Monday, 4 May 2015

Snooker confessional

Dennis Taylor is back to his cliché-per-second rate, which can only mean one thing… The final.

Since I was born way after the legendary black ball game of 1985, for me it all began with that incredible match in 2010 between Neil Robertson and Martin Gould. Early on, Robertson was trailing 0:6, and Gould (freshman who looked like an accountant from pre-1917 Russia) was doing Alex Higgins. He kept slotting them from any position on the table, and the blond, lanky Australian (to this day my favourite player) looked demoralized. Later he admitted he’d checked out of the Sheffield hotel before the final session because the situation looked more hopeless than a dead fly. Indeed: the score was 5:11 (13 was the target), and this had to be a comeback to shame Lazarus. If not Ken Doherty.

But Robertson was unimpeachable. He was growing by the shot as Gould kept shrinking by the miss. Somewhere, I still have the picture my ex-girlfriend drew of me cheering him on. Each frame seemed so tense I often had to look away and rely on the words of the commentator as well as the reaction of the Crucible crowd. And then it got to 12:12, and I looked at the sky and I thought let the fucker lose everything else in his life – just let him win this match. And he did. He potted this amazing long red under severe pressure. He won the decider. He demolished Steve Davis in the next round. He beat Ali Carter in the semi-final. He won the World Championship, which seemed oddly anticlimactic after the impossible match against Martin Gould.

Today sees the final resolution of 2015’s World Championship, so this feels like the perfect timing. Snooker, to me, is the only sport you could safely call art.

Even if I can’t do it. My highest break hovers around the pathetic mark of 18 or 19. Spins, plants, screwback shots, I can’t do any of that, and each time I pot a ball – it looks like a miracle on a par with walking on water or turning blood into wine. And yet nothing can take away the joy of watching them put so much talent into those ten feet of green baize... These men are fucking artists, so screw Dennis Taylor and his clichés. Today I’m cheering for Stuart Bingham who has already beaten two World Champions (including, yes, Ronnie O’Sullivan) as well as Judd Trump, the bookmakers’ wet dream. Go on, Ballrun, even if your walk-on song would not survive five seconds in my house. 

Speaking of which. Anthony McGill, you charming charming man.