It has been a wonderful sunny spring ‘bank holiday’, the strange term for a Monday that turns a weekend into an official three day break in the UK. It ended with millions of us glued to the snooker. This is another particular aspect of life on our islands. I have always found it odd and parochial for the Americans to talk about ‘The World Series’ in a sport that they are almost alone in playing to first-class standards. But we too have a ‘world championship’ in a sport few nations share. Today Shaun Murphy, 22 years old and a 150 to 1 outsider beat the still young 27 year old Matthew Stevens by 18 sessions to 16 in a gripping final, played out over two full days, to become world snooker champion.
It was as if the general election had been turned off by the weather and an authentic competition of sustained nerve, strategy and quality. Televised in close up, with a hushed commentary, character and calculation are played out ball by ball. There is no artificial pumping of crowd enthusiasm. Restraint governs the intense focus of players and spectators. The championship lasts for over two weeks. In the first round where games last less than a day, the odd smattering of competitors from the Far East (including Australia) are eliminated by players from the British Isles (including Ireland). The final is played to the best of 35 sessions. Today’s went to the wire with 34.
When it was all over, I channel hopped and there was Tony Blair defending himself over Iraq, pretending it was his decision. There was a tremendous lowering of energy, expectation and belief. The charade was unbearable. Sport has become the location of the real.
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