Alex Higgins, the genius who popularised snooker on TV, takes his final curtain call.

July 26, 2010

Alex “Hurricane” Higgins died over the weekend, but his legacy will last well beyond a few days of media tributes. This genius and enfant terrible brought snooker to the attention of the masses, and helped popularise the sport on television.

Although the advent of colour television and the the BBC2 programme “Pot Black” made the sport of snooker accessible to television audiences, it was Alex Higgins’ flamboyance and flair that engaged them. His genius for breathtaking shotmaking and showmanship excited audiences and left them spellbound. Few sportsman have the ability to do this, but the fiery Irishman was able to captivate an audience like no other in his chosen sport.

In many ways Alex Higgins was the snooker equivalent of his contemporary, tennis player John McEnroe. Both were charismatic mavericks, contemptuous of the authorities in their respective sports. Both were fiery and bloodyminded, capable of the type of awesome brilliance that you simply can’t coach. Both men were geniuses, who through their audacious play and even more audacious behaviour, revolutionised and popularised their respective sports with a younger television audience. Higgins and McEnroe were just as entertaining at the side of the green baize or green grass of Wimbledon, as they were on it. As they sat in a chair, snooker tableside or courtside, they were quite simply fascinating human specimens. Both men were full of nervous, manic energy, with strange tics and twitches. It was if both men were possessed by demons, that could only be exorcised by the physical act of holding a snooker cue or tennis racket!!

Thankfully John McEnroe remains with us. Although Alex Higgins has passed on, he leaves a wonderful legacy that goes well beyond his two World Championships in 1972 and 1982, that will forever have a place in the record books. The sheer brilliance of his shotmaking, and his almost balletic movements and pirouettes as he moved gracefully, yet manically around the table, will forever be enshrined in my memory. Higgins was a force of nature, a walking contradiction, a maverick, a genius, an entertainer and a showman……..and the world of snooker and television will be a poorer place without him!! However for as long asĀ  Ronnie O’Sullivan is gracing the green baize, we have a worthy successor to “The Hurricane”.

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