25.10.11

MADE OF STONE

The Mount Rushmore national memorial was carved into the South Dakotan mountain side 70 years ago to commemorate four legendary US presidents.

What if snooker were to have a similar monument to the players who have best served and represented the sport?

Of course, it isn’t going to happen unless some lunatic is let loose with a chisel on Snowdon, but that doesn’t mean we can’t discuss who should appear on such a memorial.

The rules: there is only room for four players. In fact that’s the only rule.

So here are the main contenders, considered objectively, not based on personal favourites...

Joe Davis was the father of professional snooker. It was he who saw its potential in the age of billiards. It was he who began the World Championship, buying the trophy still presented to this day using half the original entry fees from the inaugural championship in 1927.

Davis won the world title 15 times in succession before retiring from the professional game in 1946. His style of play was the textbook followed by many who took up snooker in his wake.

Ray Reardon was the most successful player of the 1970s as the professional game was revived and started to receive TV attention.

He was six times a world champion, having not had the chance to play professionally at the early age modern players now do.

Alex Higgins was a firebrand and a rebel and these characteristics, coupled with his electrifying style of play, brought a new audience to snooker, attracted television coverage and sponsorship and helped lead to a burgeoning professional circuit.

In the snooker soap opera of the 1980s, he was a much loved villain who put the sport on the front pages and kept up the remarkable levels of interest.

Steve Davis lived a much more placid life and was completely dedicated to being the best, which he was for a decade.

Davis has won more titles than anyone else and is still capable, into his 50s, of producing high quality performances. As an ambassador for snooker, he remains unsurpassed.

Jimmy White’s enduring popularity and cheerful optimism in the face of many knocks means he is still a draw more than 30 years after turning professional.

Never a world champion, he won ten ranking titles, including the UK Championship, plus the Masters and has provided many a fan with the sort of emotional rollercoaster ride which means they remain loyal to him long after his peak.

Stephen Hendry raised playing standards and ushered in a new era of attacking snooker. He has won more of what matters than any other player.

There were 90 ranking events played in the 1990s. Hendry won 27 of them, just under a third of the total. He is still more than 100 centuries ahead of the field.

Ronnie O’Sullivan is a rare natural talent whose brand of entertaining snooker has drawn many new fans to the game during the last 15 years.

Perhaps the best break builder snooker has ever seen, his many controversies have only added to his status as flawed genius but his achievements stand for themselves.

John Higgins has proved himself as the toughest match-player of the current time, with four world titles to his name and an almost innate knowledge of every aspect of the game.

Brilliant under pressure, he remains every bit as difficult to beat as when he first emerged two decades ago.

I realise some will argue for others, such as Fred Davis, John Spencer and Mark Williams, but this is the list from which I will select my four.

The first face who earns a place in our imaginary mountainside is Steve Davis.

It is hard to believe now the attention he had in the 1980s, when snooker bestrode TV sport like a colossus – and Steve did the same on the green baize.

He never went off the rails, never shirked from his professional responsibilities and, despite the odd famous slip-up, just kept on winning.

He could have walked away happy with hit lot but, such is his love of the game, that he carried on and is still delighting fans now, as well as providing inspiration for a whole group of much younger players.

Davis was always the model player to look up to. He is to snooker what Jack Nicklaus is to golf.

The second face the carvers had better set about constructing is that of Hendry, who decided from a frighteningly young age that he was going to be the best.

Sport thrives on the fluff and intrigue that surrounds it, but the true test of greatness is achievement. For this alone Hendry deserves his place, but the quality of snooker he has produced down the years speaks for itself.

My third face will be that of Alex Higgins. He didn’t win as much as Reardon but he had an alchemy that meant he was an absolutely vital figure to snooker’s growth and development.

People admired the Reardons and Spencers but they loved Higgins. Many hated him too, but nobody who watched him play could fail to be excited by his charisma, his shot making and his theatrical style of death-or-glory snooker.

So one face left to be carved and, for me, it should be O’Sullivan.

It was Joe Davis’s misfortune not to be playing in the colour television age. Snooker owes him a huge debt of gratitude but that is not the whole story.

