Monday, 26 July 2010

Hurricane RIP. A Tribute To Alex Higgins

There are sporting figures who quicken the pulse of the spectator every time they step into the arena.  There are heroes with seemingly superhuman talents who are, all too often, exposed by all too human frailties.  Alex Higgins, who sadly died on Saturday certainly falls into both of these categories.

The Hurricane was the epitome of breathtaking, idiosyncratic talent.  He looked like a man who brilliance at the table came easily too.  Not for him the dedicated hours of practice that the likes of Davis, Reardon and Hendry put in.  Higgins was all natural. His style undiluted by coaching and textbooks.  His brilliance beyond dispute.

He brought an edge and an excitement to the game.  At his peak, if the Hurricane was in the right mood then brilliant things could happen on the green baize.  And it was part of his make up that something always certainly happened when he took to the table.  It was his charisma and brilliance, along with the more subdued genius of the likes of Steve Davis, Ray Reardon and Terry Griffiths that made snooker massive.

He was a working class hero in a game that devoured the time of plenty of working class youths (including this one for a few years) and salubrious and not so salubrious snooker halls across the country.  The country took the man to their hearts.  Maybe it was, in part, his emotional vulnerability as well as his genius that people loved about him.  Those unforgettable scenes after he won the World Championship in 1982 helped to make him a real people's champion:

We all know that he had his weaknesses.  He liked to drink to excess.  He liked to gamble, by all accounts, until he had pretty much run out of money to gamble.  Bill Borrows' excellent 'The Hurricane' has plenty of tales of this excess - of a man who was barred from every guest house and hotel in the Greaer Manchester area and forever lived life on the edge.

His last few years were a genuine tragedy to watch.  Emaciated.  Down to 6 stone, having lost his teeth due to the ravages of cancer treatment.  He seemed so far away from the imperious genius who turned on the style at the Crucible all those years ago.

He should be remembered for his brilliance at the snooker table.  As one of the men who turned snooker, for a while, into the biggest television sport in the land.  His genius was undeniable and he is a sad loss to the world of sport.

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