Over the course of the World Championship I’ve challenged one snooker aficionado to highlight the best quirky, outlandish, unusual, laughable and questionable observations of each day.
As if to further enhance his (or her!) alter ego as snooker’s sleeper, this spy has elected to go through the tournament in disguise.
Read below for day three’s offering, but who is behind the Free Ball?
Day Three – Can you Keep the Noise Down, Please!?
By Free Ball
I’ve watched snooker for a long time, but hadn’t experienced a live competitive match until a couple of years ago. There were many exhibitions seen, with a raucous crowd imbibed a plenty with refreshments. I was lucky to see Alex Higgins imbibed aplenty with refreshments. But I always felt content watching it on TV. I knew I’d enjoy the tension live, but the distractions and need for self-control?
They are one in the same for the main part. They are in fact, we the spectators.
The horror of Tony Meo (yes, I’m that old), a ball of nerves at the best of times, breaking down in a final’s deciding frame versus Steve Davis after someone roared on a shot. I remember cringing for Ding Junhui at The Masters versus Ronnie O’Sullivan. The crowd ripped him apart. He was ready to walk, only for Ronnie’s arm round the shoulder for comfort. I remember last Sunday night, a lady waiting on the stairs for Anthony McGill to take a shot late in the match. He ushered her on with his warm grin. She waved apologetically, and he missed.
It’s not all bad of course. There was the opening frame of a Jimmy White match maybe 15 years ago. I don’t know how, but an elderly gent managed to get a seat in the front row with a bunch of flowers. Jimmy was preparing for a shot, and the man was obviously in his eye line. Jimmy walked over smiling and asked if he wouldn’t mind someone taking care of his bouquet for a while. The man stood up in ecstasy, reaching out for The Whirlwind’s hand. Then an embrace, and the crowd bellowed with approval.
A few more tournaments for the audience to be freely involved, like the Snooker Shoot-Out, would be no bad thing. Some fans need to vent or they’ll explode. Others may go and realise that shouting as a collective for no apparent reason is actually exhilarating. A primal scream for snooker.
But the intensity of silence is one of the characteristics of true snooker. Some players might actually prefer more of a constant backdrop of noise, but that’s not in the foundations of the sport. Yes, the sport came from an Imperial room of commission officers, but walk into any snooker club now and pretty much the only noise heard is coming from the tables, cues, balls and pockets.
And for the fan, the knowledge of having to stay as quiet as possible adds to their own intensity in that moment. I’ve definitely seen a crowd policing their little on my few occasions sat there live. A glare here, a “ssshhh” there. I’ve also had a couple beside me count the scores up ball by ball. Ah well, better all round it was my ears rather than the players.