I love snooker – but I don’t know why. It’s not fashionable to, it’s as slow (if not slower) than cricket, it doesn’t have any huge moments of action but I love it. Just as well because it’s World Championship time! For the next two weeks leading up to the May Day Bank Holiday it’s snooker o’clock at the Crucible in Sheffield.
My major memories of really getting into snooker was seeing a very young man from Edinburgh in the late eighties with fluffy blond hair and a pock-marked face who seemed to magic the balls around the table as much as pot them. Stephen Hendry appeared on the scene when I was around 10 years old and I followed his career with interest until he retired last year at the Championships that had made him a world-famous name. Or did it? He won seven world championships yet he doesn’t register with a lot of people when you talk about sporting greats. It tends to be football, tennis, rugby or athletics that people think of, yet players like Ray Reardon and Steve Davis won six championships each and both Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins are aiming for their fifth this year. It’s a bit like no-one seeing someone like Phil Taylor as a sporting great in Darts even though he has been the champion of the world 15 times. Neither sport seems to be treated as seriously as everyone thinks they can play them.
Snooker is more a game of the mind and I think perhaps for a larger fella as I am a sport that you could win as much with your mind as physical prowess was what attracted me. The pure concentration involved in playing up to 35 frames in a final is frightening and mental and physical fitness are both required to last the pace I the game these days. People often say that there are no big characters in the game anymore but with great players like Ronnie, Judd Trump, Mark Selby, Mark Allen, Mark Williams and Ali Carter there are some great players out there with great personalities. Also it is one of the most intimate sports to watch on TV as you feel it is just you and the commentators watching the game together with things like “Where’s the white going?” becoming a catchphrase you try to say before Virgo or Taylor say it.
Maybe it’s another example of me being a nerd but sitting working out the angles, the maths of the scores, the possible 147 break and the positional play involved is a joy. The BBC do a great job covering the World Championships and the banter between the commentators and pundits is cosy and fun – again you feel like part of the gang with them. Maybe it’s because of its simplicity that I like it, or the gamesmanship that you don’t see in other sports but Snooker for me is a great watch and I’ll have my fill over the next two weeks.