Sport on TV: Vintage Vine knocks rivals into a cocked hat – there's an idea

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The Independent Online

Ronnie O'Sullivan unleashed a rocket from his bottom pocket on the first day of the Masters (BBC2, Monday), saying that snooker "just feels boring and the sport is dying". He called on Simon Cowell to bring in a little 'X-Factor' excitement. Perhaps they should introduce a dancing pig to save its bacon.

Ronnie's comments came a day after the death of David Vine. He was the face of BBC snooker during its halcyon days in the 1980s, and was on hand to interview Steve Davis in the small hours after he lost the 1985 World Championship final to Dennis Taylor on the final black of the final frame – in front of an astonishing TV audience of 18 million.

ESPN Classic will show that as part of their tribute to Vine today. He was among the most versatile of sports presenters, and he also compered the Eurovision Song Contest and Miss World, albeit with a little less panache than it needed. His self-effacing style would not suit today's talent contests even if, like sport, it should be all about the contestants.

He will also be remembered, however, for introducing us to much-loved TV concepts such as 'It's A Knockout' and 'Superstars'. If he had heard Ronnie's latest outburst, he might even now be devising a new version of snooker involving rubber mallets, huge polystyrene balls and lots of foam. O'Sullivan felt so frustrated he broke his cue in half. Perhaps it would be best to have a heavily padded area available at all times.

It's not foam but gel that is dominating the modern game. Mark Allen, 22, and Judd Trump, 19, are leading the next generation of players, and they may not be as spiky to interview as O'Sullivan but they can certainly make your hair stand on end. It's a wonder their hands aren't terribly sticky when they hold the cue.

It's an indictment of any game when hairstyles start to dominate – look at football's decline in the Eighties and the simultaneous rise of the perm. Modern styles of play are much more adventurous, yet snooker will never repeat that 1980s audience share. Where are all those old characters like Alex Higgins? Almost every one is in the studio or the commentary box – though mercifully not Higgins, who would be more like the snooker commentators on 'That Mitchell and Webb Look', drinking heavily and getting confused about their sexuality.

The BBC have cut back Clive Everton's time at the mic because his delivery is not chatty enough. Now the likes of Willie Thorne – who has not needed hair gel for a very long time – and Dennis Taylor witter on in banal fashion and are reluctant to criticise their fellow pros, just like all those recently retired footballers.

The fact is, there weren't many "characters" in the first place, unless wearing your glasses upside down is your idea of utter madness. Vine, Everton and "Whispering" Ted Lowe may not have set the pulses racing, but the snooker as they described it certainly did. Somehow they always seemed to be right on cue.

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