5.5.09

SNOOKER'S MOMENT IN THE SUN

And so the Betfred.com World Championship is over and snooker can look back with pride over a very entertaining 17 days.

We have a top drawer world champion in John Higgins, someone who commands universal respect from his fellow players.

It is interesting that the last two world crowns of the decade were won by players who came to the fore in the 1990s. It seems unlikely that Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan will still be competing for titles in ten years time but they have shown their class to keep the new generation at bay.

And there is a new breed of player coming through: Mark Allen, Jamie Cope, Judd Trump et al. They are fierce potters and talented break builders but they could do with Higgins’s superior tactical game, something they will undoubtedly learn in the years to come.

It’s been a great championship and it’s something of an irony that it started to get really interesting when O’Sullivan went out.

If you believe some of the newspaper pundits, the whole sport rests on O’Sullivan’s shoulders. I’m sure Ronnie will be relieved to know that it doesn’t.

What we saw in the second week was a slew of players emerging from his shadow to stake their places in the limelight.

Snooker suffers from an overly nostalgic tendency to look back at the 1980s and think that nothing will ever be the same again, or that it was all so rosy it could never be topped.

This is counter-productive and unfair on the current players.

Alex Higgins once entered the Crucible arena wearing a hat. He doffed it to rapturous applause. Imagine if Shaun Murphy had done the same this year: it would have been presented as proof that he is somehow arrogant or above his station.

Similarly, Bill Werbeniuk was a big guy who guzzled lager to prodigious amounts. He was feted for it. Today, Stephen Lee is roundly abused for occupying the same sort of frame.

Eddie Charlton was a grinder who got involved in many seemingly endless wars of attrition but is fondly remembered. Peter Ebdon is nowhere near as slow but criticised nonetheless.

And can anyone explain to me how Cliff Thorburn – to use an example – was more of a 'character' than Neil Robertson?

The past is another country. In the present, we have a bunch of players as fascinating as have ever occupied the upper echelons of the rankings.

The challenge now will be to build on the momentum created by the World Championship.

This won’t be easy as there will be only six ranking tournaments next season. This means huge gaps between televised events.

It’s a shame that snooker’s period in the spotlight tends to be limited to 17 days per year.

But what a 17 days it has been: drama, excitement and high quality snooker by the bucketload.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s Crucible extravaganza.

28 comments:

Monique said...

I absolutely agree with everything you write here Dave...

Allow me to repeat my wholehearted congratulations to John Higgins in all respects a "proper man" and a great champion.

Also stress what you state about the fact that Ronnie will be relieved to know he hasn't the game on his shoulders. For all what some people might think (attention seeker and co) the main effect the excessive hype and expectations do have on him is to put additional and unfair pressure on an already rather fragile person.

And finally, reading your title today, my first thought was you were referring to the tabloids... did you notice some of them claiming John winning his second betfred.com World Championship ? Well, well ...

RichP said...

It was a great tournament and I hope World Snooker push on from this although it's very disapointing to read that there's only six ranking events next season.

One other thing, what is it Dave with you obvious hatred of Ronnie O'Sullivan. It's very clear in your writing that you don't like him so did he refuse an interview once or twice in the past?

Anonymous said...

Agree 110% with your sentiments Dave. At least there's someone in the media who speaks sense.

I'm pleased for Higgins because now he can promote his World Series as World Champion which will give him even more pulling power. Top man.

Anonymous said...

RichP - don't be a fanboy, not everyone in snooker is happy with the rubbish O'Sullivan has sprouted in the last few months. I for one wouldn't miss him if he retires with the wealth of talent to replace him who enjoy playing the game and want to do well.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post. One point I would like to take Dave up on is the notion that the younger players will _undoubtedly_ learn the tactical side of the game. Jamie Cope is coming up to 24 now, and still struggles with this side of the game, though he still played a few good safeties this year.

Much like having an outrageous ability to pot from anywhere on the table, seeing (and playing) a killer safety when under real pressure is something that I think you either have or you don't; you can certainly learn some of the tactical side of the game, but there is also an element of instinct/genius about it and I for one don't think I will ever see Cope with a really excellent safety game.

