The prodigal son returns to snooker
Last season Ronnie O’Sullivan managed to win no less than two Players Tour Championship tournaments (PTC), retain his Premier League crown for one more year, win the German Masters and finish in great style by conquering his forth world championship title.
But after the last win, he announced he’ll be taking a break from snooker. Hence, when the new season started he refused to sign the contract invoking that it’s “too onerous”.
Now, the prodigal son returns to the sport that made him famous and agrees to sign the new contract that permits him to take part in the brand new International Championship from China and the locally famous UK Championship in December.
The fascination behind the player Ronnie O’Sullivan is something that has always kept the newspapers’ snooker section busy. He’s the “black sheep” of modern snooker and he’s not afraid to prove it from time to time.
Either he’s pulling out of tournaments in the last minute, or he’s threatening to retire from snooker, or maybe even he’s speeding with his car on the motorway, O’Sullivan has always managed to feed the media with the most interesting, outrageous and moving stories.
In the past two years he gave the impression he’s not into snooker anymore (but this time for good), he then got into therapy with the sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters, got back on his feet to win enough tournaments to retain his Top 16 spot, went on to conquer one more world title and then took a break from all the fuss.
Although he’s known to be a person of contrasts, one question arises: for how long will he be allowed to do as he pleases? For we all know that if we were to take a six-month break from work, we probably wouldn’t have our job at return! So what’s different with O’Sullivan?
Well, probably the fact that he’s still one of the game’s biggest stars, a natural talent and a constant fascination when he’s in the mood for playing, has something to do with it. Also it must be mentioned that in an era when football is almost a religion and snooker is trying to regain its lost status, the need for players that keep people glued to their TVs is a priority.
When the John Higgins match-fixing bomb exploded in 2010, snooker suffered; even now, after the verdict has cleared Higgins of any guilt, people are still watching him with one eyebrow raised.
So it seems that snooker still needs players like O’Sullivan although the World Snooker Ltd. chairman, Barry Hearn, stated that the sport is bigger than any player.
What’s really interesting and no one tends to offer any importance to, is the fact that by allowing certain players to cross the line, a precedent is created. In other words, what guarantees us that next time it won’t happen again with another player?
Is it OK to say you don’t want to play for six months and then return as if nothing happened? Is that the model of the modern snooker player? Is that where snooker is heading in its quest for a revival?
Certainly not. But like in any other story, there are also some mitigating circumstances. In this case, the fact that when O’Sullivan declared he’s not signing the contract for the new season due to the fact that it is “too onerous”, in reality he spared the fans from another disappointment of paying money to see him play and him pulling out of events.
So, at a certain level one could find a pretty clear reason behind the story of a too busy and packed snooker season. Better to take a break, than to sign a contract and then keep on withdrawing from tournaments.
And yet that doesn’t seem enough. Enough to say it’s fine to take a vacation from the sport that made you known all across the planet.
It would be rather silly to think that one, even Barry Hearn and his Disciplinary Committee could separate “Dr Jekyll” from “Mr Hyde” and make a brand new, role model player out of the dust of the two, but sometimes you wonder what it would be like to have one.
Still, something tells me that player would have lacked in the fascination and adulation chapter.
Ramona Dragomir, Snooker correspondent