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Frank Hovis

Darts And Snooker

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The Timewatch special on darts reminded me quite how huge it was back in the 80s, as was snooker.

In both cases it was the characters of the game that built it, people who'd learnt their trade in exhibition matches in pubs around the country, they made it must-see TV.

And in both cases it was the money they generated that was their downfall, as it drew in colourless bedroom players who were technically proficient but had no idea how to entertain.

The only players of each game that I can name post that generation are Ronnie O'Sullivan and Phil Taylor. And that's not enough to build compelling TV.

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Sport is very much about entertainment, more so than the sport itself. That is why people watch WWE wrestling.

Remember Kevin Keegan?

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If I was in charge of sport that needed a bit more exposure, I would ask my best two players to be "more entertaining", and to have a vocal rivalry (they'd shake hands in the dressing room). I would allow 10 minutes for the two to speak to an interviewer. One would be a "baddie" and the other a "goodie". I've borrowed the idea from WWE - look at Stone Cold Steve Austin and the Rock rivalry. Boxing also does this.

Formula 1 - there was a great rivalry between Ayton Senna, Nigel Mansell and Alan Prost on and off the track.

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If I was in charge of sport that needed a bit more exposure, I would ask my best two players to be "more entertaining", and to have a vocal rivalry (they'd shake hands in the dressing room).

Snooker players wearing leather masks, that kind of thing? I like it.

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The indoor league - I've never heard of that one? If I was a Uni student again, I could create a Youtube channel based on that, and we'd get round and play table football, darts, pool each week etc. We'd give ourselves ridiculous names like the "Undertaker", wear masks, leathers and stuff from ex-fancy dress parties, and it would be real funny. We'd have a league table, and each week it would be updated - our audience would polarise between our fictional characters. In between matches we'd have interviews so the rivalries between the goodie and baddie players can fully blossom. We'd also make a cardboard Champ belt and this would be awarded to the winner at the end of the season.

There's a free idea there. It might take off - you could sell T-Shirts and signed photos of the players in masks/leathers.

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Guest eight

All went downhill after Fred left:

Met a guy on holiday who played that for a living. Could pass to individual players, bend the ball, flicks and volleys - incredible stuff really. He was more talented than most actual footballers I've seen

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Guest eight

Remember Kevin Keegan?

I saw that somewhere else just a few days ago and it wasn't nearly as ranty as I'd remembered. Actually I thought he was quite measured.

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I don't believe for one second you've not heard of Mark The Jester from Leicester Selby and his charasmatic snooker approach! Or John Back Hander Higgins!

TBH I still like the darts and Sky have probably made it bigger than it was even in the 80's, certainly in terms of prize money and international coverage. Snooker however I can't fathom how it keeps going (should've let players still get on the sauce).

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Formula 1 - there was a great rivalry between Ayton Senna, Nigel Mansell and Alan Prost on and off the track.

Off on a slight tangent (but slightly related), David Coultard did an excellent piece on F1 at the weekend.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/formula1/33060280

Look at the video posted above, the drivers are absolutely exhausted, contrast that with the Grand Prix just gone, drivers get out of the cars fresh as a daisy.

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I've followed snooker, though not darts, over the years.

The governing body did embark on a programme of trying to make snooker 'more sexy' partly to appeal to the younger crowd.

For example, these days snooker players are introduced like celebrities with music playing, but to pick up your original point, some have personalities - Ronnie O'Sullivan being one - and many, probably most, do not.

Perhaps relevant, one of the reasons O'Sullivan has personality is because (have read his biography called "Running" which is interesting) he is, and admits himself to be, "flawed" and has personal issues which have affected his play which at one moment can be indifferent and in the next, genius.

One of the other big characters in the game was Jimmy White, who could pull off some of the best shots anyone has ever seen, but did not have the consistency required to be a real champion. But people felt some form of empathy with him, willing him to win, and loved the drama he created.

