We are seven!
I’m sure your many cards and presents have been lost in the postal system somewhere.
Back on June 12, 2006 I was a kind of snooker version of TJ Eckleburg, fixing the green baize world in my never-ending gaze.
Now, it’s hard to keep up with half of what’s going on. Tournaments rush by and there’s barely time to consider the various incidents, accidents, hints and allegations before another one begins.
Not that I’m complaining at all. Rather this than the wasteland of ’06.
But what it all means is that there’s probably less need for this blog than at any time in the last seven years. It began as something to do. There weren’t any others and there were long gaps between tournaments. There were long periods with nothing happening.
It was a chance to post observations, bits of news and try and keep interest in snooker going when there were no tournaments to watch, as there weren’t most weeks.
Things have turned around dramatically. The potential I and others always knew snooker had has started to be realised.
Barry Hearn and his team have worked wonders compared to what had gone before, although Hearn just sees it as making straightforward commercial decisions. Just today he announced that the Champion of Champions event will be screened live by ITV4 with £100,000 first prize.
I get the feeling some people, or rather some British people, would rather it was back how is used to be: a small, cosy world of mainly UK events instead of the increasingly global tour it has become.
Well, that’s a one-way ticket to oblivion. As with all things in modern life, the market will decide, and for snooker it’s decided that China is where it’s at in terms of money. Europe certainly has interest but lags behind when it comes to financial clout.
Snooker is by no means dead in the UK but it has certainly seen better days. Nevertheless, ticket sales last season were up and I will find it hard to shake the image of hundreds of hardy souls departing Alexandra Palace at close to one in the morning having stayed riveted to Mark Selby v Graeme Dott in the Masters semi-finals, traipsing home in the snow having stuck it out to the end.
These are true snooker fans: they love the game and its various complexities, its psychological shifts of momentum. And the game continues to fascinate many millions around the world.
At the top level, snooker is two things: a professional sport and television entertainment. There is an inevitable conflict between the two. We could play every tournament best of 19 from the start but TV wouldn’t cover it. Equally, we must be careful not to dumb the game down so much that its professional integrity is compromised.
Hearn is much more of a traditionalist than people give him credit for. Most of his changes have been cosmetic and most of them have been successful.
Aside from pure entertainment events such as the Shootout, the rules of snooker have not been changed. Shot-clocks and other gimmicks have not been introduced into major tournaments. The UK Championship format has been reduced at the behest of the BBC but the World Championship maintains its eccentric but magnificent long form schedule.
There are still clangers dropped, particularly in regards to scheduling of matches, but speaking as a journalist the difference with the governing body now compared to ’06 is that they will at least engage with you if you criticise them rather than trying to put you out of business.
Who knows what we’ll all be doing seven years from now? Will snooker still be a popular sport?
Why shouldn’t it be? The key thing to remember is that it survived all the mismanagement and lost opportunities and is now continuing to renew itself, exploring new markets. Look at the enthusiasm shown by the crowd in Bulgaria just last weekend.
I don’t have a crystal ball, and even if I did it wouldn’t help because crystal balls are nonsense, but snooker seems to be on a firm footing and opportunities for players abound.
Players don’t need to play in it all, viewers don’t have to watch it all and, for that matter, bloggers don’t have to comment on it all.
You don’t have to read all this either but, if you have, then thank you.