BBC – Gods of Snooker (2021)

BBC – Gods of Snooker (2021)
English | Size: 2.04 GB
Category: Documentary

The golden age of the green baize. From smoky halls to superstardom – the unlikely figures who turned 1980s snooker into a money-spinning sporting soap opera.

Chapter 1:
Explores how Alex ‘The Hurricane’ Higgins helped transform snooker from a game played in the backrooms of working men’s clubs to a national sporting obsession.

Interest in the sport had been growing thanks to the new possibilities of colour broadcasting, and in particular the weekly snooker show Pot Black, first commissioned by none other than David Attenborough. But it was the antics of the unpredictable Ulstersman and snooker genius, Higgins, that took the game stratospheric.

Raw and unpredictable on the table, outspoken and badly behaved off it, Higgins declared war on the 1970s snooker establishment, entering into a years-long rivalry with the man who more than anyone embodied the old guard, ex-policeman Ray Reardon. Higgins and Reardon didn’t see eye to eye, but it was well known that Higgins could start a fight in an empty room. As the 70s wore on, the tabloids gleefully reported on a string of on- and off-the-table misdeeds.

Almost inevitably, Reardon and Higgins eventually came face to face in the World Championship final of 1982, in what was by far the biggest tournament to date. The clash of the two snooker titans – the paragon of the establishment against the self-described ‘People’s Champion’ – would be the match that redefined the British public’s relationship with the sport and set the course for a decade where it would become box office gold.

Chapter 2:
Though snooker was firmly established on our TV screens by the early 80s, the game’s money-spinning potential had not yet been realised.

One of the first to spot a business opportunity was savvy Essex-based sports promoter Barry Hearn, who had recently taken a young hopeful called Steve Davis under his wing. Davis was the polar opposite of people’s champion Alex Higgins: slow, precise and intent on grinding out victories rather than entertaining with risky flair shots. Hearn was certain that his young apprentice was a future world champion, and together, the pair plotted world domination. As Higgins’s career took a downward turn, Davis quickly became a winning machine, bagging trophy after trophy. But his ‘robotic’ performances failed to win over a crowd who preferred their sporting heroes more flawed and unpredictable.

Capitalising on Davis’s success, Hearn started to build his own snooker empire – the ‘Matchroom’- and recruited a small group of players he could mould and market, creating a soap opera out of sporting rivalry, and in the process, bringing lucrative sponsorships (and even hit pop singles) into the game.

By the mid-80s, snooker was at the peak of its powers, and in 1985 nearly 20 million people tuned in to see Steve Davis play Dennis Taylor in the World Championship final. It was an encounter that became known as the ‘black ball final’, widely believed to be the best snooker match of all time. After that, Britain really did go ‘snooker loopy’, and a select group of cue-wielding sportsmen were suddenly the biggest superstars in the country.

Chapter 3:
By the mid-80s, snooker was the biggest sport in the country, but two distinct camps had emerged amongst the players. On one side were Barry Hearn’s ‘Matchroom Mob’, including Dennis Taylor and Steve Davis: clean-living, utterly professional and family friendly. In sharp contrast was a group that included Alex Higgins, Jimmy White and Kirk Stevens, who all embraced a more rock-and-roll lifestyle.

With Higgins’s career quickly spiralling out of control, Jimmy White was next in line to take the crown of ‘people’s champion’. But Jimmy also had an insatiable appetite for the highlife and a string of vices – including cocaine and crack – that threatened to overshadow his raw talent and enormous potential.

Twelve years younger than Alex, Jimmy soon realised that Alex’s popularity and ability was at odds with his success in the game, having won only two world championship trophies in a sport many thought he should dominate. Indeed, Steve Davis had quickly become the world number one through practice and discipline and had suddenly become the man to beat. Desperate for success and tempted by the lucrative rewards brought by towing the line, Jimmy joined Barry Hearn in the hope he could be turned into a champion like his new stablemate, Steve Davis.

Jimmy began the 90s clean and well-prepared and got his best opportunity yet to win his first world championship, coming up against a young emerging Scotsman called Stephen Hendry. With White as the hot favourite and with the crowd urging him on, the 1990 final turned out to be a pivotal moment in British snooker and paved the way for what was to come in the next decade.

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