Casting the first stone



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I was somewhat surprised to learn that Stephen Lee feels sufficiently aggrieved at Peter Ebdon to ask for a public apology some four months after an incident in the World Snooker Championships 2001 in Sheffield. An incident that I suspect most people considered long gone?

As you may recall Stephen Lee and Peter Ebdon fought out a long and I feel sure gruelling match that ended with Peter Ebdon exploding with emotion more or less as the winning ball (from his point of view disappeared into a baulk pocket). Peter’s celebration of the win was I feel sure completely genuine and emotionally sincere but to many onlookers it was perceived as excessive and even a bit unsporting.

A few interesting points come out of being an armchair Snooker supporter; one of those as I have mentioned before is that we tend to discuss such matters with our friends and fellow league players. I can distinctly remember other occasions with Peter’s matches that observers commented about his behaviour. One of these was in the Masters a few years back, the general feeling then was “well it was a big match for him and well that’s just the way he is”. Not only that but “he seems a very keen and committed family man and feels that he is very responsible for their financial well being so every ball potted and missed is significant to him for those reasons.

I watched his press conference at the World Championships and when he won his first major for months earlier in the season on Sky sports. On both of these occasions he was very emotional and at the World Championships made a particular effort to say that he hadn’t meant any disrespect to a fellow professional but couldn’t hold his emotions back any longer. During the British Open press conference where Peter spoke about his family and his relief at getting nearer to what he sees as his true potential, I feel we were given an insight into the type of man he is.

What I feel is significant is that Stephen Lee clearly hasn’t moved on since these incidents and feels strongly enough to jeopardise his team’s chances in the prestigious team event The world team championships because Peter Ebdon is on the same team as himself. For me the irony here is twofold, one the event will result in him being paid even if he doesn’t win a frame and two what power would he have to influence proceedings if Peter was assigned to another team, in other words if Peter were Welsh or Scots would Stephen relish the thought of stuffing one up him on the table rather than resorting to, off the table bickering and dredging up past events?

I can’t fully support either player in this matter but feel that if one player is unwilling to play for his country then his commitment is surely lacking, I know dozens of players who would be delighted to take his place. The reason I mention commitment is that he seems to be putting personal matters ahead of both the sponsors wishes and his fans desires to see him represent his country again in this event. Not to mention the position that his manager might prefer? If, I remember correctly? Stephen was very strong in the event last year and gained much respect and admiration for his performances throughout?

The reason that I chose the title for this piece, is that of the two players. Stephen sticks out in my memory for having failed a test for banned substances last year, so I feel that taking the moral high ground does not necessarily suit him as well as it might.

Peter on the other hand might be inclined to take the role of peace maker as Snooker is to him symbolic of his desire to prove himself a capable and worthy provider of both financial security and perhaps a flawed but ultimately respectable competitor? 

I remember a comment made by a former World Champion who said, “what people often forget is that as professional sportsmen we are really one man small businesses so we often have more at stake than just the performance on the table”. Perhaps as Peter manages himself this also explains the emotional involvement and levels of commitment that this type of sustained effort requires from him.

I hope that both players do take part in the forthcoming World Team Championship as in these times of potential War and disharmony on a global scale, we the viewers need entertaining distractions and positive examples of behaviour for the younger Snooker supporters to emulate.

One last thought for Stephen to consider Steve Davis was once drawn against the little known Peter Ebdon in the World Championships in the dreaded first round. The result of this clash was a resounding success for the delighted Ebdon. The following year the same clash was lined up by the fates yet again, on this occasion Mr Davis quietly demolished Mr Ebdon on the table and prevailed even more emphatically than he had lost the previous year. Perhaps Mr Lee should have waited for an opportunity to let his cue and ability on the table do his talking for him? My memory isn’t as clear about Peter Ebdon’s following encounter with Stephen Hendry but I wouldn’t be surprised if the outcome was similar.

It seems interesting that people often use the term un-sportsmanlike behaviour to criticise anything that they don’t like. Interestingly in sports like Boxing or at the end of a Formula 1 race the behaviour demonstrated there is considered appropriate to these sports so how would one fairly define sportsman-like behaviour anyway?

David Smith
A keen observer of Snooker and Pool and collector of Cues and Books