The World Snooker Championships are back back BACK for another year. This is a diary entry about my first Crucible experience, where I'm lucky enough to cover the sport of kings and the hobby of heroes for a fortnight of balls dropping, deep screws with lots of bottom, kissing the pink, gentle nudges on the brown, getting the spider out (?).......you get the picture.
Disclaimer: In absolutely no way shape or form is any of this meant to be some sort of elaborate humble brag - these are merely musing and ramblings of an over-excited man-child who's like a pig in chardonnay and has somehow fluked his way into the press room of a tournament he's wanted to cover since shooting out of mother Facesitter's middle bag. Also, there is a LOT of downtime here and I need something to keep me going through the late nights. Also, if this turns out to be shit then obviously delete.
Fatty Facesitter's Crucible diary - Day 1
09:00 - I'm like a kid on Christmas morning. I'm walking into the hallowed halls of Sheffield's humble Crucible theatre for the first time! All the memories of watching the beautiful game on the box and the iconic moments from yesteryear come flooding back. The first maximum by Thorburn. Taylor beating the Nugget in the black ball game. Hendry shattering the Whirlwind's dreams. The Rocket wiping out all before him. Peter Ebdon's break of 12. This is the big one and my innards are exploding with excitement.
Appropriately, the first snooker personality I see in person at the venue is John Virgo. In his old age he's a miserable old bastard, but I loved his trick shots, batshit metal waistcoats and watching Big Break with the mad racist Jim Davidson as a kid. He was my dear old Nan's favourite, so I took it as a nice little sign from above that my life was coming full circle.
10:00 - Play kicks off. I walk into the venue just before the session starts. Rob Walker, God of MC's in doing the introductions. Think a British Howard Finkel on acid. The arena looks a lot smaller than it does on the box - it's pretty intimate and you can almost touch the players you are so close. Mark Williams, the defending champion who got stark-bollock naked for his post-match press conference after his title win last year, starts against Martin Gould.
Williams is the Stone Cold Steve Austin of snooker - he hates authority (as we'll see later), he's a beer-drinking, kebab eating rebel who fans adore because he gives not but a single, solitary fuck. Thinking his career was dying out, he shocked everyone by winning the world title last year, claiming £350,000 in prize money, and spent the next twelve months going on holiday and getting absolutely smashed with his wife. Hero.
The players have entrance/walk on music. The cameras follow them from snooker's equivalent of the Gorilla position down a small entrance ramp, lights flashing, and over to their table. Suddenly, two of my passions in life blend together like a lethal cocktail - Gould, who looks like less like a sportsman and more like a guest on Jeremy Kyle, comes out to...The Game by Motorhead?!?! No water spit though - poor form. They also have some daft nicknames, as we'll see later.
12:00 - Hazel Irvine walks past me and smiles in the corridor. She has no idea who on Earth this inbred neckbeard is in front of her, but her courteous, genuine smile makes me day. She is every bit as lovely as she seems. Just a gentle, sweet Scottish flower. I fall hopelessly in love.
13:00 - Snooker 19 has just come out on PS4, and there's a console in the press room. I play a colleague and feather the white on my very first go. Bollocks. BUT, I win the best of three match. Albeit virtually, how many people can say they've won a snooker match at the Crucible? Not many.
14:00 - Autograph hunters have swarmed on someone outside as I go to make a phonecall. Programmes waving wildly in the air, lots of excitable shouting from ladies of a mature age. A towering figure in jet black shades signs away. I take a closer look. Ronnie? Selby? Ding? No...it's only Peter Ebdon, the vegan-powered Brexiteer himself. He's not even in the tournament - was he doing a Virgil, hanging around the arena, unable to get in, trying to live out past glories?
16:00 - Nothing of note happens for a few hours - apart from Neil 'The Thunder from Down Under' Robertson absolutely demolishing Michael Georgiou 9-0 in his first session. The session ends and he has to come back tomorrow to play again - he needs one frame to win. Pointless exercise. Looks to be the favourite on early evidence...
18:00 - It's day 1 of 17 but I can already feel fatigue creeping in. Not a good sign. As fantastic a sport as snooker can be, if a match goes long it really does grind at the soul. The standard of fast-paced potting play really goes up in this tournament, but annoyingly so does the safety play. Which is fine in spells, but when the matches are best of NINETEEN fucking frames in the FIRST ROUND, it makes you queasy. Think the iconic torture scene in A Clockwork Orange. Have I really hit the wall this early?
19:00 - The evening session starts. I go back to the press room and become friends with a lovely, friendly Chinese journalist who challenges me to a quick go on Snooker 19. I fall hopelessly in love. I win the game, obviously. I'm don't lay down for no ho.
22:00 - Stone Cold Mark Williams gets over the line against the King of Kings Martin Gould. Gould comes in for his press conference.
The press conferences are usually pretty generic affairs in truth. There's some initial reaction about the match, questions about their next match, maybe a couple of extra tidbits but nothing special. Gould comes out with a great quip about Williams "If he stays off the booze, fags, kebabs and minstrels he's got a good chance." A ringing endorsement.
Williams comes in for his conference (fully clothed). He starts off with generic reaction when BAM, turns heel on World Snooker out of nowhere. Unbeknownst to many of us, there was an issue with passes for his family earlier in the day, and on some of the promotional graphics for the tournament he's barely visible, despite being the defending champion. Could it be that there's an agenda at play here from the evil overlords controlling the game? Is there a bid to oust the 44-year old maverick People's Champion with someone more in line with their clean-cut corporate image like a Kyren Wilson or a Judd Trump? Either way, he goes **IN** on them, eyeballing their staffers in the room, calling the whole situation 'pathetic' and 'a load of crap'.
This sport is becoming more and more like wrestling before my very eyes. Colourful characters, elaborate entrances, nicknames, SHOOT PROMOS. We haven't even had Brock Le---Ronnie O'Sullivan play yet and already it's all popping off. Roll on the next 16 days.