was obvious that the two guys were trying to distract him. "They were trying to get a reaction out of me." Johnny explained calmly. "My inner strength was no match for their childishness." Then he explained to me about "Feeding the Panther".
Johnny explained that in his beliefs, he is challenged by two beasts that live within his soul. One provides strength, knowledge, wisdom, understanding and pride. This is the Panther. The other beast tries desperately to conquer the other beast and what it provides for him. This is the rattlesnake. The rattlesnake tries to inflict its poisoness venom into his soul. Johnny explained that it was up to him as to who would be stronger, the panther or the rattlesnake. He explained that it was up to him as to which one he fed. If he concentrated on negativity, anger, resentment, bitterness, hatred, self pity, and discontent, he was feeding the rattlesnake. If he concentrated on being positive, happy, calm, friendly, understanding and proud, he was feeding the panther. He explained to me that the rattlesnake occasionally stole a meal or two from the panther, but that he had put the rattler on a diet long ago. "The longer the rattler goes without being fed, the hungrier it gets. That is why I have to keep the Panther stronger than the snake, smarter than the snake, and more prepared than the snake. Someday I hope the snake will die of starvation."
To me it seemed as if it was a simple solution to a big problem. What beast was I feeding? Who was I really cursing at when I missed that easy four ball in the corner pocket? Who was I really hurting when I rationalized myself into cutting my practice routine short? Who was I helping by doing that? When I got angry at the wife and kids yesterday, was that the panther or the rattlesnake sneaking a snack? If you are like me, I had a pretty healthy rattlesnake, and a darn puny looking panther at the time. I had to change my attitudes in order to feed the right beast.

Today when I go to tournaments, people see the "Feed the Panther" logo on my cue case. When I train my students, I feed their panthers. By that I mean I give constructive criticism in a positive, helpful way. I don't yell and scream or get frustrated. That only produces resentment that will get in the way of accomplishing our goals. When I make a good shot, or run a tough rack, or achieve a goal, I believe that it is important to celebrate the achievement. This is a feast for the panther. My students look at me funny when I ask them to choose an animal that will be the symbol of their strength, inspiration, pride, and determination. They look at me even funnier when I ask them to to choose an animal that represents all that is destructive to them. When they reap the rewards of this training method, they understand its meaning. I give out little animal trinkets when my students achieve their goals. One lady on the women's pro tour can tell you of her large collection of little toy tigers. She will also tell you that she's earned every single one of them. They may not mean much to anybody else, but to her they symbolize growth in mind, body and spirit. I lost touch with Johnny Black Wolf many years ago. I never thanked him for sharing his ideals with me. Our conversation opened up a door that was filled with a wide range of ideas that I still use today. May you have the same result.

Blackjack David Sapolis (http://www.geocities.com/blkjackds12)

11-21-2004, 07:30 PM
Thanks, David. I love that story.

11-21-2004, 07:33 PM
That was a great inspirational story Dave, thankyou! St.

11-21-2004, 07:43 PM
David, thanks again...even tops then your other post.

11-21-2004, 08:24 PM
I concur! Great story!

11-21-2004, 08:51 PM
Thanks David, that is a good story with some great advise!

Rich R.
11-22-2004, 04:09 AM
David, quite a while ago, I printed out a lot of your articles, from your web site. From time to time, I pull one out and read it. It is a strange coincindence, I just read this one, a few days ago. /ccboard/images/graemlins/grin.gif
This story teaches a very good lesson for us all to learn.

I have really enjoyed your articles. Thank you.

If anyone else wants to read David's work, check it out.

11-22-2004, 06:15 AM
Thanks David.

11-22-2004, 03:00 PM
Thanks for the post! I must show this to my wife. She's been feeding the wrong beast lately and this will help her out.
Many Thanks,


11-22-2004, 05:59 PM
DAVID: May I please use that story in our POOL SCHOOL.......randyg (Thanks)

11-23-2004, 03:50 PM

That story is not just for pool, or sports - it is a
lesson for life.

I read it on another forum. It still is true.

The internal struggle, is the struggle that allows
happiness or anything else.

Very best to you


11-27-2004, 07:58 AM

11-27-2004, 08:49 AM
I tried using this analogy very recently in a relationship and found a big flaw in it's application in that regard, you let yourself become blind to obvious things. Anyway it is a wonderful theory for the game of pool, but I'll suggest thay you maintain your usual routine with your relationships, be aware of the signs and don't resist them, they are all we have for self preservation and damage control....sid