“Oh crap”, you may be thinking, “more unhealthy sports“. Don’t be like that. You love it, slag.
And Snooker is not so unhealthy any more. Gone are the days when super-heavyweight players heaved their guts over the baize, chugging superkings and tankards of lager like a latter day Jim Morrison. You still have laterally impressive gentleman such as:
and Shaun “fatty no-face” Murphy
But today, most of the players generally aren’t salad-dodgers, there is no more-smoking and boozing (at the table), and some players are even physically fit, (though I admit this claim is unverified, just in case anyone is considering suing me for libel).
Snooker is both intense and epic. A single frame can be over in minutes with fast and impressive potting, or it could take an hour as each player tries to grind down his opponent in an intriguing positional battle. A great snooker player needs the strategic nous of Napoleon and the disciplined ferocity of Bruce Lee, not just the food-lust of Harold Bishop.
Sport is enthralling not because of the talent and skill on display, but because of the fundamental human interest of adversarial competition. Face-to-face struggles are a timelessly fascinating. Team sports are good because the different players contribute different facets to the struggle. One-on-ones, however, are more revealing of the inner struggle which each player undergoes. Whether at Wimbledon or the Crucible, the ebb and flow of courage, fortune, determination, and self-belief unfolds before the delighted audience’s eyes over the course of hours.
I can think of no other sport which is is more intense on the individual player than Snooker. Technically, it is an incredibly difficult game, and players have to make crucial shots under intense pressure, sometimes after having been kept away from the table for hours. You can see a player fluff vital shots he would miss once in a thousand in practice. The suffering and humiliation is cruelly exposed under the tv lights. The player groans and returns to his seats, red-faced as though a perverse pornographic magazine had fallen out of his pocket to the disgust of the silent onlookers. It is not pretty.
The May bank holiday traditionally sees the conclusion of the Snooker World Championship. It is always hosted in The Crucible theatre in Sheffield, and if I were to try to convince any dubious reader of the merits of this bizarre billards game, I would direct them here. As its name suggests, the venue is intense. It feels much smaller than it looks on telly, and really amplifies ferocious pressure on the players.
Of course, you cannot mention Snooker without alluding to Ronnie ”The Rocket” O’Sullivan.
He is my hero, so much so that I named my car after him (I know, I really should not admit that). He is one of those sportsmen whose abilities make you doubt the reality of what you are seeing. He scored a maximum break of 147 points at the Crucible in just over five minutes. It was one of those rare moments in history where you can see breathtaking perfection.
However, it should be mentioned that Ronnie is totally bonkers and comes out with some howlers sometimes. Career highlight must be him making jokes with a mate about oral sex when a microphone was stuck in his face at a Chinese press conference. I think he reckoned that because he could not understand anyone there, no-one would be able to understand him. Daft. But that’s why we love him.