You know how it goes, you’re sat in the library staring at some book on Descartes and all your brain wants to do is anything but what it is currently doing. You check your phone, check Facebook, Twitter, maybe you go as far as checking The Tab to find out exactly who out of the four people you’ve never heard of has won BNOC of the year. You glance over to the other side of the library and there sits someone in a type of vegetative state, their eyes glued to the screen of their three-year-old MacBook. This person, engrossed in his screen lets little ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ out every five minutes or so, as if performing some sort of elaborate breathing exercise. You, thoroughly confused at the current set of events, return to whatever the hell Descartes was ranting on about before.
What was that thing keeping that person glued to the screen? It was likely the great sport of snooker. Yes, the one where you watch two, usually middle-aged men, knock multi-coloured balls around a green cloth table while wearing waistcoats and bow ties for four hours at a time. In other words, it’s a procrastinator’s dream. Alongside cricket and golf, snooker is often derided as anything from ‘boring’ to ‘the single most pointless and mind-numbing ‘sport’ in existence’. I, however, could not disagree more.
While there definitely is an argument to be had in favour of the claim that the sport is boring, that argument usually ignores the reasons why people sit in front of the TV for hours at a time. To be brutally honest, I am not 100 percent certain why anyone does, but for us students who crave a distraction during the exam period, it is God’s greatest gift to sport.
Snooker’s two premier competitions, the UK Championship in York and the World Championship in the melting pot of Snooker, The Crucible theatre in Sheffield, happen to land exactly during both revision periods. The UK Championship starts in late November and the World Championship begins in late April.
This means that those who are most dedicated to procrastination have two full weeks of beautifully distracting green cloth on our laptop screens while those around us squirm under the mounting stress of their revision.
While Mitchell and Webb got it as spot on as you can with their snooker commentator sketch, the “ooh that’s a bad miss” cliché is one of the guilty pleasures of any snooker fan. Alongside Jonathan Agnew and Geoffrey Boycott’s Test Match Special droll, the sound of Steve Davis, Dennis Taylor, John Parrot and John Virgo waxing lyrical about ‘angles’, ‘cueing action’ and ‘nudges’ comforts the ears of snooker fans like shipping forecasts comforts sailors.
Let us not overlook the skill and talent of the sport’s mavericks. The impressive minds of the men at the table, calculating and plotting their moves and shots like a chess grandmaster is something anyone who has ever played snooker dreams of being able to do. The 147 break, the most impressive feat a snooker player can achieve, mirrors this, with the skill needed to pot fifteen red balls and fifteen black balls consecutively far exceeding any ‘granny’ you manage on the local’s pool table. Ronnie O’Sullivan’s bottom lip; Stuart Bingham’s triple chin; Alan McManus’s tartan trousers.; Snooker is as unique as they come.
For those who dream of the ultimate procrastination, a sport that devotes two weeks to a game that often takes eight hours to complete in a theatre filled with over 50s, provides us with the means to truly waste away our days doing something utterly, utterly pointless.
We take your point that it is boring, we understand that it is a form of self-flagellation, we accept that you will never join us in a pilgrimage to The Crucible, we get it that our stories of Hurricane Higgins, Rocket Ronnie and the Jester from Leicester are lost on you.
We’ve all gone snooker loopy, and that is just how we like it.
Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images