We’re living in a golden age for snooker, but as with most previous golden ages most people won’t realise until it’s over.
The access to watching snooker tournaments now is greater than it’s ever been. You only have to go back a decade to a time where events outside the UK never made the TV back home and fans had to follow Teletext scores instead of instant live scoring.
Yes, there really was a time before Eurosport’s blanket coverage, before live streaming, before Twitter, where people go to fulminate if they miss so much as a break-off shot, before blogs and forums and the endless chatter that surrounds modern sport.
The more you give people, the more complacent they become. History, though, tells us how lucky we are.
Let me take you back, way back, to a distant place known as 2003. You may have read about it.
The 2002/03 season had begun in acrimony and rancour. So far, this does not distinguish it in any way from any other season.
The players, egged on by their associates, rejected the Altium offer to bankroll the circuit and handed control instead to a couple of chancers on a ten-year contract.
This contract would be torn up after less than a year due to their failure to deliver but it included a guarantee of eight ranking tournaments.
With money tight (it tends to be when you turn it down) and tobacco sponsorship about to exit ashtray-right, putting on new events was going to be difficult.
However, the WPBSA encouraged the organiser of the Irish Masters to turn his event into a ranking tournament and they then struck on the bright idea of staging the European Open not, as was traditional, on the continent but in a hotel in Torquay.
Believe me, any Fawlty Towers references you can think of were trotted out with great regularity back then.
The kicker was that there would be no TV coverage at all. There was to be no web streaming either.
So the tournament unfolded in almost complete anonymity, which was a great shame because it produced one of the sport’s best finals that decade and with it one of Ronnie O’Sullivan’s best performances full stop.
O’Sullivan was in a happy place generally at this point and had just got back into running, which gave him an outlet outside of snooker. He seemed relaxed in Torquay, perhaps because there were no demands from TV, and played some brilliant snooker to reach the final.
And the final was a classic. His opponent was Stephen Hendry, who had just returned to form by winning the Welsh Open in fine style.
A marker was laid down as to the standard in the opening frame, which O’Sullivan won with a 140 total clearance. He made another century, 126, and three half centuries to arrive at the interval leading 5-2. Hendry, for his part, had made a break of 101.
He also made 88 in the first frame of the final session before O’Sullivan delivered another total clearance, a 142 total clearance.
Hendry, always so dangerous in adversity, fought back as he so often had before, a 117 the highlight as he reduced his arrears to 6-5.
But with two more big breaks, O’Sullivan emerged victorious at 9-6.
And he was satisfied, not just to win the title but to do it so well against Hendry, an old foe and the player he most looked up to.
Very few people watched this match. Two of them were Ray Reardon and Tony Knowles, who afterwards made comments to a local newspaper to the effect that there wasn’t enough safety play.
When you can pot everything, safety isn’t quite as necessary. It was indicative of how snooker had changed, for the better most, if not Reardon and Knowles, would argue.
Feeling good and with his game back in shape, O’Sullivan went on to win another excellent final, beating John Higgins 10-9 at the Irish Masters.
What a shame hardly anyone saw what O’Sullivan still regards as one of his finest triumphs.
It would be different today. One of the most significant of all Barry Hearn’s innovations could turn out to be liveworldsnooker.tv. It already shows PTCs and qualifiers exclusively and were there occasions where no broadcaster could be found for a future event, could be the place to watch it.
It doesn’t hurt to remember that it wasn’t always like this.