The outsider looking in



I read articles which go into infinite detail about expense accounts and the political wranglings of the game of Snooker and those who seem bent on damaging the credibility of the game, that we as spectators see as a pure and sportsmanlike contest with rules and expectations about conduct and even codes of dress that were founded a hundred or so years ago.

I know that these articles are necessary and valid in that they stand as a watchdog over those whose capabilities and perhaps intentions are not to the standard that we would wish?

The problem that I have with these articles is that they are not at all entertaining, neither do they enhance the image of the game in themselves.

I would like to see more articles dealing with aspects of the players, managers and supporting organisers of our sport that give a fresh perspective on the more positive elements that make Snooker one of the most popular pastimes and television sports in the country.

I don’t advocate simply printing shallow publicity brochures from managers promoting their players or press handouts from sponsors that are in reality thinly veiled advertisements. But most of us who are involved in Snooker are carrying out voluntary coaching or captaining local teams with little real hope of achieving great notoriety.

One of the chief selling points of Snooker is the type of person it seems to attract, such as Ken Doherty for example. I met Ken outside a Pub in Sheffield, where I am sure he intended to take a bite to eat with a few friends. Ken took a moment to sign the inside of the jacket of the video that I had just bought of him winning the world championship. I am not usually prone to asking for autographs but the coincidence seemed too great to pass it up. Ken was very polite and signed the video, I wished him well and as you may recall, he got to the final losing to John Higgins, I think.

The point that I am making is that with competitors and ambassadors of this quality Snooker has more going for it than some walks of life. When a negative article is printed, to the casual observer it appears that all of Snooker is somehow corrupt.

Going back to my previous point for a moment, Snooker has within its ranks many people who show positive characteristics as well as negative ones, an example of this is Peter Ebdon who has the apparent fault of exploding with emotion when winning what to him is a major victory.

I suspect that Peter is the sort of deep individual whose biggest victory is over his own weaknesses as an individual. If I am right then his outbursts have nothing to do with whom he is playing.

I read references in magazines that could damage the self esteem of anyone reading them and damage their performance accordingly if that person were to take them seriously.

Stephen Lee has vowed that he will use this past controversy to fuel his current campaign, if he manages this he will have had the greater victory, while Peter will have a forever tarnished reputation based on one particular view. This does not seem even-handed to me.

Peter’s manner around the tournaments and in press conferences is to my eye everything that you would hope for in a professional sportsman and ambassador. Except when for a brief moment he lets it all hang out so to speak at the climax of an important match, surely a fair minded reporter should refer to this characteristics as well.

I am not a big Peter Ebdon fan, I must confess, but I do recognise the positive qualities of tenacity and family values that he demonstrates on and off the table at all other times. Is there enough room in the sport for every type of competitor, I hope so.

I suspect that of the two people directly involved in this controversy, Peter is the most negatively affected. 

If we accept that Peter was “out of order”, further mitigation still exists at this late stage. Stephen is taking this stand well after the emotional, “heat of battle” is over, Peter is now silent. Who now seems to be the better ambassador for Snooker?

In conclusion and on balance, I will in my pieces try to focus on the more positive aspects of the game now and over the past few years, perhaps it is a good thing that I don’t know all the internal wranglings that plague my favourite sport.

I still retain the naivety of the young man who watched Alex Higgins making the white ball perform miracles that the other players could only dream about. When it transpired that Alex went about peeing in plant pots and head butting officials I couldn’t watch him play with the same pleasure anymore.

So for me at least Alex remains a genius, Peter is a little highly strung and Stephen will grow out of it and then I will enjoy watching all of them perform magic on the green baize once again.

David Smith
Cues n Views