He created the professional game but he also killed it when he retired but continued to play exhibitions. Everyone knew the best player in the world wasn’t in the World Championship and it was eventually discontinued for a decade before being revived, largely due to the efforts of Rex Williams.

In truth, professional snooker had two beginnings. The first was under the auspices of Davis in 1926. The second was in 1969 when the World Championship reverted from challenge system to knock-out and Pot Black began. It was this latter beginning which was more significant to the sport as it is today.

Reardon’s modern day tally of world titles was equalled by Steve Davis and surpassed by Hendry. He may have won more than Alex Higgins but Higgins’s contribution off the table cannot be overlooked.

The only mark against White is that he never won the world title, which has to count him out.

John Higgins is a great player but ultimately O’Sullivan has been responsible for keeping interest levels up in an era in which snooker’s survival as a top level sport has been under threat following the loss of the tobacco millions.

New viewers around the world watching snooker for the first time on TV have been drawn in by O’Sullivan, whose talent and changeable personality have created a heady mix and sustained the game in the media. He is, by any definition, a star.

So my four for snooker’s Mount Rushmore are Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry, Alex Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Something tells me not everyone will agree with these choices.

41 comments:

Monique said...

Well ... I agree. I do dislike Alex Higgins, the person, but his importance in snooker can't be denied.

kildare cueman said...

Would agree with 3 of your 4 Dave. I would replace O'Sullivan with Joe Davis.

While I am a huge fan of O'Sullivan, his attitude towards the game discounts him for me.
He may however, replace Higgins in a few years.

Higgins would scrape in fourth, a distance behind my other 3.

Anonymous said...

Blimey - barely a week ago you were saying you didn't want another Hendry -v- O'Sullivan debate.

For what its worth, I think the creators of Mt Rushmore should have left out Theodore Roosevelt (history now tells us that Franklin D Roosevelt was a far more significant president).

Alex Higgins' was, and remains, the game's most iconic figure. He was the Arnold Palmer of snooker - his achievements on the table have been surpassed but he made the game important. Hendry and O'Sullivan have achieved heights no other player has come near so they should take the next 2 places.

For all his achievements, I don't think history will regard Steve Davis in the same way - for that reason the 4th plith should be left open - to recognise that, unlike America, Snooker's greatest days do not lie in its past.

Anonymous said...

I'd also replace O'Sullivan with Davis. I agree with your point regarding the earlier World Championships being of less importance now, but there is no denying he was the man behind it all. If he hadn't started it, there would have been nothing for Rex Williams to follow on with.

O'Sullivan just hasn't contributed enough for me. Nowhere near Davies or Hendry in terms of achievement and I doubt he touches Higgins in terms of popularity.

Anonymous said...

Steve Davis
Stephen Hendry
Alex Higgins
John Higgins

Betty Logan said...

Leaving Joe Davis out is like leaving out George Washington. There simply isn't a professional sport without him.

Second choice is Alex Higgins who was really the Joe Davis for the modern game. Snooker as a televised entertainment speciatcle is down to him. Higgins was criminally overlooked when it came to civil honours, and the modern game owes more to him than any other player.

I'm opting for Steve Davis over Hendry since he really is the face of snooker; Hendry never really captured the public imgagination to the same extent, and certainly never became the icon Davis is. You ask a random stranger on the street to name a snooker player, chances out they will pick Davis (unless you're on the streets of Shanghai). But he is certainly the British face of what is essentially a British game. If these faces are the faces of snooker, then Davis is the one player you can't miss out.

After that it becomes more tricky. My final choice would be O'Sullivan. He has produced the highest level the game has ever seen, and his standard is the gold standard of snooker. I doubt we will ever see another player surpass O'Sullivan at his best, and in a way he represents the final chapter in the evolution of the snooker player.

Anonymous said...

Dave what have you been putting in your tea? This is a bizarre discussion!

Anonymous said...

good to see a link to todays rushmore blog has been posted on ros forum with an invite to comment here on who the users' on theres four are.

Anonymous said...

if you have to be wise / intelligent like the original four then: joe, ray, steve + stephen.

wild said...

Joe Davis he was the guy who first believed in Snooker and turned it from being second fiddle to billiards.

