Sunday, 20 February 2005


by Ted Hoffman

Few would deny that snooker is the finest game in the world, fewer still would deny the place of Higgins, O'Sullivan, Lee and others amongst the greatest entertainers of any sporting discipline. Even so, there are relatively few newspaper editorials written about the sport, so I was pleased to see this in the Observer today.

Margaret Cook is something of a fan.

It is powerfully addictive. It is symmetrical, geometrical, the shots varying from sweetly delicate to flamboyant. It can have you sitting on the edge of your seat in the pin-drop stillness, marvelling at the intensity of focus and exquisite accuracy.
She uses the article to hypothesize reasons why women have been unsuccessful at the game despite 'having barged into most male sporting domains'. Margaret fails to reach a conclusion of why this might be, she suggests size, but as there are many diminutive male snooker players this doesn’t wash. She also tries to blame the lack of success on the undignified practice of snookering opponents.
Women are too polite to engineer snookers; they think in terms of relying on their own skills and allowing an opponent to do the same.
Perhaps, though her final summing up that 'the male body and mind are adapted to play it' covers just about every possible reason for the gender difference.

My own suggestion would be that obsessive dedication to pointless tasks is more common in men than women. Snooker is by and large pointless, and I don't know of a game that requires more dedication to even reach a very basic beginners level. Men will almost always be better at physically demanding sports with honourable exceptions to the likes of Dame Ellen. Sports where physical ability is not a factor, but incredible technical precision is, will generally come down to the hours put in. Women will not become world beaters at snooker until they’re as willing as men to spend years of their childhood in a basement learning to nest the white ball against the baulk cushion.

The sheer volume of time required to get brilliant at snooker would also be my explanation for the curiously large number of professional snooker players who are either unusually boring or nuts.

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