At the other end of the spectrum - Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry seem devoid of personality and charisma. Yet the former was popular, and both won many tournaments. They're representative of the mechanical, precise nature of the game.

Snooker does have drama, but a final in a big tournament is not really the same as the same as, say, the World Cup. I'm not into football but even I can feel a more edge-of-seat sensation with that than with snooker finals.

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I've followed snooker, though not darts, over the years.

The governing body did embark on a programme of trying to make snooker 'more sexy' partly to appeal to the younger crowd.

For example, these days snooker players are introduced like celebrities with music playing, but to pick up your original point, some have personalities - Ronnie O'Sullivan being one - and many, probably most, do not.

Perhaps relevant, one of the reasons O'Sullivan has personality is because (have read his biography called "Running" which is interesting) he is, and admits himself to be, "flawed" and has personal issues which have affected his play which at one moment can be indifferent and in the next, genius.

One of the other big characters in the game was Jimmy White, who could pull off some of the best shots anyone has ever seen, but did not have the consistency required to be a real champion. But people felt some form of empathy with him, willing him to win, and loved the drama he created.

At the other end of the spectrum - Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry seem devoid of personality and charisma. Yet the former was popular, and both won many tournaments. They're representative of the mechanical, precise nature of the game.

Snooker does have drama, but a final in a big tournament is not really the same as the same as, say, the World Cup. I'm not into football but even I can feel a more edge-of-seat sensation with that than with snooker finals.

Its just a shame that a bit of nose up destroyed Jimmy White's career...

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Its just a shame that a bit of nose up destroyed Jimmy White's career...

Drugs were one of O'Sullivan's personal demons. That and a failed marriage.

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Drugs were one of O'Sullivan's personal demons. That and a failed marriage.

Isn't Ronnie's dad inside for murder?

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The Timewatch special on darts reminded me quite how huge it was back in the 80s, as was snooker.

In both cases it was the characters of the game that built it, people who'd learnt their trade in exhibition matches in pubs around the country, they made it must-see TV.

And in both cases it was the money they generated that was their downfall, as it drew in colourless bedroom players who were technically proficient but had no idea how to entertain.

The only players of each game that I can name post that generation are Ronnie O'Sullivan and Phil Taylor. And that's not enough to build compelling TV.

whereas a pissed up fat bloke, trying to straddle a table snd hit two balls with a stick did make compelling tv ?

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Isn't Ronnie's dad inside for murder?

Not any more, I think he got out fairly recently. But I suspect that was probably an influence in his childhood.

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whereas a pissed up fat bloke, trying to straddle a table snd hit two balls with a stick did make compelling tv ?

Bill Werbenik? For whatever reason snooker seems to have been a little more "mainstream" back then, than it is now. Perhaps more people if asked in the street could have named major players than might be the case today.

As I think about this, I'm not actually sure why football players have a celebrity status while snooker players do not, nor why football is more popular than snooker, though it was a more accessible game requiring only a cheap ball to play in the garages as opposed to setting up a large table indoors and it has a dynamic aspect in that the game can change in seconds rather than in minutes which is probably one of the key things that makes it more exciting.

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Bill Werbenik? For whatever reason snooker seems to have been a little more "mainstream" back then, than it is now. Perhaps more people if asked in the street could have named major players than might be the case today.As I think about this, I'm not actually sure why football players have a celebrity status while snooker players do not, nor why football is more popular than snooker, though it was a more accessible game requiring only a cheap ball to play in the garages as opposed to setting up a large table indoors and it has a dynamic aspect in that the game can change in seconds rather than in minutes which is probably one of the key things that makes it more exciting.

fantastic wikipedia entry for big bill.

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I haven't been able to watch it all the way through..I dread to think what the unofficial story is like..

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The Timewatch special on darts reminded me quite how huge it was back in the 80s, as was snooker.

In both cases it was the characters of the game that built it, people who'd learnt their trade in exhibition matches in pubs around the country, they made it must-see TV.

And in both cases it was the money they generated that was their downfall, as it drew in colourless bedroom players who were technically proficient but had no idea how to entertain.