Mark Allen has got a slightly more rounded game, and Trump is still too young to tell yet, far too attacking so far against the big boys who punish his mistakes a lot heavier than the average opponent in qualifying.

Sammy said...

Aaaah!
6 Ranking events!
Lets hope World Snooker put some more in!
If there are only 6, then won't it effectbthe ranking points?

Anonymous said...

I think, it is a big advantage the "new snooker countries" in mainland Europe and Asia did not have this history as big parcel on the shoulders. They know some players from the past but they love the players of the modern era. So the look on the game seems to be different and fresh.

Anonymous said...

many thanks to Dave for the updates and his thought on a memorable 17 days

Anonymous said...

If I could wish for one thing next season it would be for people to stop going on and on about Judd Trump. Overhype can kill potential and if ever someone was overhyped it's him. He still needs lots of chances to win frames and is nowhere near the finished article yet. Losing to Lee to get to Sheffield would have been a major disappointment and perhaps that will show everyone how he feels when he's expected to win. Just look what's happening to Ding and learn.

Anonymous said...

Judd's cool don't diss.
Davey Morris will be a star next season.
My correct prediction!

jamie said...

Probably the highest standard championship ever, another classic although my favourite remains 2002. I have to say I thought the final was average. Does anyone agree? Not a fitting way to end the championship. In defence of Dave I dont think he hates Ronnie, hate is a silly word, but there have been a ot of mentions how his exit did not effect things. It was still great but would have been on another level if Ronnie had given us a masterclass, as I have said before there is no better sight in snooker than that.

Black_cat from TSF said...

it started to get really interesting when O’Sullivan went outBecause most people who are not snooker diehards probably said to themselves "Whoa, that Ronnie bloke, he got beat. I'm curious, who's that fellow whatshisname who did it?"
And I'm talking about people who can only recognise Davis, Hendry and Ronnie.
That, of course, is the fortunate case: the other one is "Whoa, that Ronnie bloke, he got beat. Not interested in the snooker anymore."

jamie said...

Other things about this year:
1. When did the final move to a Bank Holiday Monday as it not always been this way.
2. What dud Dave think about the amount of press coverage, was there enough?
3. I thought Simon Barnes wrote a couple of cracking pieces in the Times, but somedays Phil Yates was not getting more than an in brief slot.
4. Clive Everton is missed on last five days as he is the only commentator that come up with the profound words to encapsulate what a World Final means and the significance of Higgins win and his standing in the game. The other commentators have their strengths but they are all prone to overhype.
5. Finally Dave where do you and the Eurosport team commentate from is it a darkened room somewhere in the theatre?

Sorry for amount of questions and points but I have been away for three days and they have just built up in my head!

Twister said...

snooker has such untapped potential

if only the sport was as well run as other minor sports we could be more positive

its still a very popular sport.

I worry though about how soft the pockets have been playingt his championships, endless big breaks are not the answer to snookers problems.

promoting personalitys better like mark allen, ronnie and robertson are more the answer

the players need to become well known,the media side needs to be better so the game gets more publicty.

Dave H said...

'One other thing, what is it Dave with you obvious hatred of Ronnie O'Sullivan. It's very clear in your writing that you don't like him so did he refuse an interview once or twice in the past?'

What a ridiculous question. You've decided I hate him because I expressed the personal view that the tournament got interesting when Allen beat him.

If you read back some of my other posts about Ronnie you will see that I'm an admirer of his, but I'm not going to give this nonsense any more credence by going on about it.

Dave H said...

Jamie

1. It's finished on the Monday for at least 25 years (with a couple of exceptions when it's started on Good Friday)

2. It got better as it went on but was still down on past years, although it was noticeable there was a lot in this morning due to the early finish

3. Yes, Barnes is always worth reading but, as I said above, coverage was down on past years overall

4. I was commentating myself but if I wasn't I would have liked to have heard Clive do the end of the final

5. State secret I'm afraid!

stuartfanning said...

