Screwing The Black

My snooker story is much the same as most of my generation. Watched it with grandparents, now find it dull, played it once – it took forever. The game is still suffering from the damage inflicted upon it by Stephen Hendry, a charisma vacumn who suceeded in making Steve Davis look like Sammy Davis Jnr, showmanwise*.

Last night I was forced into a tricky situation. A couple of very good friends invited me round for dinner and drinks – to watch the snooker. The lure of free food and convivial bouzing obviously won out, but I was dreading the green baize lull. Thank goodness for “Rocket” Ronnie O’Sullivan then, not only does he seem to have a character, but he polished the match off in twenty minutes. This left a potentially disappointed audience (including and Archduke Ferdinand lookalikee in the front row), but left me very happy. And I could not be happier for the lad, especially as he is now taking the piss by playing left handed every other shot.

What struck me though is the resistance in working class sports to Britain’s ethnic minorities. There are no top flight black snooker players. There are no top flight black darts players. Why is this? Can we call in our old friend genetic disposition, which we use to cover the excellence of balck spinters? It seems unlikely. Snooker can be seen as a way out of the gutter, but it appears as a way it is an exceptionally white one. Look at Ronnie O’Sullivan. Chingford lad from the wrong side of the tracks, he may have spent his youth playing snooker in a low rent snooker hall, but it would be a Chingford low rent snooker hall. As the history of racism on the football terraces shows, just because people share similar economic differences does not make for solidarity. Snooker halls are usually private member clubs, and it is quite possible they operate in a way which would be openly deplored if they were the actions of golf clubs.

Darts on the other hand is a pub game, a game which needs no club to join to play. Competative darts, at pub level however, is a team game – and you don’t get into the solo spotlight without triumphing with a team. Of course it is quite possible that there are plenty of Black and Asian players who do not want to make the leap. I find this as unlikely as the complete lack of Asian footballers being wholly down to their parents wanting them “all to be doctors” (a theory I have heard proclaimed on more than one occasion). Are the various associations doing anything to deal with this? I wonder if they want to? After all perhaps one of the other reasons my grandparents liked watching snooker was that in their ingrained racism, it was the one thing on television that did not offend their sensibilities.

*The truism is that Steve Davis of course has always been quite a funny bloke, and the whole Steve ‘Interesting’ Davis persona fit as a juxtaposition to the wild boys of snooker. Certainly in the commentary booth he does a much better job at entertaining than John Parrott, yet another man hired solely on the assumption that all Scousers are funny. Has there ever been a case where the evidence is stacked so strongly against.