The new year period usually finds me in reflective, sometimes mistaken for grumpy mood and it’s a time when I like to take a look back at what the last twelve months have or have not delivered as hoped for, as the case may be.
On a personal basis I’d give it a B+, as ever I continue to be racked with self-doubt, guilt at not being a vegan or at least a vegetarian and worries that I might have said the wrong thing to someone that I shouldn’t have once or twice. The death of my 15 year old spaniel friend in June was also a particular lowpoint, however inevitable it was, the poor little fella.
These are somewhat counter-balanced with having a largely happy home life, a beautiful and very patient wife, with caring for two lovely dogs including a newly rescued greyhound who might otherwise have been somewhere else entirely due to the savagery of this particular ‘sporting’ industry, the fact that my mum still thinks I’m a nice person and the friends I have made as a result of this blog, all of whom it is a pleasure to know most of the time.
From a blogging point of view the reflections are no different, there are things that I’ve been really pleased with and other things that I would rather have gone differently. It’s also a chance to look at the highlights of the snooker year and look ahead to what is in store for the rest of the season and beyond, both on the table and from a bloggers point of view.
Bloggers are an odd sort and the one that I think I have the most in common with when it comes to ‘bloggers woes’ is Matt at Pro-Snooker Blog who does annual awards each year and is very thorough as ever in completing this task. You can vote in all the categories and he uses this fully democratic system to determine the winners. As for me, this is where we differ slightly, I reckon democracy is an overrated system so I prefer to just say what I think have been the highlights of 2012 and if you don’t like what I decide, well, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles really isn’t it? You can’t do anything about it so don’t moan at me about it, ok?
My player of the last twelve months if it were to go on the performance of the year would have to be the boy O’Sullivan for his often flawless snooker at the Crucible, I can’t remember another world championship which had such a feeling of inevitability about it from so early on, I’d argue as early as the second session against MJW in round two. It truly illustrated just how far ahead Ronnie is of all the other players when he’s in the right place, he is in a league of his own.
Judd’s had a good year too of course, winning the International Championship being the highlight for him as well as being World Number 1 for a couple of weeks, which he spent partying and celebrating before boring old Selby got it back again. But for me the player that has been the most consistent and the hardest working who has really made 2012 ‘his year’ is Stuart Bingham, so I am going to give my vote to him. I’m not a fan of the Premier League as you know but he took the big cash chance that was offered to him with both hands and has made the effort to make every tournament around the globe and reaped the rewards for it, also scoring a 147 in Wuxi and winning a couple of APTC’s, quite a year and I say good on him.
I’m not going to go through all the categories Matt does but for me the most improved player has to be Dark Mavis. OK, his ranking might not have changed too much like say, Michael White who is climbing faster than a twelve year old in a Jim’ll Fix It ladder challenge, but the increase in events has definitely shown in his results and performances, culminating in his spectacular victory over John Higgins in York, quite something for a player that did sometimes (well, all the time) underperform when the heat was on, he should still embrace the nickname though, it’s his big chance to stand out.
Best match? No question at all for me was Ali Carter v Judd Trump in the World Championship. Arguably because I had a ringside seat for all of it, was close enough to hear the thoughts of Mr Carter (for my ears only) when things weren’t going his way and witness one piece of physical contact between the two that the TV cameras seemed to miss. In short it was a bad tempered affair, full of twists and turns and mind games and I bloody loved every minute of it, it was the highlight of the professional season by a mile for me and a reminder of how dramatic snooker at the Crucible can be.
The high point of my own personal involvement in snooker in 2012 was undoubtedly the crowning of Martin O’Donnell as the first Snookerbacker Classic Champion and his subsequent qualification from Q-School onto the main tour (my emotional reaction to that is here). He was playing Judd on the telly a few weeks ago, how good is that? Martin’s progress being recently followed by the news that Allan Taylor will be joining him next season is great news all round for two top blokes with a sense of humour second and third only to my own. I’m also encouraged that the tournament wot I thought of has been so well received this season and we both look forward to crowning a new champ in February, although we haven’t bought the crown yet.