5 - Hardly a secret Dave. A facility in Feltham West London which Eurosport use for their commentary on various sports!

Robidoo said...

@anon 1:42
presumably you are on a wind up, hopefully everyone will totally ignore you

thanks to dave for providing plenty of interest to read on here not only during this tournament but throughout the entire season, very well written blog

and what a call that was about the centuries record to go! hope you made plenty

Anonymous said...

6 ranking tournaments? God, that really is woeful. Nothing planned in Germany then?

Mal said...

I grew up watching snooker in the 80s. There were a lot of characters then, but I 100% agree that we don't make the most of the characters in the game today. My personal view is that the montages we used to get showing the highlights of the WCs or the years gone by (memories) highlighted some of the funniest moments, best characters, best shots and flukes and if a montage was done that is normally well received by viewers and also highlights the players' character.

SupremeSnooker.com said...

I know the real answer to question 5, but I'm not a grass!

Congratulations to John Higgins, one of the five greatest world champions of all time and a fine ambassador for the sport.

Regarding the comparisons between snooker in the 1980s and now; Back then, everyone had a favourite player, and everyone had a player who they didn't like. The importance of this in creating a product people wanting to watch shouldn't be underestimated.

One of the big reasons for snooker's success in the 1980s was that there were quite a few 'characters' around. Many of them came from a time when they had to make a living doing exhibitions, and had a repertoire of jokes. People didn't expect a laugh a minute when they tuned in to snooker, but there were a lot more light-hearted moments back then.

The other factor was that every player of the 80s had their own individual characteristic:
Dennis Taylor- big glasses
Steve Davis- intense concentration
David Taylor- the Silver Fox
Alex Higgins- utterly unpredictable
Ray Reardon- Dracula, and funny with it
Willie Thorne- bald!
Tony Knowles- the one all the girls fancied
Jimmy White- Whirlwind
Kirk Stevens- white suit, had a female following of his own

However good today's leading players are (and they're absolutely superb), they do not have quite the same ability to get people watching. However professional they are, they lack the character that non- connoisseurs can relate to.

Marcus

Dave H said...

I think it's partly that but it's also that the top players pretty much all play the same sort of game so are hard to tell apart

They've all modelled their games on the way Stephen Hendry played in the early 1990s

I can't imagine how John Virgo would do his 'potting the black routine' these days

Anonymous said...

i know the answer to question 5 too.

if i tell, how will i "be a grass"??

its common knowledge they arent at (all) events, even though they pretend to be and occasionally put their foot in it. to me it makes not much difference where they are, but its bad when they pretend to be at a venue when they arent...

Anonymous said...

Football was getting less and less popular throughout the 80s - partly due to hooliganism. Snooker grew as football shrank.

There was no football at all on the TV for much of the 1985/86 season due to disputes with BBC and ITV over money - this was the season following on from the famous Taylor v Davis final. Snooker was massive on TV that season.

A big reason for snooker being "in" was that football was "out". Gazza and Italia 90 started to turn the corner for football - with the Premier League and Sky kicking taking off in 1992.

I bet if you could plot "trendiness" of football and "untrendiness" of snooker, you would see a pretty striking correlation.

stuartfanning said...

Question 5 has alrerady been answered earlier in the thread! Eurosport use facilities at Arqiva in Feltham West London. It isn't a secret so I don't know why Dave is so coy. Details on the following web page.

http://www.arqiva.com/press-office/press-releases/press-releases-2005/british-eurosport-kicks-off-another-season-with-arqiva

Anonymous said...

Here's Dave and Joe Johnson commentating at this year's championships.

Dave, good to see you know the special secret snooker words to 'Lady In Red'.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Us_olN6OZUY

jamie said...

The only reason I asked about the final was I thought Taylor won it in April so it could not have been the May Day Bank Holiday. I have to admit Hattenstone was full of cliche but I sort of found it amusing, I don't know why, but I agree that is there too much of what I would term 'snooker snobbery'.

Anonymous said...

id imagine the high majority of the small percentage of people who found any of it even slightly amusing would be osullivan fans