Friday, 20 February 2009

Snooker: Ronnie or Snooker

A good friend of mine, and an excellent snooker player himself, decided voice his opinions to me about the O'Sullivan vs Fu match. His email went something like this.

Did you see that lazy sloppy performance from O'Sullivan last night. Missing easy shots when well ahead against Fu. The *expletive deleted* deserved to lose. He said he only picked up a cue 5 times since the Masters, and that he's not bothered. If he hits a bit of form he'll win otherwise he doesn't really care if he goes out.. complete *expletive deleted* head.. couldn't even be *expletive deleted* to wash his hair before the match, in a dishevelled mess.


RIP snooker

I've kept his identity secret just in case he ever bumps into Ronnie in a dark alleyway in foggy London.

It got me thinking, and nudged me into writing an article (which is kind of a reply to my good friend as well) before greenbaize ends up on Hermund's Death List.

Firstly, unfortunately, I didn't see the match, some of us have to work for a living, ...who said slavery was dead!

Secondly, I see my friend as a Ronnie fan, whereas I see myself as a snooker fan, I can be just as happy watching a variety of players, not just Ronnie.

Ronnie is a player with boundless natural talent, probably the most talented player to ever pick up a cue. He's not a player who goes into tournaments consistently with a killer instinct, he's not the best at that, that was Hendry's and Davis' realm; they were the masters of demolishing opponents. Ronnie shows flashes of this quality but is inconsistent with the mental side of his game. Ronnie is like a cleaned up version of *Mad* Alex Higgins. The crowd always makes a Ronnie/Alex match a more tense affair as well, especially in London.

For me, Ronnie's not necessarily the best player in the game to watch, he doesn't really take many risks. He's quick, clinical, economical, has a fast snooker brain and probably the best cueing action to grace the green baize. Apart from his tantrums, antics and crazy statements, he's pretty monotonous as a player, as monotonous as Davis, but quicker and infinitely more stylish. His perceived arrogance and on-the-table disrespect for other players puts me off watching him from time to time, but I will always watch him hoping to see that moment of genius

I would much rather watch Hendry, White (in their primes), the late Cliff Wilson, Drago, Neil Robertson, and Mark Allen. I also equally enjoy watching the late Paul Hunter, Judd Trump, Selby, Ding, Stevens, Mark Williams, Walden, Wenbo, Milkins, and Liu Chuang (reminds me of a young Hendry).

I loved watching Hendry play when he was in his prime, it was if his opponent was an inconvenience in the match, like a fly buzzing round your head on a hot summer's day. If a shot was on, he would go for it and invariably get it. A real all out potter and someone that would destroy his opponent in almost every match.

Alex Higgins was just mad, his twitches, temper outburst and adventurous style of play always had you on the edge of your seat. Along with Alex Higgins; Robertson, White, Wilson, Allen, Williams, Wenbo and Milkins are always very adventurous with their shot selections, playing shots with varying degrees of spin and flair to try to entertain the crowd. You don't really see that style of play very much with Ronnie these days. Just look up some of the stylish shots that people have put on YouTube from the players I've mentioned and then you might start to see what I mean.

At the end of the day, I believe snooker is in very good hands with or without Ronnie, but by the same token, Ronnie is still very good for the game and officially still the biggest draw in the game.

I love snooker, not Ronnie, I'll leave that to his missus!


Gwynston said...

Andy - you didn't really address your friend's e-mail - you just blogged on who you like watching. The issue being raised here is: "Does Ronnie's unorthodox approach to the professional game annoy you enough to stop watching snooker?"

Ronnie is indeed a bit of an enigma - but to be honest the only reason he gets away with his antics (even if one could argue that it's a mental issue - it's not like he's trying to rub everyone the wrong way) is because he's so damn good! Let's face it - if he had more "normal" ability, his seemingly unprofessional attitude would have him drop down the rankings and off everyone's radar completely.

The only reason he gets away with a seemingly suicidal lack of practice at times and appears to coast through tournaments uninterested is because he's still good enough to compete with the best, despite himself!

I don't think it's fair to critisise him for that though. He's not obliged to dedicate every waking minute to the game of snooker - just because some other pros have to just to so they can compete on the circuit, doesn't mean Ronnie is showing disrespect by not trying as hard as them, but still winning! And if he crashes out of tournaments when it's obvious he could have done better by taking things more seriously, then so be it! He's fully aware of the consequences of his actions, and if he can brush off poor performances without losing sleep, there's no reason why any of us should do.

