“We’re not machines and I think people forget that sometimes. We’re humans and we all suffer from nerves and a bit of trepidation and a bit of worry.”

So said Shaun Murphy after struggling to get over the winning line in the first round in Bendigo against Marcus Campbell.

He’s absolutely right, of course. Players are not robots, though some have played so well for such sustained spells at times that they have appeared to be remote controlled.

It’s also true to say that when commentators point out the human frailties of players, said players often don’t like it.

‘Careless’ is a word that has, unlikely as it seems, taken on cult status on Twitter due to its gross overuse in commentary.

However, careless is an apposite word to describe a failed pot missed not because of pressure but through lack of concentration: insufficient care taken leading to a mishap.

This type of missed pot typically follows two or three really good ones where the player has to concentrate. Perhaps subconsciously they feel they have done the hard work and inwardly relax. Blacks off spots with the cue ball ideally placed are unmissable for top players and thus often missed because they have let up on concentration.

Put simply: because the player cannot envisage missing, he takes it for granted. By taking it for granted and not giving 100% to the shot, he misses.

Other pots are missed because they are difficult, because of a kick or miscue or because there is an edge of pressure on them: frame ball, or when a player is attempting to make a clearance.

These are the kind of situations where the natural human emotions of which Murphy speaks come into play. It is only the superhuman who repel them with great regularity, and these are the players who win multiple major titles.

Many players are remembered for the balls they missed: Willie Thorne’s blue when 13-8 up to Steve Davis in the 1985 UK final; Davis’s overcut black at the end of the 1985 world final; Ken Doherty’s final black on 140 in the 2000 Masters final etc.

None of these were ‘careless.’ They were all missed under pressure.

Davis said that when he came to the table to attempt his black his arms felt like they belonged to someone else.

It is the sudden conscious thought that the shot is important and the dread consequences of it going wrong that forces a player to play it not naturally but by thinking exactly what they are doing.

Jimmy White snatched at a black when well placed to win the deciding frame of the 1994 world final against Stephen Hendry because the significance of the moment had dawned on him.

Murphy himself has been doing some commentary for Australian TV. I haven’t heard him but suspect he’s a natural. He has a good vocabulary and is obviously a top player with first hand knowledge of how modern snooker is played.

I don’t know if he has yet used the word ‘careless’ but, if he has, he will not necessarily have been wrong.

The problem is not the word itself but its repetitious use. It is worth remembering that there are a number of other words which mean the same thing.


CAN147 said...

Dennis Taylor is the biggest culprit when it comes to commentators being overly tough on players. Yes, he was world champions and he is knowledgable in snooker but when he played he had terrible technique and could not make a century break to save his life. So why does he have to set such a high standard for players? Often, a player makes an amazingly difficult pot and suffers slightly on the position and Taylor would say something along the lines "oh boy, he has really made a mess of things"...I'm wondering if Taylor is setting an unreasonable standard for professional players? Is he comparing everyone to Ronnie maybe? In an odd way I sure hope so cause if he was setting high standards because of his own abilities I think he needs a reality check.

Anonymous said...

a very careful blog


Hi David. "We are not machines." Great Murphy quote, refering to his 5-4 win over Campbell. He was the stonger today, in beating Ford 5-1.

Burnett did superbly, to beat a below parr Selby, 5-3.

I can't wait for more, tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Commentators who continually use the word "careless" should be aware that their actual appraisal of that shot is careless by definition.
The irony reeks.

Anonymous said...

You miss the point here Dave. It is remiss of you not acknowledge that the comments mainly got people annoyed because he is passing comment on an event he has seen it fit to not enter

Dave H said...

You've posted this on the wrong story, but Trump wasn't criticising the tournament, just the style of play of one of the players.

Kenn Fong said...

You were right, Dave. Murphy was a natural with the mic.