My favourite tournament of the year is a tougher one, the World Championship was great but wasn’t the occasion I had experienced the previous year (too wet) and the UK a couple of weeks back was for me a little flat too (too cold), but I was suffering from an infection at the time so that did somewhat dent the enjoyment (too grumpy). I really enjoyed the first ever International Championship though I wish they would just bin the bloody wildcards now as it’s giving me high blood pressure. I also again enjoyed last season’s German Masters and Masters, Robbo’s win probably being for me the culmination of the best tournament of the year, though of course the best final for entertainment was the Higgins/Trump almost exhibition-like showcase in Shanghai.
There have also been a number of disappointments, Ronnie’s antics and decisions have taken the game’s only truly global star from the sport and I for one think we might not see him again despite the changes to the ranking list which undoubtedly suit a player who likes to pick and choose. I’m really not sure his heart is in it anymore, but I am there to be proven wrong as ever.
It was sad to see that Scottish bloke Hendry retire too, but for a player with as much pride as him I can understand it, at least he went out with a bang with the 147 at the Crucible, which I famously and carelessly left the media seats a frame too early for and missed while that hanger-on Matt was clapping along, I must unfollow him on Twitter after writing this, been meaning to for ages.
It’s always sad when betting scandals are in the news too, Joe Jogia and Stephen Lee have had better years, well Lee has anyway, and whatever the truth in the matters concerning them, hooky betting patterns in a sport that relies heavily on the gambling industry is never good news. I’ve heard very strong whispers of another match involving an amateur player in the PTC’s, I’ll not be so polite as to not reveal it in the future if his name crops up again.
The PTC’s have been a bit of a mixed bag, some excellent (usually the European ones) some not so (ermm, Scotland). It’s also a great shame that the South West Snooker Academy are not hosting them anymore, particularly the Kay Suzanne Memorial Trophy which added character and a bit of difference to a series of events that do sometimes have the feeling of conveyer belt tournaments with relatively little at stake and no real interest outside of the hardcore snooker and betting community.
In terms of the blog and blogging in general, I’ll not lie and say that the increase in events has really hit the spot with me as a blogger, because it hasn’t and I am not and never have been a fan of saturation coverage of sport as I like to have a life now and again.
This is partly the reason I made the post the other day hinting at stopping the blog after Sheffield, which this year I am choosing not to attend for a number of reasons. I can’t thank people enough for their emails and direct messages asking me not to stop blogging, but some things will change that’s for sure, they will have to as I’m beginning to lose interest in events that I would have been bang up for two seasons ago because I’m having to devote time to qualifiers for an event in Bongo Bongo land that’s three months off. If that isn’t obvious from the coverage I have been giving so far it soon will be.
The future of the blog will also depend on negotiations over the coming months with potential partner bookmakers for next season and getting a deal which will be good for me and for them, but whatever happens this tripe will continue to exist in some format or other and I hope to grow the Snookerbacker Classic alongside it as this still gives me a lot of enjoyment. A new amateur Tour perhaps, who knows?
To summarise, whilst I firmly believe that snooker is on the up, particularly in Europe, my five new year wishes list for Bazza would be (in no particular order apart from the top one and maybe the bottom one, or either or, just pick one):
1. Get rid of wildcards in the Chinese events, please Baz, the doctor says it’s essential to my recovery and I have had a second opinion.
2. Pay players prize money for every match they win in a World Snooker event and stop being a stingy bastard.
3. Take a really good look at the congested calendar and stop putting the Premier League fixtures in front of everything else, it’s always been shite and Ronnie doesn’t even want to play in it now.
4. Don’t move the World Championship to China or consider moving it there for the next 600 years. Move it to Germany if you have to but don’t start fiddling with the format.
5. Write it into Dark Mavis’s (Mark Davis) player contract that he is to be referred to as Dark Mavis from henceforth and pay me a decent royalty for coming up with it. Oh and The Ferginator is good too but he doesn’t make as many venues, if he does, that’s wish numero sixo.
So what are your highs and lows from 2012? What would you like to see change? What are your five wishes to Bazza? How much do you love this blog and not want it to stop? (in no particular order of importance).