I have owned my snooker cue for over twenty years. I’ve been using it to pot balls for longer than I’ve known some of my best friends, and much, much longer than all my romantic relationships put together. Which, to be fair, isn't that hard.
Debate has ‘raged’ on for years as to whether snooker qualifies as a sport. For after all, methodically potting balls on a 12 foot x 6 foot green baize covered table whilst drinking, smoking, and/or gambling can hardly qualify as a sport. Although, with respect, our own Alex ‘The Hurricane' Higgins legendarily demonstrated it was possible to do all those things simultaneously with a fair degree of perfection.
So perhaps snooker is not a sport. If horse racing is the sport of kings, then snooker could very well be the game of kings. A game where there is no honourable draw, there is only victory or defeat. Where the margins between success and failure are so slim, they can literally be measured in millimetres. A game that can reduce grown men to tears.
Yet snooker is more than just a game...
Snooker at the highest level is nothing short of art
The hypnotic, click-clack-clunk as cue hits ball, ball hits ball and ball hits pocket time after time after time as a player at the top of their game moves gracefully around the table is a joy to behold. Alternatively, you can just sit back and marvel as the mavericks of the baize such as Higgins, Jimmy White and Judd Trump bend the laws of physics to their will with shots of incredible power, unbelievable spin and head scratching precision.
Ronnie O’Sullivan, often touted as the greatest snooker player of all time, famously made a total maximum clearance of 147, potting 15 reds, 15 blacks and 6 more colours in little over 5 minutes. Thats a ball potted every 9 seconds. A total of 36 perfect shots.
To watch is to see a genius at work:
This clearance-inspired his friend and renowned artist Damien Hirst to create the below painting:
Incomprehensible to most, this is the representation of five minutes of perfection, captured in one all-encompassing image. However, I personally prefer a painting inspired by a frame of snooker that took place nearly fifteen years earlier.
'The Perfect Game'
“The Perfect Game” was created by artist and sculptor Michael Myers to celebrate a game of snooker between Welshman Terry Griffiths and Canadian Cliff Thorburn in which Cliff proceeds to complete the first 147 break at the World Championship.
It could be the element of history that appeals to me. Perhaps the bold colours. Or is it the precise portrayal of the geometric perfection at the heart of the painting that inspires me the most? However, it may just be the knowledge that this particular moment of ‘perfection’ began with an outrageous fluke that serves to give me hope in my own game and remind me that everybody needs a lucky break sometimes.
In a golf-themed movie called Tin Cup, Roy McAvoy (played by Kevin Costner) declares that in golf, man “is fallible. Perfection is unattainable.”
My own personal pursuit of perfection currently stands at 97. You can see a short video of one of my own attempt to master this beautiful game here (admittedly, a much younger version of me!)
I'm not quite ready to hang up my cue just yet because in snooker, we know that perfection is attainable - but the art of the game, that is what gives a designer's mind hope.