This week the snooker world will cast its bleary eye over John Higgins as he attends a hearing into gambling allegations. Another News of the World sting; perhaps his slow, deliberate style of play might help to shore up the Pakistan middle-order. But while the framed Higgins waits for total clearance, his namesake Alex could have faced all sorts of insinuations about match-fixing, such was his often chaotic approach to the biggest games and his obsession with gambling.
Alex Higgins – The People's Champion (BBC2, Wednesday) showed that it was not just the Hurricane's speed that set him apart from other players in snooker's formative years on colour television, it was also his flamboyant character, and this tribute reminded us how incredibly dull Steve Davis was. They didn't get on, and when they once shared a flight to Canada, Davis was "so nervous that I knocked a beer over myself". Crazy days; to think that Davis actually drank beer – or tried to, anyway.
Ah, the drink. Here was a man – Higgins, not Davis – who was friends with the likes of Ollie Reed and Keith Moon, and wanted a bigger funeral in his native Belfast than George Best's. Getting off his head on "orange juice" in a televised match – with a fag on the go, naturally – reminds us of the halcyon days when even a twitch of Cliff Thorburn's moustache was an event.
When Higgins beat Ray Reardon in the 1982 World Championship final with a total clearance in the final frame, Reardon never got out of his chair. He looked for all the world like Dracula waiting for the sun to go down. Sadly, the sun has set on too many of these characters who made the game as popular as any televised sport in the 1980s.
Higgins' breakneck (at times literally) style influenced the likes of Jimmy White and Ronnie O'Sullivan. But his lasting legacy may prove to be the practice of sportsmen bringing on their babies, as he did while weeping helplessly after beating Reardon. That opened the floodgates for any Tom, Dick or A N Other Chelsea player to bring a child – by one mother or another – to a presentation ceremony. From trophy wives to trophy kids, sport's cup now runneth over. But there's a lot less vodka in it these days.
* Either the crowds at England matches have dwindled to two fat, bald men and a rottweiler or there was something wrong with the sound for the Bulgaria game (ITV1, Friday). All you could hear in the first half was Fabio Capello barking orders. It was depressing to note that his command of English, let alone his tactical nous, still only extends to shouting the word "Rooney" over and over again. Then in the second half there was the rumble of some large aircraft. Presumably it was the blimp above Wembley, vying with Andy Townsend for the prize of who's got the most hot air.Reuse content