Thursday, April 13, 2006

We're Still Snooker...Loopy!

For a sport that is regarded to be in the doldrums commercially, snooker retains an enduring appeal, especially on television. The World Championships, which begin this weekend in Sheffield, are at the centre of this popularity, and even if you believe today's players don't have the charisma of that quintessential curio of 1980s pop-culture, the 'Snooker Loopy' Matchroom Mob, come the May bank holiday Monday and the last session of the final, you will be hanging on every shot.

So why do we still love the sleepy business at the Crucible so?

If there is one demographic for whom the world of sport remains a complete irrelevance, it is the beloved Grannys. They came of age in a time long before ladette culture and the hitherto unimaginable phenomenon of women at football matches became a reality. But snooker has always been their preserve. When the camera scans the audience over the next two weeks. trying counting the number of snoozy matrons rustling their sweetie papers. The quietness of the game, and the hypnotic clack of the balls, as well as the sight of reassuringly well-behaved and tidily dressed young men, is manna from heaven for our dear Grandmammas.

Drag Racer, by the Doug Wood Band, before you ask. Like all of the Beeb's great theme tunes, this one is so completely evocative of snooker as to make you imagine that it is David Vine himself on lead guitar, with Dougie Donnelly keeping time on drums and John Parrott weighing in with the throbbing bassline. Despite being scandalously remixed in recent years, somehow, for a brief moment, it makes the sport seem ineffably exciting.

At some point over the two weeks, in a shopping mall or garden centre in Sheffield, the Waistcoated Wonder will gather his adoring public around him closely, the better to witness his supernatural manipulations of coloured spheres on baize, and the better to hear his dazzling verbiage and scabrous wit. One of the great performers of our, or any other time.

When Scott Joplin sat down in 1902 and began to compose his ragtime masterpiece "The Entertainer", he undoubtedly had in mind that it would, in a utopian future, be used to soundtrack a hilariously edited montage of snooker players picking their noses, pulling funny faces and having mishaps with their bow ties. Were he alive to see it, Joplin would surely shed a tear.

For those of us that came of age in the 1980s, Steve 'Interesting' Davis was the pantomime villain to boo and hiss as he dully crushed the slatternly entertainers whom we loved. The joy of Dennis Taylor's 1985 triumph was only multiplied by the fact that it was the icy Davis who had been usurped. But what's this, we thought, as Davis' peak years passed and the Romford Nugget became the very epitome of self-effacing charm and even a dorky wit? A salutary allegory for all of us on the passing of youth and the benefits of maturity. Or something.


Anonymous bookofkelly said...

Ah yes, one of my enduring memories of my time living in Romford is the sight of a drunk Nugget slumping his head on the last train home. Mark King (also a romford boy) could never come close to the legend of Steve.

9:42 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steve Davis, Mark King and Ray Parlor as well! where would English sport be without Romford?

2:08 p.m.  
Anonymous bookofkelly said...

not to mention bobby moore.

11:53 p.m.  

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