Entertaining Snooker



A number of years ago while I was at Preston watching the UK Championship, Dennis Tayfor and Stephen Hendry took part in a few frames of Snooker as an exhibition to fill the programme due to the scheduled match finishing early. The interesting thing about this session of Snooker was that both players played remarkably freely and Dennis quipped to the audience throughout the frames encouraging banter from the audience, very entertaining it was too.

The reason that I relate this story is to illustrate that Snooker can still provide light-hearted and yet compelling entertainment if it is showcased properly.

Is there no room in the calendar for a senior’s tournament with emphasis on entertainment rather than serious competition? I recently watched a frame or two of the tournament that was billed as a senior championship and was very disappointed with the coverage it received, and the quality of the entertainment. I feel that one of two things need to be considered

  1. Either show edited highlights of longer sessions to give the players the opportunity to settle and play some quality Snooker or
  2. Play the tournament for appearance money and let the actual result take secondary importance to the winners purse.

This would encourage players to look on it as a means of entertaining people in the same way that some of the senior Tennis players do, there-by encouraging the more senior players to entertain the audience rather than feel the need to perform quite so much. 

These options could mean that selling sponsorship and advertising would prove more of a desirable possibility for advertisers. A special prize could be given to the man of the tournament rather than for the highest break or for the highest break as well funds permitting. 

The world trickshot tournament, the world senior’s tournament and the world doubles championships were all established to promote the game of Snooker but to the casual viewer they are indistinguishable from other events. The organisers of modern events are looking for something 1 believe that can compete with American Pool for entertainment value and identifiability. What better than a tournament that allows it’s competitors time to play well and time to entertain if they are not playing well and the audience to see the best of either part of the game on television in an edited format later.

The story that gives me reason to believe that this idea is a viable one is as follows, Ray Reardon and John Pullman were booked to play an exhibition in somwhereville, First frame John breaks off, and Ray knocks in a 147 break. After the standing ovation that follows John puts away his cue and entertains the audience for the next two hours with colourful stories and anecdotes saying that if people wanted to watch Snooker they had witnessed the perfect frame and if they wanted to be entertained John was your man. Everyone had a great time and the story lives on. 

I think that one frame Snooker is very poor for showing the ability of the players and actually detracts from the image of those who take part in it One frame Snooker also I feel damages the image of the sport itself, as the quality is usually poor and opportunities for whimsy and interplay with the audience are reduced as well.

Pool has the twin virtues of being fast and fun, Snooker must work to provide anywhere near as much quick-fire entertainment.

I remember the attempt that “Snooker” made both with Pot Black Time frame and Tenball to brighten up its image for the Mc’Donald’s generation. I feel sure that the point was missed in these two ventures that what people like about Snooker is that it is skilful and familiar with a unique heritage that should be built on, not replaced with a new game.

The history of Snooker is littered with characters and stories these too could be incorporated as well as famous trick shots and footage from the senior player’s matches of yesteryear to highlight the heritage perspective. Some years ago Roger Lee promoted a tournament open only to previous world champions, this event was not even televised. Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor competed for the cup, the tournament was never seen again. The champions cup is another chance for a diverse approach, what do we get best of nine frames then seventeen in the final. Serious winner takes all stuff.

Don’t get me wrong I love these serious tournaments but as I always say you could even get bored watching Jimmy White or Ronnie O’Sullivan, if everyone played like them. But the beauty of the game is the variety of players like Cliff Thorburn V Tony Drago or Dave Harold V Mark Williams, contrast with a common purpose.

I feel sure that tournaments based on this type of thinking could prove lucrative. Repetition can prove fatal in endeavours that rely on entertainment as well as sporting prowess; variety without dilution is the key as far as I can see look at what happened to Professional Billiards in the 1940s.

I am putting my views out so that people can have their say, I can not guarantee that I am right but I can state categorically that I will in no way gain financially if my ideas are adopted. The pie is only so big and if everyone demands a slice, starvation will surely follow for all involved as it can only be divided so much before the pieces can not keep people well fed. 

David Smith