Alex Higgins the inspiration and driving force of the 80s Boom

Steve Davis who gave the sport proffesionalism and Work Ethick future generations aspired towards

Stephen Hendry who atacking game compleatly changed how the sport became played and the game we have today.

Anonymous said...

Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry are clearly in. For me Joe Davis has to be present which leaves room for only one more with it being just about impossible to choose between Reardon and Alex Higgins but I suspect in another ten years another face could replace either of these- that other face to be John Higgins, O'Sullivan or Judd Trump.

Anonymous said...

I always laugh when Dave starts this topic posts, and then says he doesn't want another tedious Hendry/Ronnie debate. He gives with one hand and takes with the other. Should have become a politican.

Dave H said...

Au contraire!

It's possible to give an opinion without being insulting or disrepectful

Gerard said...

This may sound strange, but I think a top 3 would do for now. We should leave room for Robertson, who will in time take this lovely sport global.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with the comments Ronnie O'Sullivan has made on the BBC website. There is no benefits to the players or the fans of playing the PTC's. The only benefit to the players is more opportunity to play, but financially, motivationally, it's nothing. What people want to see is big tournament action. October was left by a gaping hole of the tournament that 99% of snooker fans want to see as the 'main' start to their season, the BBC tournament which has been dropped. Big tv tournament action is what the fans want to see, effectively to the arm chair fan the game hasn't changed any because the normal fan doesn't see any of these PTC's and they're played in cubicals. Why not scrap some of these tournaments and put on 1 or 2 more super ranking tournaments. The broadcaster is so important too because Eurosport broadcasting again isn't capturing any fans imagination - it's how it's packaged, look at Sky Sports with the Premiership - it's such a success because how it's packaged. That's how the BBC's snooker coverage is successful and to an extent Sky Sports as well. The Premier League is good but why doesn't Hearn take that and the silly snooker shoot-out thing from the Sky calendar and negotiate two ranking tournaments to replace it in there - what a difference it would make to the calendar. And instead of taking snooker to Brazil and these crazy places, why not invest resources in persuading the BBC's to reinstate the fourth tournament is worth it, concentrate efforts on getting big sponsorship in and making it worth their while so they can't refuse. It's the only way to go.

Sonny said...

OK I've been goaded into joining in! I chose Joe Davis because he's the godfather of snooker and if you were creating such a monument he would be the first name on there for validity. Alex Higgins is a given as well, and Hendry for achieving the most in the modern day game and raising the bar significantly higher than what had gone before (the one visit frame kill every time you get in standard). Finally, how could you not include Ronnie O'Sullivan? So you were one Davis out Dave!

http://t.co/N9giPdlH

Tim Sandle said...

There is possibly a place for Fred Davis. His career had an incredible longevity, turning pro in 1929 and retiring in 1993. Because he was Joe's brother he is often over looked, being overshadowed by Joe, yet he still remains the second most successful player of all time on the basis of world championship wins.

Fred won eight world championships* in the 1940s and 1950s, and two world billiards championships in the 1980s. Along with Joe he is the only player to hold world titles in the two most complex of cue sports.

*5 were "world matchplay championships" but these were commonly regarded as "the" world championship due to the professional boycotts, and if Clove Everton considers them to be equivalent then that is good enough for me.

Ayrshirebhoy said...

I'd have joe Davis, because he's basically the father of snooker, Steve Davis because of 80's dominance, great snooker mind and ambassador ect. Stephen hendry because he changed the way the game was played forever. My 4th would be A Higgins or ROS, both amazing talents and controversial figures do I'd pick Higgins because he done it first :)

Seifer Almasy said...

Finally someone else has worked out that O'sullivan is the best break builder of all time. By averages, certainly.

Seifer Almasy said...

The 4 I would choose are

Alex Higgins :(A true legend of entertainment. No one has replicated it since, not even Jimmy White. His bizarre behaviour and antics only made the sport all that healthier.)

Jimmy White: (The people's champion. Someone who everyone likes, and played the game with the attacking flair that makes this sport appeal to the masses.)

Ronnie O'sullivan: his greatest surpasses every player, he is the greatest break builder of all time, he can play both handed and is the most naturally talented player of all time. He has carried this sport single handed for over a decade before Hearn.