Ronnie wins and loses by his actions - and he's said himself that he often wins tournaments when not playing that well, so where's the incentive to try to improve? It's simply not in his character to the best he can possibly be at all times and to never show any quarter (like Hendry and Davis at their dominant best).

I didn't see his match against Fu either, but his actions shouldn't put anyone off watching snooker. If his performances annoy you, then don't watch them. It would be boring if he won everything anyway!

andy said...

To be honest, I thought I did both, and to be fair, it's my blog, I'll write what I like! ;o)

That's not really the problem my friend has with snooker, he's a huge Ronnie fan, will only watch Ronnie and gets really frustrated when Ronnie doesn't play to his full potential.

In my response I was acknowledging that and stating that it doesn't bother me that much as I enjoy watching other players as well as Ronnie. And yes, then I elaborated on the players!

I'm not so sure if Ronnie's practice times are as low as he makes them out to be. I've heard from people that Ronnie practices pretty hard and we all know he's a bit of a perfectionist. He tells the world through the media that he doesn't practice very much, ...but to be honest, I don't believe him (I certainly don't trust the media).

I don't mean Ronnie showing disrespect through lack of practice, I mean on-the-table signs of disrespect. A good example of this was his behaviour in the World Championships a few years back against Peter Ebdon when he was asking the audience for the time and standing on his chair. I thought his behaviour then was an absolute disgrace. And I was shocked when Hazel Irvine had the audacity to have a go at Ebdon in the post match interview to the point where she upset him. Unforgivably, she was condoning Ronnie's actions!!

There are other times, towel over the head, purposely biting off his tip, etc etc.

andy said...

What I was really trying to was to show that snooker is well worth watching when ronnie isn't playing rather than listing my favourite players. :-)

Gwynston said...

Andy, I wasn't having a go at your post, I was just trying to lead in to my thoughts which were more directly to do with Ronnie's attitude to the game.

Obviously, any behaviour that's downright unsporting or breeches the rules isn't acceptable, but I don't think Ronnie is that bad (except for 1 or 2 examples over the years). But your friend seemed to think his apparent lack of interest or effort against Fu was ruining snooker. Well, it might do if all you ever watch is Ronnie's matches, but he has no obligation to keep up the whole sport's entertainment value on his own.

He's a sportsman competing at the top level of his sport - which requires more commitment than we'll ever know, and mental strength too - maybe something Ronnie lacks compared to some of the best champions. No doubt Ronnie could have won more tournaments by putting in more effort, but maybe it's simply not within him to give any more and this is the level he is. We know how well he can play, but if he was that good all the time no-one else would stand a chance and the sport would be boring.

Snooker is a game about losing - only one player can win a tournament that dozens of players with fantastic ability have entered. Ronnie might have an unorthodox approach to how he wins or loses, but I don't agree that he's bringing the sport down because of it.

P.S. Didn't see any of the Welsh Open, but I hear that Carter won his 1st tournament, so well done to him!

Anonymous said...

I'll stay anon Andy, and I'm impressed by your complimentary comments about me at the start of ur article, no doubt if gave up my real job and just played snooker, I'd be whipping Ronnies ass on the box these days :)

Anyway, yes it's true, I generally only watch Ronnie playing. I saw the sum total of a blue to black clearance by Swail in the final and that is all the rest of the tournament.

Anybody can play a tactical, safety first game, where a 50 break puts you in good shape to win the frame. There are tons of players like that on the circuit. But we can go down the club and play like that. We need to be inspired and White Hendry and O'Sullivan did that cos they played the game in a way we couldn't.

There is no obvious player going to take the 'worlds best player' mantle from O'Sullivan and deliver top quality for the next 10 yrs. Snooker needs heros to keep people watching. At grass roots level, there are very few clubs, almost none in London, nowhere to find tournaments. If you are serious you have to go to a handful of hotspots around the country to find practice partners. O'Sullivan is the last product of the 90's generation when snooker was still booming and being played in clubs. Now it has died at that level. People are playing golf or watching football. Anything to do with a cue, pool has taken over.

I used to get a kick out of watching Davis beating someone 9-0. I also enjoyed Hendry dishing out batterings to average players who had no business being on the same table as him but still made big money for producing 2nd rate dross. I want to see O'Sullivan break records. Seems he cant be bothered. Only time he gets it together is when he's in a decent relationship with a bird, otherwise he's a moaning mess. He gives 100% on the table but doesnt give himself a chance cos of lack of practice. Think of all the additional 147s he would have made, or tournaments won at this point if he gave it proper commitment. He would have surpassed Hendry and Davis at this point.

