Watching snooker on TV is, of course, a productive use of anyone’s time but every fan should try – if only once – to experience the game live.
The first time I went to the Crucible I almost felt let down. I simply couldn’t believe that this tiny theatre could be the same venue I’d been watching on the goggle box all those years.
But there is no substitute for being there.
Although the cameras add to the claustrophobia and feeling that there’s no place to hide for the players, you are at the mercy of the TV director if watching at home.
Watching in the arena enables you to direct the pictures yourself. You can witness, up close, the talent, the great play and, most fun of all, the psychological breakdowns.
Years ago I saw John Virgo play. He lost all four frames before the interval and, shortly after he’d returned to his dressing room, a light bulb somewhere in the arena popped loudly, leading a spectator to call out ‘Virgo’s shot himself!’
All right, it’s not exactly the Parrot Sketch but this is how we made our entertainment before the internet.
Ah, yes, the internet. Humanity took its time but it finally discovered a new way of screwing even more money out of people.
There are various websites offering snooker tickets and almost all of them are rip-off merchants.
Here’s one already selling tickets for next year’s World Championship – which are yet to even go on sale.
World Snooker has a deal with See Tickets for UK-based tournaments. All the other sites claiming to sell tickets – usually for well over the odds – should be avoided.
Or to put it another way: do not, do not, DO NOT buy tickets from them.
Or from eBay for that matter. As World Snooker make clear: "tickets bought from unauthorised sources may not be valid and admission to the event will not be permitted."
Of course, even ‘official’ ticket sellers have to have their cut and so it is that ‘booking fees’ and ‘transaction fees’ apply.
I’ve had a number of emails from people who believe these are unfair as they are paying a fair whack for the tickets in the first place.
Most people don’t live next door to a snooker venue. They have to pay to travel. They have to pay to feed and water themselves. They may even wish to purchase a copy of Snooker Scene.
In these tough economic times, half empty arenas are not necessarily a comment in the health of snooker but a reflection on the fact that some people don’t regard the tournament experience as value for money.
And See Tickets may well be a reputable organisation but the fact is when you attempt to buy tickets for the World Open you are directed to a page advertising the format for a completely different tournament – the World Seniors Championship, played not in Glasgow but Bradford.
This strikes me as something that could confuse potential attendees of the new event.
And the game needs them. There’s nothing worse for a player than turning up to find a mere handful of spectators. It means there’s no atmosphere and doesn’t feel as important as it should.
It also looks horrible on the TV to see banks of seats with nobody in them.
In a way this is snooker’s own fault. It is such an easy, intimate sport to watch on TV that many people have no intention of ever going anywhere near a venue.
But it’s worth doing not least because TV doesn’t really capture the skill on show to anything like the same degree as being there does.
Plus you might get on the telly yourself.