Finally, I have to go with Steve Davis... he isn't a flair player but he has been by far the greatest ambassador to the sport. he doesn't match Hendry in sheer determination but he does in work ethic and professionalism (he is the only player who does). He is still competing today and managed a major upset beating John Higgins in 2010 WC.

Those are the 4 I would go for...

Anonymous said...

surprise surprise!

Anonymous said...

I like a lot of others agree with 3 of your choices but would certainly change O'Sullivan for Joe Davis.

Witz78 said...

Simple choice for me.
Alex
Jimmy
Ronnie
and last but not least Hann

Anonymous said...

For me I would have Joe Davis, the man responsible for modern day snooker as it is, Steve Davis, the game's greatest ambassador, Stephen Hendry, the game's greatest player and I would leave the fourth one open. The other choices don't quite touch those 3 for me.

Anonymous said...

Joe, Ray, Steve and Stephen.

imo these 4 have done more for snooker and havent (*ever) treated it like dirt or been "all take and no give".

Johan said...

This is what Dave is talking about :-)
http://www.itzone.be/images/blog_dh_small.jpg

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 9.02pm has hit the nail on the head. They have got out what I have been thinking for ages. Well done whoever you are. And I'm a player on the main tour. Lol

Anonymous said...

Heh Barry, they've got a point, tell the BBC you want a fourth event, and tell Sky ITV Channel 4 and 5 that they each have to show a major event too. Then call around the FTSE 100 companies and tell then they have to put up half a million for each event. No excuses lad, just go and do it.

902 should think before he posts, and you should too 1054.

kimball said...

Would't do without Barry Hearn in the middle.

Anonymous said...

9.02.... Brazil and these crazy places? You mean not in England? No thats still a bit crazy. Anywhere outside a radius of 20 miles from your house. thats about right.

147 said...

All things been fair Dave i think your choices are spot on.Now how about one on the refs?

Anonymous said...

9.02

Barry Hearn if he could would put on 3,4 or 5 more events on the BBC but the BBC are cost cutting unfortunatlly. its totally out of the hands of snooker.

i sugest you e mail the BBC.

John McBride said...

Just the 4? Hmmm....Let's forget Snowdon & move the chiselling to the Jimmy White Cliffs of Dover.

Joe Davis
Ray Reardon
Alex Higgins
Steve Davis
Stephen Hendry
Jimmy White (cliff)

Glad that's sorted..... :-)

Anonymous said...

john, surely cliff would be on the cliff too?

Anonymous said...

what if one of the players on your list is two faced? would that reduce the pick to 3 peaople?

John McBride said...

@12:47 Anon. I'm sure we could make room, I certainly don't see an issue with fitting the fella in.
One thing is for sure tho, if we did have them boys on anything together, one word I'm sure would spring to everyone's mind when they seen it, Snooker!

Anonymous said...

Agree with John, Cliff Wilson a legend!

http://bit.ly/vN3ntp



http://bit.ly/bqKsCy

TJH said...

How many of you think that ROS have a chance to win an major ranking event before his career is over?

Aap said...

Ronnie wil probably win a few more, maybe even the WC. He won't get over 30 career ranking titles though, but I don't want to say he has underachieved, just because he hasn't dominated in the way SD and SH have. It's just a different generation.

1 - Alex Higgins
2 - Ronnie O'Sullivan
3 - Steve Davis
4 - Stephen Hendry

The 2 biggest achievers and 2 most genius playing styles, but in terms of inspiring people and sympathetic personalities I would want Jimmy White in there as well.

Anonymous said...

The bbc are certainly cost cutting, they have lost the French Open tennis to itv now....


http://ow.ly/7dsDo

Anonymous said...

just look at the list of century break makers and this is the order of the best players ever

1 hendry 2 ronnie 3 higgins 4 davis

the more centuries you have made means u have the ability to keep a break going so that means your potting and positional play are the best.also if u look at how many 70 + breaks hendry ronnie and higgins have its frightening.

hendry at his very best ie. 7 centuries to win 10-5 including 6 in 8 frames against ken doherty in 1994 uk final was unbeatable although id say ronnie should have been the best player ever but hes a flawed genius certainly most talented player ever. paul,dunfermline.