Sunday 5th May 2002
It's been a while for me and snooker, but the circumstances last night were perfect. The wife and I had taken advantage of the bank holiday to book ourselves into a small, well appointed hotel in St Ives - not the one Cornwall, worst luck, the one in Cambridgeshire. Once booked in, we had a look round the town, but there proved to be very little in the way of entertainment on the cards. The shops, such as they were, were all shut, and geographically speaking there was nothing to write home about. With all due deference to the good burghers of St Ives, it's really little more than a carpark with a good agent. In light of this evidence, we decided to spend the barren hours twixt lunch and dinner on a junior pub-crawl. Unfortunately, only two drinks in, Claire developed a migraine, and we had to retire, hurt, to the hotel. She immediately took to the nuptial bed, and refused to move, which meant of course that I had nothing better to do than watch telly. It being a bank holiday, snooker was the best thing on by a country mile.
It's a strangely addictive spectacle, professional snooker. I remember during its heyday of the mid-eighties there was this theory doing the rounds to explain its particular popularity among ladies of a certain age, which ran along the lines that the green colour of the baize and the occasional clink of the balls striking each other could induce an almost oriental calm in the viewer. I thought this utter bollocks at the time, but now I'm not so sure.
In common with most men my age, I used to play a bit of snooker in my youth. I was congenitally bad at it, but took succour from the fact that I knew instinctively not to strike the balls with the fat end of the cue, and misread this as evidence of latent talent. So it was then that I used to sit through hours of televised snooker in order to study the technique of the masters, and find out where I was going wrong. There was another good reason to watch snooker of that era, in that the players had some character. That last statement is a bold one, I know. Of course, everyone erroneously thinks his first flush of youth coincided with the high water mark of all cultural signifiers - sometimes referred to as the arrogance of youth. But if it's true that the planets don't align to usher in a period of peerless excellence in music, literature, sport on the day we all turn sixteen, it doesn't mean this happy coincidence might never occur in a given arena. For my generation it did happen; it happened with snooker players.
I can hear your incredulity from here. Characters? Who? I have to admit on paper the evidence looks as thin as Ian Beale's 'tache, but it's all comparative. Yes, Tony Meo, et al were unlikely to set the pulse racing, but compared to what went before (Perrie Mans, Eddie Charlton et al) and worse still what has come after, they look like products of the MGM star system. Today's cavalcade of automata is so devoid of humanity, that even Steve Davis, a man derided in his own era for being boring, would alone today be the people's champion, his ginger frame carried about the place on a veritable sedan chair of public adoration.
So the upshot of all this is that I watched several hours of snooker, and enjoyed it. It's not an experience I'm keen to repeat, but that doesn't invalidate it. Mind you, afterwards, I flipped over to the golf on Sky. It was the Toilet Duck Open from Guantanamo Bay or somesuch, and I watched that for several hours too, so perhaps there is something in the green balls theory.
Misery Kippers Rating:
"Pinteresque silence with balls. This season's hottest ticket."