John Schmidt Interview
If you had to pick a theme song, what would it be?
Oh, it's "Eye of the Tiger." That's a no-brainer. I'm sure everybody says that. "Eye of the Tiger,' the Rocky theme.
What was the first cue you ever owned?
A Cuetec. It was a red one, a red, fiberglass-bottom Cuetec. That was about '92 or '93, I suppose.
Do you have a hero?
Probably Bobby Hunter (1990 World 14.1 Champion). He's just a stand-up guy with good morals and character. If you gave him $50,000 and he said, "I'll hold it for the night and give it back to you tomorrow," you'd get it. The guy is just a stand-up guy, and it's a shame that there's not more of him in the game of pool.
When you're game goes South, what's typically the problem?
Jumping up and getting way too hard on myself when I mess up. I just go into a self-destruct mode where I almost convince myself in 10 seconds that I suck. And I go right off the deep end sometimes, but I'm getting better about not doing that stuff. So in a roundabout way, it has something to do with self-confidence, I suppose.
What's the best piece of advice, related to pool, that you've ever received?
Learn to play one-pocket, and you'll make a lot of money. That's what Jack Cooney told me, and he was right. Eighty percent of the money I have saved today was from playing one pocket. I won $200,000 playing the game, over ten years. Whatever, I don't know how much … a lot.
What is the strongest aspect of your game?
Well, people say my shot making, and I think it's nothing in particular, I just think I'm fairly solid - I'm not the greatest at one thing - but I'm pretty good. I think my strength is that I've played all the games, so they all help my overall pool game.
What's the one thing you need to work on the most?
My kicking is not great. And quite honestly, I give too much respect to some players. I just put some guys on such a pedestal in my mind, that I don't play my game against them."
What's your biggest vice?
My biggest vice, that's a no-brainer: golf. I mean, if I win the lottery, I would play golf 36 holes a day until I was dead.
What drives you crazy when you're at the table?
Wet, dirty conditions. That bugs me, because I know how a table should play and how I can play on good conditions. I tell you one of my pet peeves: The phenolic tip on jump cues scuff the cover of the cue balls. And what happens is, imagine taking a piece of sandpaper and scratching the cue ball. If you look at it, you can actually look at it and see all these real big scratches. Well those react, and you get skids a lot. That kind of bugs me. And the luck of 9-ball is ridiculous. To have the best players in the world miss and hook you, or for me to miss and hook somebody or luck the ball into another pocket - I shouldn't win like that.
If you never picked up a cue, what would you be doing right now?
Ah, it could be anything. I would've loved to be a pro golfer, but that's not to say I could've made it. I'm not really a big, strong guy, and in today's game you got to hit it so far, and I don't hit it far enough to really be a pro. I average about 280 yards. With my swing speed I would be an average-length hitter. If I was 6'2", 220 pounds and I had my golf swing, and I hit it 350, I'd be tough. I'm a runt, I'm stuck with it.
What's the best way to deal with a guy who's trying to shark you?
Ask him to play ten-ahead for all his money right after the match. They don't like that, that's why a lot of guys are polite to me. They know if they get me riled up, I might just ask them to gamble for a little bit. … I got a theory on this, to be honest with you. I don't feel that the players are actually trying to shark each other. What it is, we're under such pressure for so little money to play for that it's so stressful, that it creates arguments. It's almost like a drunk - you're not seeing the real person. These guys don't literally sit there at the beginning of a match and think, "I will shark this guy," because that doesn't win games. We know that it doesn't make you win. But it's a result of being anxious, nervous, uptight, whatever you want to call it. If I've ever sharked anybody, I guarantee it's because I was nervous, not because I really thought, "I'll shark this guy, and that'll help me win." We have way more to worry about than that.
Of all the games you've played, which is your favorite?
My favorite game to play for money is one-pocket. My favorite game to play to practice is probably straight pool. I like playing straight pool for money, too.
What is it about straight pool that's good for practice?
It's just a hard game. In 9-ball, the rack gets easier as the rack progresses. In straight pool, it gets harder as the rack progresses because you run out of options. It's just a difficult game, and it's just so hard to run over 100 balls. The pressure mounts as your run gets higher. You know, the pressure mounts … and you can't luck balls in playing straight pool.
Finish this phrase: Pool is like life, because…
You get knocked down all the time, and you have to learn to get back up.
Before I die, I want to…
I would like to sing the national anthem at Yankee Stadium, buck naked on a cold day. That's what you put down, that's my answer.
Players should fear me, because…
I don't want to answer that. I don't want to look so arrogant to say, "Oh yeah, 'cause I'm this and that." I don't want them to fear me. I just maybe want respect from them. I'm not looking for fear, just mutual respect.