The only players of each game that I can name post that generation are Ronnie O'Sullivan and Phil Taylor. And that's not enough to build compelling TV.

When I was a student in Sheffield back in the late 1970s there were a lot of "snooker" pubs where the professionals would turn up and play the locals as part of their warm up to the World Championship in the Crucible. Apparently you could get a game with Alex Higgins for the price of a fiver and a round of drinks. The main problem for the punters was that the likes of Higgins could quite easily clear the table while you were at the bar. Sadly, that connection between players and fans seems to have disappeared in snooker like almost very other UK sport including football.

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When I was a student in Sheffield back in the late 1970s there were a lot of "snooker" pubs where the professionals would turn up and play the locals as part of their warm up to the World Championship in the Crucible. Apparently you could get a game with Alex Higgins for the price of a fiver and a round of drinks. The main problem for the punters was that the likes of Higgins could quite easily clear the table while you were at the bar. Sadly, that connection between players and fans seems to have disappeared in snooker like almost very other UK sport including football.

A lot of the connection with the fans did rely upon pubs, drinking and being one of the lads.

I'm sure Big Bill, for example, would have been great fun at an exhibition match. I wouldn't, however, cross the road for an evening's "entertainment" watching Steven Hendry; the archetypal bedroom player.

Higgins was one of the classic era players who built the game by living his life on the road. Sadly he was unable to stop and I've heard stories of him having to be removed from snooker clubs in Plymouth (he had some connection with the place, no idea what) for trying to hide there after closing and sleep on the tables.

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Guest eight

For example, these days snooker players are introduced like celebrities with music playing, but to pick up your original point, some have personalities - Ronnie O'Sullivan being one - and many, probably most, do not.

Perhaps relevant, one of the reasons O'Sullivan has personality is because (have read his biography called "Running" which is interesting) he is, and admits himself to be, "flawed" and has personal issues which have affected his play which at one moment can be indifferent and in the next, genius.

I get the feeling that O'Sullivans biggest problem is that he's never had a rival of equal ability. He needs a Borg to his McEnroe.

Anyway, I watched the final this year for the first time in years and really enjoyed it - it was a bit of a classic by all accounts. I actually liked the unchanged nature of it - I don't see the need to adapt anything for the sake of popularity; they should just be content to let people find something and like it, or not. Politics has a lot to answer for in this regard.

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I think the splitting up of darts federations has probably killed it

Like David Cameron I was a bit of a darts enthusiast when I was about 16 and used to plug away on a cork board at home, on 20s I used to mange about 28/30 throws. Interestingly I had never picked up a dart for twenty years and won five games straight against regular players recently, so it's something you don't lose.

The names did roll off the tongue (if not the spellings)...John Lowe, Eric Bristow, Cliff Lazerenko, Jockie Wilson etc.

As for snooker, it's one thing playing on a six foot table another a 12 foot...a lot harder than it looks. I could get a 100 break on a six footer at billiards....bloody hopeless on a 12 foot playing snooker.

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I think the splitting up of darts federations has probably killed it

Like David Cameron I was a bit of a darts enthusiast when I was about 16 and used to plug away on a cork board at home, on 20s I used to mange about 28/30 throws. Interestingly I had never picked up a dart for twenty years and won five games straight against regular players recently, so it's something you don't lose.

The names did roll off the tongue (if not the spellings)...John Lowe, Eric Bristow, Cliff Lazerenko, Jockie Wilson etc.

As for snooker, it's one thing playing on a six foot table another a 12 foot...a lot harder than it looks. I could get a 100 break on a six footer at billiards....bloody hopeless on a 12 foot playing snooker.

That was covered nicely too as I didn't know the story. The BDO had done a great job for two decades but was a bit of a blazer club with well-meaning amateurs who would have got a new TV deal eventually but didn't really appreciate how the big professional players would be unhappy about having a massive income cut until the BDO meandered its way to a new TV deal; so they went off and got their own.

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