20.12.10

ALEX HIGGINS: GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN

Amid all the drama on the table this year, it should also be remembered that snooker lost one of its key figures during 2010.

Alex Higgins died in July at the age of 61. His final years were sad but his reputation as the most remarkable player of the boom years remains undimmed.

There has never been anyone quite like Alex. This is probably a good thing.

When he died there were the usual tributes but even they were tinged with raw honesty: Higgins was often a nightmare to be around and at times could be deeply unpleasant.

But Snooker Scene also received letters from those who had witnessed his kindness: ranging from visits to hospitals to spend time with sick children that had never been publicised to a few drinks in the pub with fans.

The Hurricane was a mass of contradictions but, to the end, he was uncompromisingly his own man. He died from malnutrition due to not eating properly. Jimmy White and others had tried to tell him...but they knew you couldn’t tell Alex anything. He always did things his own way.

What he brought to snooker, more than anything, was the people. His electrifying style of play, his addiction to controversy and trouble and the sense of the unexpected saw the public come to snooker in droves.

The BBC only began covering the World Championship in the mid 1970s because he was in it. A few years later they began covering it live and still do so to this day.

I know many people in the snooker world who loathed Higgins but none of them would argue with his importance to the sport and its development.

White and Ronnie O’Sullivan are, to an extent, cut from the same cloth as Higgins in terms of their natural talent and vivid private lives but neither trod the path of self destruction like he did.

White is gracious, friendly and always puts on a show for his fans.

O’Sullivan, though prone to extreme mood swings, lives quietly and has won far more than Higgins, who seemed to relish snooker most when it became a high wire act where the line between death or glory was as fine as it could be.

Even in death Higgins is said to be causing trouble: the woman who moved into his flat has claimed to newspapers that he is haunting her.

But he should be remembered not for all the aggro, though that was an intrinsic part of his character, but for his achievements on the table.

Nobody knew what had hit them when he won the 1972 World Championship at his first attempt at a time in which professional snooker was bouncing along the bottom of the sporting ocean.

When he won it for a second time ten years later it was a major television attraction, largely due to him.

Alex Higgins may never have set out to change snooker forever but he did and for that the game should be eternally grateful.

9 comments:

jamie brannon said...

The snooker year will be most be remembered for the surname Higgins, for two very different reasons.

Ray said...

Where would snooker be today if Alex hadn't come along? No prizes for guessing!
If James Brown was the Godfather of Soul then Alex Higgins was the Godfather of Modern Snooker. He was the true original - the first to play snooker this way and Jimmy, Stephen and Ronnie have taken this forward to the present day.
God gives genius to very few but not without strings. If you look through history, whether it's sportsmen, artists, musicians, writers etc, you can't have genius without the flaw.
There should be a statue of Alex outside the Crucible because he was the one and only Peoples Champion. How many agree with me?
RIP Alex.

Betty Logan said...

There aren't that many extraordinary people in the world really, when you think about it, but he was one of them. I read somewhere where he was asked about never getting an MBE/OBE despite some of his contemporaries getting them, and he said his parents would have loved it. I think it's criminal that his contributions to British sport went unrecognised.

Anonymous said...

Yes great article and fair reflection & comment on the Hurricane,there is a fine line between genius and madness and maybe he crossed it at times.Fantastic talent on his day.A statue would be a good idea...

Greg P said...

"The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long - and you have shone so very brightly/"

Betty Logan said...

He wasn't so much a burning light as a nuclear explosion!

kildare cueman said...

Dont agree with a statue at the crucible.

Any publicity Higgins brought the game was purely accidental and not down to effort in any way.

Any good he done for snooker was usually offset by damage he caused by his inability to handle alcohol and losing.

By all means he should be remebered as an entertainer on a snooker table, but a statue at the crucible would be better deserved by John Spenser, Paul Hunter, Joe Davis or even living legends like Steve Davis, Hendry or White.

jamie brannon said...

He did once come second in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year!

It's amazing that Steve Davis holds the record for placings in this ceremony, five times he was on the rostrum, winning of course in 1982.

However, since Stephen Hendry's solitary placing - second in 1990 - snooker has not even had a sniff of victory.

Personally, it was scandalous that Hendry never received the main award during his pomp. I even voted for Hendry along with Garfield Sobers and Michael Jordan for Sports Personality of the century in 1999.

The problem is snooker does not have a dominant figurehead like Phil Taylor or Tony McCoy to generate a strong argument with the wider public.

Also, the sport suffers from the false perception that there are no characters.

Have a good christmas Dave and all those who frequent the blog, even the Ronnie bashers!!!

郭大路710 said...

ALEX HIGGINS was first pro snooker man came to hong kong at 1979,he made me open my eye at that night ,miss him forever!