One legacy of my British upbringing is an
addiction, affliction affection for snooker. I played it, long enough to stretch a good ways across the 12 foot x 6 foot slate. Went to halls, played for hours with friends Chris Burgess and William Lloyd, all of us over 6-feet tall. I was good enough to be happy, but it never crossed my mind to want to turn pro or even push for it.
Instead, I watched — frame after frame after frame — though never had a desire to go see it in person, which seems odd in retrospect. And Alex “Hurricane” Higgins was one of the players who caught my interest, like few others. (Here’s exactly how I remember him). It was the speed at which he played, and I think I subconsciously styled my game after him. He died over the weekend, aged 61. Seems extraordinary. Penniless and toothless I found out. You know, in a way you don’t actually want to find out. I only looked up his name because one of the podcasts I download comes from Ireland. It had Alex Higgins in the title and I, correctly and sadly, guessed it was about his death. (Other articles, here, here, and a judging personal account here – and some details here, though for an obituary it dwells too much, too eagerly on the flaws, the incidents.
It makes me wonder how some of the other players I knew then; how they’re doing now.
About every good player did catch my interest back then though. Ray Reardon I remember as the oldest. Jimmy White, the fastest. Dennis Taylor the stodgiest – yet with glasses like the ones I’d newly acquired; who somehow got them custom made to be able to see the balls better. Cliff Thorburn and Terry Griffiths are two other names that come to mind as in the mix.
Just the angles, the mental gamesmanship; I distinctly remembering admiring both of those traits in the game. It’s a far game far more centered on defense than pool, and the “snooker” comes from putting the ball behind another ball or pocket angle, so there’s no direct shot on the ball you’ve got to hit next.
Alex Higgins was the Rolling Stones.
The player I admired most was Steve Davis; cool, calm, collected. Red haired, focused. Didn’t care about hurting you on the table. Relentless. Skilled. Not as flashy or reckless. Skilled. The Beatles. The game still fascinates me; news of the game still grabs me. If it was available easily to see, I would. I can watch pool on TV; but i play a great deal more of that.
Snooker or pool, I need to play more. Want to play more. It brings me back to my roots, to my uprooted childhood.