Monday, 26 July 2010

Alex Higgins: compulsive practicer, unforgettable champion

The journalist Bill Borrows once asked the great world snooker champion Alex Higgins if he had enjoyed his life. 

"I haven't really had all that much to do with my life," said Higgins. "All I've done is take part in it."
Many sincere - and some grudging tributes - have been paid to Higgins following his passing away, aged 61, in his Belfast hometown last Saturday. The BBC's clips reflect Alex's achievements and personality but, of all the tributes, I prefer Jim White's astonishing February 2010  video interview with Higgins and his final take on the 'Hurricane' in a Daily Telegraph article.
Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins, the most natural, charismatic and mesmeric player to have lifted a cue, once fired a 118 tournament break in two minutes and four seconds. In the film interview, White asks Higgins to explain his phenomenal speed at clearing balls from a snooker table.

"I was a compulsive practicer," replies Higgins. "I used to experiment with various shots, like a golfer on a driving range using different clubs."
His greatest achievement? "When my daughter was born, when I was 32," says Higgins. "I felt I'd become a man."
And his greatest snooker feat? Higgins replies: "It's alright winning but you can take a lot of pleasure out of how you behave when you lose...That's the thing about being a good sportsman."

Even when Higgins' playing powers declined, his clashes with snooker's stuffy establishment and puffed-up referees revealed his mental agility and quick-witted  intelligence. In a 1995 World Championship qualifier Higgins had already compiled a 110 break when he asked the senior and snooty referee John Williams to move out of his way. 
Williams, standing behind Higgins, said huffily: "But I'm not in your line of sight."
To which Higgins replied: "No, you're in my line of thought."

Clearly upset with Williams, Higgins still instinctively cleared the colours to complete a memorable 137 break. But what about "No, you're in my line of thought"; that's a poetical putdown, isn't it?
Even Sir Winston Churchill, the putdown king, might've chuckled at that one.
Paul Coleman, London, July 2010.

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