Wednesday, 4 February 2009

ARE....YOU....READY? LET'S....PLAY...Snooker?!

As an avid sofa supporter of pretty much every kind of sport going (although I admittedly have little time for flat season racing and boxing), I've been greatly intrigued by the recent thinking about 'modernising' snooker by 'jazzing it up' a little, to make it a more eye-catching sport for us mere mortals to watch.

I think it's the great Ronnie O'Sullivan who has started the recent round of fevered debate on this issue by explaining his opinion that if snooker is not going to fade away and die as a spectacle, it needs to take a leaf out of the Darts handbook to survival.

As a likewise fan of darts, I find it an intriguing idea, but one at the end of the day, which might just be slightly flawed.

For me, snooker is all about those hushed tones in an auditorium. The whispered commentary of Ted Lowe and now more recently of Clive Everton (whose commentary I randomly, but jubilantly bumped into whilst surfing the myriad TV channels in Phuket in Thailand last February!), John Virgo et al along with the real sense of fair play that is rarely seen in sport nowadays (apart possibly, from the golfing arena) makes it a rather unique sporting experience. I say this as one who has as yet, been unfortunate to have not yet witnessed a live professional game of snooker in the flesh. But I'm sure when that day comes as it inevitably will (it really would have to be in the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield really), it'll only enhance my sentiments. I don't really like to think of myself as having the same thinking as Stephen Hendry but on this, we have worryingly similar views.

Having said that, a problem with snooker which Ronnie O'Sullivan alludes too, and quite rightly so, is the fact that the 'modern game' has not got those great characters that were ever present during snooker's greatest decade - the 1980s. The era of Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins, Kirk Stevens, 'Big' Bill Werbeniuk, Ray 'Dracula' Reardon and Dennis Taylor has long gone. These were real characters.

But where are the characters in today's game? The current generation are yonuger, more professional and it must be said, much more adept in larger numbers than their older contemporaries. But apart from Ronnie, there's no obvious 'big names' who can catch the public's imagination. It's not necessarily the players fault, but it is an edge that has been lost in recent years. Losing the charms which make snooker, snooker, will only be to its detriment in the long run I feel. But if we could energise the young whipper-snappers playing now into being perhaps, slightly more entertaining around the table, it would do no harm!

To see a true genius in action, here's a clip of Ronnie O'Sullivan's unbelievable record-breaking 147. In just 5 minutes and 20 seconds!

But for Snooker at it's very, very best, here's a clip from the climax of that incredible, legendary final of finals from '85 when our Dennis humbled the great Steve Davis on the final black in the final frame, to win his 1st and only ever World Championship.

Ted Lowe's commentary alone makes it compulsive viewing! This, at the end of day is what makes snooker the incredible spectacle that it is. The players play their part of course, but it's the sheer tension and drama in an arena where you could hear a pin drop that makes it a wonderful, absorbing experience!

Bringing in the darts style introductions, whilst great for darts, just wouldn't cut the mustard here. This is snooker after all! Let the action speak louder than anything else!

Still loving those glasses Dennis! Even after all these years!

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