This week I watched the Masters snooker.
This is a competition where waistcoat-clad men (called ‘Snookerers’) from across the British Isles gather to compete to be the very best at shunting little balls around with a stick.
Snooker is an indoor sport played on a tiny pitch, a pitch so small that it can be contained on a heavily modified kitchen table.
There are two players, each equipped with a special stick that they use to prod a special white ball called the ‘Cue Ball’ into a triangle of red balls referred to as ‘Balls’ and some coloured balls called ‘Coloured balls’.
The players take turns knocking the balls about, trying to get them into the pockets, these pockets are unique in that rather than being built into trousers they are built into the table.
The rules dictate that you attempt to pocket a red ball before you can target one of the coloured balls.
Whoever scores the most points wins, points are scored by pocketing the balls and avoiding fouls, which involve going for a ball and missing, potting a colour before you pot a red, potting a cue ball, spitting, biting, blows to the face, and pretending the snooker stick is a lightsaber, probably.
The game starts with a ‘Break’ where one player will joust a ball into the triangle of red balls and they clack apart, scatter, and generally look untidy.
Basically snooker is a sport about clearing clutter from a table.
The Masters final was between Ronnie O’Sullivan, one of the most celebrated modern snookerers, and Barry Hawkins, a man nicknamed ‘The Hawk’ despite looking more like a vaguely crestfallen pug.
The final took nearly 4 hours, but I can assure you, the constant snooker action made it feel so much longer.
O’Sullivan was apprehensive coming into the final, criticising his performance in his previous game, claiming that he had ‘no touch or feel’; this is a quote that can be easily turned into a childish joke.
The final kicked off with a gentle clack as Barry Hawkins jostled the triangle of red balls.
The rest of the match was dominated by the soporific clack of balls and the occasional burst of applause from the crowd.
After 20 minutes I got up and did other things. I tidied my kitchen, put on a wash (whites, I’d put on a load of dark clothes later that evening) and I made a pot noodle (it was disappointing on a nearly spiritual level).
I came back after a while to find that Ronnie had steamrolled Hawkins, beating him 10-1 (according to the little graphic at the bottom of the screen).
O’Sullivan was now the snookerball master. He seemed glad.
As proof of his achievement he was given a giant wedge of glass. It was pretty ugly and I felt bad for him because it was also huge and would be hard to hide.
He hid his disappointment well.