The Voices in My Head Like Air Supply

Friday, April 15th, 2005, 2:09 pm

Otis posted recently about the songs folks might be listening to on their iPods while sitting at the poker table. It got me to thinking about my own internal soundtrack, especially when I’m playing sports. Like most people I often get a song stuck in my head that won’t let go, and I’ve often found that before taking the court it’s important to carefully select the last song I hear, because more often than not that’s the one I’m going to be hearing in my inner ear.

Thursday night I played volleyball, and played well thank you very much. With, God help me, the theme song to “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” endlessly looping inside my skull. Complicating matters was the fact that I didn’t know all the words. Or any of the words, save the opening stanza “MY NAME IS….Shake-zula, the mic rulah, the old schoolah…”. I’ve only seen the show a few times, a cartoon about a talking Happy Meal a bit outside even my weirdo scope, but I’m starting to like it and the theme song especially. So much so that as I waited to return serve I was head-bobbing like Master Shake. And if that makes no sense to you, don’t worry about it.

Nine time out of ten I’m replaying some Elvis Costello tune in my head, something from his earlier, punkier days. I wish I kept tabs on what songs spur me to athletic heights, but I didn’t. But I do remember one time when a song stuck in my head and set me firmly in the Zone, that mythical place where one can do no wrong, be it at the poker table or the basketball court or on the dance floor.

I played tennis in high school (yes, I got all the chicks) and in my junior year I had to play a friend of mine for the #1 singles spot on the team. It’d rained during the day so we had to squeegy before we could play, and as I squeeged I listened to the radio on my Walkman. Pittsburgh’s radio scene was then, and has always been, so hopelessly middle-of-the-road that it wasn’t like a had a lot of options (well, there was on alternative-rock station, 100.7…but I digress). When the court was dry and it was time to take the court I frantically cycled through the stations, looking for a good tune to carry into the match. And found zilch. Commercials, country, blabbering DJs. I grabbed my racquet and just then I heard:

Lost in love and I don’t know much
Cause to thinking about, and felt out of touch
But I’m back on my feet, and eager to be what you wanted

I slapped off the headphones and shook my head violently. I felt as if I’d been exposed to some virus but didn’t know if I’d been infected. I don’t think a gooey love song from Air Supply was the best choice to fire me up for the biggest match of my life. But I wasn’t worried. I’m a rational human being. I would not allow myself to become mellow and emotionally pliant.

I got to serve first, I dribbled the ball three times, squared my shoulders, and heard this inside my head:

So lift your eyes if you feel you can
Reach for a star and I’ll show you a plan

I drilled my first serve right down the middle for a winner. Next serve I eased over the net and volleyed the return into the open court. After I held serve I quickly broke my opponent. Everything worked, every swing was effortless yet fraut with malice. And the song was in my head the whole time. I couldn’t rid myself of it. Perhaps I played so well because I desperately desired the match to end and free me from this curse, but I think not. Because by the time the second set rolled around I was singing along, if you’d watched me returning serve and read my lips you could’ve easily figured out what was playing in the 8-track inside my skull.

I recall a few years ago reading a poll of Olympic athletes where they were asked if, in exchange for a gold medal, they would surrender 10 years of their lives. Some ghastly number (like 80%) said yes. Well, I guess I wasn’t destined to be an Olympic athlete because I wasn’t even willing to repeat the Air Supply technique for maximum performance. It isn’t like Air Supply is the worst band in history, or terribly offensive, or committing some act of cultural murder. They’re just lame and incredibly mellow. And Australian. But I can’t think of any situation where a 17-year-old guy should be looking to them for inspiration. I’ve never returned to that well again, and I daresay I never will.

I wish I’d had a copy of Air Supply’s Greatest Hits last night. Empire Poker sent me an email gifting me with $10 if I played 300 hands in ten days. I haven’t played poker in 2 weeks (well, other than poker with my family last week, where I won a cool five bucks) and I was in the mood for a little action. Could I make my half-sawbuck last 300 hands? Could, from this tiny acorn, a mighty bankroll grow?

Nope. Lost it in a few hours. In large part, I have to say, because of the Hammer. With only ten bucks I had to play mega-tight, and a few hands in I was dealt my favorite hand, pocket tens. The Poker Gods flopped me quads, but I got no action. Then, a few hands later, I was dealt a sooted Hammer on the button. I felt morally obligated to push it. I raised preflop, then check-raised the one remaining caller after the flop came K-J-10. I figured I was dead meat, but I pushed on the turn and river and actually hit a pair of sevens on the last card. I couldn’t shake him, and he ended up turning over a pair of tens. Ugh.

Last hand I was dealt pocket nines, raised, flop came eight high but with two hearts, and I couldn’t push everyone out. I ended up making a nine-high flush on the river, but that was only 3rd best. Alas, my return was all too brief.

I think I still have seven whole bucks sitting at Party. I may go goofy sometime soon and play an SNG and see if I can’t beef it up a bit. Ah, to have a six-figure bankroll, and play all the $10 SNGs I want.

Permanent link to this post.

Leave a Reply