Matt Butler: Whisper it quietly, but you can lose days to the odd lure of snooker
View From The Sofa: Snooker World Championship BBC Red Button
Remember those tales of people raised by wolves that seemed to be common last century? Untainted by human contact, they were held up as objective mirrors to our culture, puzzling at our plastic-packaged food and the strange boxes of flickering light that transfix us.
Imagine introducing them to snooker. Once used to TVs, remote controls and sport, they would see a hushed arena where two men dressed as waiters circle a bright green table then bow, brandishing a pointy stick to knock brightly coloured balls into small nets. They’d shrug, at best.
Say they were put in front of the TV for Saturday evening’s coverage of the first round of the World Championship, featuring a bloke called Ronnie playing another called Robin. They’d feel their eyelids grow heavy, as John Virgo called the shots in the voice of Lancashire’s answer to a late-night smooth jazz DJ.
They might perk up a little as Virgo and his co-commentator Steve Davis say things that could be construed as innuendo like “he’s gone for the screw rather than the run-through,” or “he’s left a few loose reds”. They might snigger at Virgo’s impersonations of a drug intervention counsellor when he warns “that took his mind off the pot, that’s for sure”.
Then, somewhere around frame 13, they would have realised that, although it would be a travesty to call snooker a sport, they were hooked on every clack of the balls.
Why does snooker suck us in? There is even less physical effort than in golf, no sweat or exertion, few climactic roars from the crowd, nor even many mid-game crescendos. The long silences and images of overwrought “thinking” expressions render it closer to performance art than sport. And it is all commentated on in voices barely above a whisper.
Yet it is simple to lose hours – days, even – watching a match unfold. How? It could be the geometry of the shots; the impossibility of the angles. Perhaps it is the furrowed brows of the players as they miss seemingly easy pots or, even more agonisingly, as they watch helplessly as their opponents clear the table. It may even be the garish green of the playing surface.
Even mediocre games are watchable, such as the aforementioned match between Ronnie and Robin (O’Sullivan and Hull, respectively). It was mesmerising.
O’Sullivan, who makes snooker look so easy while giving the impression that he couldn’t give two hoots, was rattled at eight frames to four. There were near misses, rash shots and some efforts which appeared to break more than one of Isaac Newton’s laws. All relayed to us by Virgo’s “Barry White from Clitheroe” delivery, offset by Davis’s Essex half-whisper.
Then, as O’Sullivan scrapped through the last two frames to win 10-4, viewers were left howling with excitement – whether they had been raised by wolves or not – yet no doubt a little puzzled as to why they’d lost so many hours snared by this odd game.
Latest in Sport
England vs Lithuania: Roy Hodgson set to resist calls to start with Spurs striker Harry Kane
Paul Scholes: Frustrated Steven Gerrard should have started crucial game between Liverpool and Manchester United
Paul Scholes: It's amazing Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick has so few caps for England
New kits for 2015/16: Have the Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Barcelona strips been leaked?
England vs Lithuania: Theo Walcott 'at risk of being left behind' in Three Lions pecking order
- 1 JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
- 2 Finland schools: Subjects scrapped and replaced with 'topics' as country reforms its education system
- 3 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 4 #FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
- 5 Cate Blanchett loses temper during interview: 'That's your f**king question?'
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Vote Ukip, says far-right group Britain First
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Identifying and communicating issues raised, p...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To be responsible for working with the Caterin...
£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established industry leading business is l...
£22000 - £28000 per annum + study support, gym: Ashdown Group: A large busines...