As you say, he is another Higgins but without the physical self destruction. He is a faster, more stylish version of Davis (I like that comparison) and he doesn't need to play mad shots to win. But snooker will prob never produce another O'Sullivan, and the standard is going back down, and when the money starts to disappear, young people will stop playing it with a view to a career, and then we will be back to the early 80s where 'a 50 break, and some safeties' win frames. Then snooker will disappear into oblivion.

O'Sullivan moans about no money and no prestige like darts, but when you have such a moaning bstard like him, playing like an idiot cos he hasnt practiced, how is that promoting the game, that is why I would like him to give it 100% or just quit it completely.

After Rocket has gone, along with John Higgins, Mark Williams, Hendry, Davis, White (who I never rated), that will be it. Judd Trump and Jamie Cope, give me a break... the Chinese? no way. I like Fu cos he's Chinese and speaks with a heavy jock accent which I find funny, otherwise very little left of interest. I will watch WC until Rocket goes out, hopefully he will get his finger out and practice for it, it's his tournament if he wants it. Can you believe Swail getting to the Final yesterday, the game is about to disappear...

Anonymous said...

BTW did anyone see that guy Martin Gould. How cr*p was he? He makes 'safety grandmaster' Graham Dott look exciting..! He beat Hendry cos Hendry couldn't string 5 balls together. The guy looks and plays like Steve Newbury. And he got to the quarters! That is the rot that is going to evt kill snooker. We are going back to the 70s.

andy said...

Well I didn't think you'd hide behind anonymity, ...chicken! And, language please!!!

Gwyn, I'm not fussed whether you have a go at my post or not, it's good to get a difference of opinion, but be careful, I might delete the next one! ;o)

It's a real shame some people think snooker is dead, I certainly don't think so. It's great having a player like Ronnie in the game in our generation so we can watch him live and see him break records, but I think there will be others as there have been past geniuses. For me though, I get just as much enjoyment if not more from watching the players I mentioned in my article, fair enough if you don't rate them, I think you're in a minority though, maybe because you're already a talented snooker player yourself (the majority of fans have no snooker talent).

Some people say Joe Davis was a magical player to watch and there's footage of him playing left handed too, Ronnie's not the first to do this, it's just that he's part of our generation and we probably don't appreciate how good Joe Davis was. I've seen other black and white footage of very stylish snooker and billiards players as well.

Snooker is definitely at a low point and the prize money and sponsorship is poor at the moment, but I think a lot of this has to do with the current financial climate as much as anything else. The fact that the WSA is able to fund the Masters in bad financial times like this shows good money management, they just have to make sure they have sponsors secured for all ranking events in the 2009/2010 season, if not, then snooker really might start to suffer. I think snooker is now on the up with the World Series, Premier League and WPBSA ranking events. These 3 organisations are really going to have to fight to keep their players and it introduces healthy competition into the game. I can't remember 3 separate organisations ever fighting for snooker players to play in their tournaments, it's a great situation to be in. Admittedly, the Word Series is currently still a bit Mickey Mouse, but I'm certain the quality of the players and events will improve in the coming years.

I don't believe Pool has taken over and I don't think it makes any difference if it does, it's like comparing apples and pears, the two games serve different peoples which inevitably means the sponsors will never think in terms of "snooker or pool".

andy said...

Oh and as for your second post, I didn't see much of the game so it's difficult to comment. It's fair to say though that Hendry isn't the player he used to be, he might be producing great form of the practice table (as he keeps stating in his interviews), but he's certainly not producing it in competition.

The first session of the final was OK, nothing special, but Carter produced a great performance in the second session to win with 7 consecutive frames. I thought it was an enjoyable final and great to see a new winner of a ranking event.

Douglas said...

Another lazy cr*p performance from O'Sullivan in China against Higgins, missed 2 blacks off the spot in the final frame, 1 didn't even touch the jaws.... write another article...!

The cr*p players are coming back to fill the gap left by the rocket. Boring Ebdon winning, must have bored Higgins into submissions with endless safety battles. Prob gives inspiration for saftey-master Dott to come out of retirement, hope not...

Hopefully Rocket gets his finger out at the WC, what the hell is he doing if he's not practising... ???

Anonymous said...

Yep, an enigma probably sums it up!

Found this funny clip of Ronnie basically taking the pi$$ out of Robidoux.

Stephen said...

Ronnie is a remarkable player, alright, but there isn't really much difference whether he is in a game or not. I still prefer watching Hendry and Paul Hunter (RIP)

the last line in your post is win!