Let’s go back to this day in 1980: a defeated Jimmy Carter is in the White House working out the final weeks of his presidency. Aston Villa sit at the top of the first division. ABBA’s ‘Super Trouper’ is no.1 in the UK singles chart.
And Steve Davis is being driven home from Preston having just won his first major title, the UK Championship. It is the dawn of a golden career. He is 23 and about to transform the world of snooker.
Fast forward to the present day and Davis is today appearing in his 32nd successive UK Championship at the qualifiers in Sheffield. If he beats Mark Joyce he will play Ali Carter in Telford.
Davis won every UK title from 1980 to 1987 bar two. Terry Griffiths beat him in the 1982 quarter-finals and Alex Higgins recovered from 7-0 down to edge him 16-15 in the 1983 final.
This period encompassed an era of dominance so complete that it was hard to see how it could ever end.
Davis was a shy, awkward teenager who found an outlet in snooker. His talent and potential became apparent to Barry Hearn, who ran a chain of snooker clubs and would manage him through a golden decade, indeed who still manages him to this day.
Griffiths opened the door for the new breed by winning the world title at his first attempt in 1979 and Davis was part of the mob of young players who dived through it in his wake.
He became a magnet for trophies, and money too: the old guard who played snooker when there was hardly any financial reward in the game, scratching around the exhibition circuit for a living, must have looked at Davis in awe and disbelief: how could anyone possibly become a millionaire out of the sport?
The answer, of course, was through his on table dominance and the off table savvy of Hearn, pushing lucrative sponsorship contracts his way and, in helping to create the soap opera that was the 1980s boom, ensuring new tournaments, more prize money and a bucketful of personal appearances.
The Davis years would have to end some time but he found it hard to accept that Stephen Hendry was even better.
The 1990 UK Championship saw them go toe-to-toe in the final for a second successive year. They were introduced into the Preston Guild Hall to Tina Turner’s ‘Simply the Best’, an apposite choice for these formidable champions. It was a great match which Hendry eventually won 16-15 and marked the moment the crown was passed.
Davis soldiered on but his ranking position slipped and, with it, so did his aura.
There were more trophies, including a memorable capture of the Wembley Masters in 1997, but in 2000 he dropped out of the top 16.
Precedence told us that when former champions are relegated from the elite bracket they usually keep sliding until their career ends. Davis was constantly asked if he would retire. His answer was always the same: why should I?
And then in 2005 he was in the UK final again after an extraordinary week in York in which he beat Mark Allen, Stephen Maguire, Ken Doherty and Hendry before falling short against Ding Junhui. It was, remarkably, his 100th final after an inspirational run of performances.
Inspiration was the key again at the Crucible last season with his shock 13-11 defeat of John Higgins, a player, like so many, who grew up admiring the ‘Nugget.’
The old aura is restored, not of invincibility but as a cold stone legend. Davis now enjoys universal respect and while once he was booed because his success had become so monotonous, now he is revered as one of the most popular players in the sport.
His love of snooker remains as strong as it was 30 years ago. He is still endlessly fascinated by it. When he reached the Crucible for a 30th time last season he was more excited than any of the other qualifiers.
The world has changed in all sorts of ways in the last 30 years. An African American president now sits in the White House. An American owned football team is top of the league. A group of people unheard of months ago but brought together through a reality TV show are no.1.
Technological advancements have been rapid and spectacular: the fact you can read this now is testament to that.
But through it all, like old man river, Steve Davis has just kept rolling along.