Snooker needs Ronnie's rants

Weird Wide World of Sport

Dave Devereux

Ronnie O'Sullivan and Gary Wilson during the first round match at the World Snooker Championships
Ronnie O'Sullivan and Gary Wilson during the first round match at the World Snooker Championships

When the stars of the green baize are rolled out for the big tournaments, you can always rely on Ronnie O'Sullivan to hit the headlines, whether it be for the right or the wrong reasons.

This year's World Snooker Championship is barely out of nappies and already the 41-year-old is up to his neck in controversy after verbally lashing out at chairman Barry Hearn and his board.

The five-time world champion accused the snooker authorities of intimidating and bullying him in an extraordinary outburst after his hard-fought 10-7 first round win over Gary Wilson.

Some might find him a bit distasteful, but for me it's what adds to Ronnie O'Sullivan's appeal - he's not afraid to say what he thinks, and to hell with the consequences, although in recent media interviews he has deliberately kept his answers short and not so sweet.

Having landed himself in hot water for criticising a referee and press photographer during The Masters in January, he decided to mockingly limit the chances of getting into further trouble by repeatingly giving one-word answers to questions, even going as far as using a robotic voice in an interview.

Obviously he's in a position of far more power than most of us. There's not many that have the financial stability to tell their pay masters to go stuff it, as much as they might like to most Monday mornings.

O'Sullivan wouldn't be forced to join the dole queue if he hung up his cue, as he's already doing TV work for Eurosport and in his post-match interview said: 'I could go and do Big Brother, I could go and do I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, I could have a great life doing other stuff. This is something I do for love, but I'm not going to do it and have people trying to intimidate me and bully me. I'm just not having it,' he said.

ITV bosses would be wringing their hands with glee at the thoughts of getting the snooker star into the jungle with other 'celebrities', although they'd always need their lawyers close at hand.

During Sunday's rant O'Sullivan said he can live without snooker and that the game can survive without him, but if the Essex man did exit stage left he would bring a large part of the appeal of the sport with him.

'I've given 25 years of service to the game and I think I've given enough. Drop me out, I don't need you, you probably don't need me,' he said.

But snooker does need Ronnie O'Sullivan and his ilk.

No matter how much of a purist you are, two guys trying to out-pot each other around a green table alone isn't enough to keep the masses on the edges of their seats.

The players that people remember most are the ones that have an edge to them, guys like Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins and Jimmy White that brought the sometimes sedate world of snooker to another level.

Snooker thrives and the level of interest peaks when larger than life characters are in the mix, and nobody can deny that Ronnie O'Sullivan is one of those.

He may be too outspoken for some but no one can argue with the raw talent and wonderful, natural flair he brings to the table.

It's 20 years since a fresh-faced O'Sullivan glided around the table at The Crucible to rack up a maximum 147 break in an incredible five minutes and 20 seconds, a feat that is likely never to be surpassed.

It wouldn't be the first time that O'Sullivan has threatened to walk away from the game he loves, and he has always had a fractious relationship with the powers-that-be, so you can probably take the latest bust-up with a pinch of salt.

However, the day Ronnie does unbutton his waistcoat for good will be a sad day for the game and the sport will find it extremely difficult to find somebody to fill his polished Italian leather shoes.

Wexford People

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