Things that I think and do
I’ve been pretty lucky in the last month in that my dissertation hand-in coincided quite neatly with the start of the snooker World Championships. Even luckier is that the games are usually on throughout the day or at least at fairly convenient times, so I don’t have to get too distracted from the revision I’m supposed to be doing (sorry: the revision I am doing, Mum).
I am quite surprised by how successful snooker is as a televised sport. The BBC have it on fairly constantly during the Championship, yet if I’d had the game explained to me for the very first time I would guess that it would be about as exciting to watch as paint drying. Or even less exciting than that, like watching golf or F1.
But it’s remarkably entertaining to watch – perhaps because I know how hard it is. If you’ve never played snooker before, give it a go. It’s incredibly difficult and it will make the guys playing on TV look like superhumans.
My university halls in first year (I was at the posh one) had a snooker room and I played quite a lot then. But snooker doesn’t seem to be like other sports, because I don’t think I improved at all over the year – you’d have thought that playing so much would help but trust me, it didn’t.
A main conclusion I’ve come to through watching snooker, however, is that it’s great to watch because of the commentary – which I think is as good as, if not better than, cricket commentary.
Football commentators are rubbish, particularly on ITV. They sometimes know their stuff, but rather than allow more than three seconds of silence to pass most of them resort to talking utter drivel, usually facile statistics, to fill the gaps. Sadly, ITV shows Champions League and some England international games, so we’re forced to watch their coverage quite a lot. It never fails to irritate me how unashamedly biased the commentators are towards England – even if they’re playing like a bunch of seven-year olds (which they usually are) the analysts will insist that the other team are playing badly or that England are unlucky. It’s infuriating.
Cricket is charmingly eccentric and, to those who don’t have an advanced understanding of the vocabulary, completely baffling. Quite how a newcomer to the game is supposed to translate terms like “silly mid-off” or “googly” is a mystery. As Bill Bryson said, listening to cricket commentary is like ‘having a nap without losing consciousness’. Bryson admittedly doesn’t understand the game at all, but he’s still not far off. And instead of inane stats the commentators have witty and entertaining debate during the (many) breaks in the game.
Snooker commentary is much the same, except you’re guaranteed to be listening to a soft and reassuring northern accent whispering gently into the microphone. What’s also fantastic is that the commentators seem to be able to see what the players are thinking and predict the future.
As the player approaches the table, the commentators can look at it and say something like “oh well, he’ll need to screw the white into the pack there, although the blue will end at a tricky angle for the middle pocket, and that means we’ll see some clouds on Thursday”.
It’s amazing. No useless facts or comparisons during the action. We, the audience, are invited to consider the table ourselves and try and work out the best shot. And we, the audience, are usually wildly wrong. Then the commentators gently explain it and sometimes superimpose little white lines on the table to show the path of the ball.
If football commentary is like being prodded with a sharp stick and cricket is like having a nap, snooker is like being quietly told a bedtime story by a kindly grandparent. That’s why it’ll be a sad day when the World Championship ends. And because I’ll have no distraction from revising.