Time to embrace the Shootout?

In certain quarters, the Snooker Shootout suffers a harsh critique. Naysayers deride this annual fun (but serious) event with steadfast loyalty. Others, accept the funky format for what it is. Here is my take on the four day festival of fright…

The pros : What’s not to like? It’s fast, furious & fan friendly. As a competitor, you pitch up in the arena secretly hoping that the next 10 minutes skip past devoid of outrageous incident or embarrassment. Players thinking, “Please present me with an easy six or seven red cherry tree around the pink spot” comes the whisper from the back of your bonce. Needless to say, this rarely transpires. In truth, the first five minutes are about as comfortable as it gets. That little devil on your shoulder provides ample excuse should malfunction ensue, which it does…a lot! “not enough time to execute my regular technique or shot selection” or “who smeared the bikini wax on this slick baize anyhow? are just some of the thoughts of a player quickly vanquished.

The truth is, fifteen seconds a poke is plenty time for players of pro standard. It’s not until part two kicks in, that your cue, arms & brain feel like total strangers caught in a snooker maelstrom. The chief problem being that every shot played in under ten seconds is accompanied by those blasted beeps! In a regular tournament, a player’s subconscious tends to think something along the lines of… “nice and sweet on delivery” or “just make sure I’m high on the black” or “I’ll use green, brown & blue as cover on that red” before & during a shot. All of these thoughts, along with your elbow, go out the window during the second half of a Shootout match. It’s a distinctly unnerving feeling to think “was that the third beep, or was it the fourth” just as you’re preparing to strike the cue ball.

Further consideration, and perhaps most pertinent of all, is the look on pretty much every face in the crowd. It’s humbling to see the joy & laughter out there for every second of every match. Whether it’s a top player, young man or lady competing, the punters are happy to watch and support all in equal measure. Let them have a few beers and blow off some working week steam. Let them invent a silly, but respectful chant about their favourite player. Give them license to let their hair down I say! It’s not a premier event in terms of prize money. Furthermore , it’s only on once a year.

Once upon a time, we were all newly fledging teenagers. Imagine someone informing you that you’re being invited to play against a top pro, in a big event, live on the telly. How would you have reacted at that age? You would be over the moon, and rightly so.

The cons : Yes, it’s unconventional. Yes, it’s not snooker as we know it. Some people are so busy typing & screaming from the rooftops that the Shootout isn’t proper snooker, or moaning about it carrying ranking points. I could easily understand the negativity if we had five or six Shootouts every season. That would be ludicrous, but we don’t. This isn’t akin to 20/20 cricket flooding the calendar, causing a split among the snooker faithful. No player, or viewer for that, need participate. Here’s an example, and I could list plenty… Like most of you, I enjoy my music. I’m not especially partial to watching The Eurovision Song Contest every year, so I tend not to watch it. Something else I don’t do is whinge about people who do tune in.

Often, it’s the case that people who bleat constantly that they refuse to watch are, in all likelihood, glued to watching The Shootout, and so they should be. There’s no such thing as a snooker snob for my money. I just wish some people would quit pretending they are one!

I’m a fan myself. Some events I like more than others, but I’ll watch any format. I certainly don’t feel the need to portray the purist as a form of self congratulatory claptrap.

Often, players are accused of complaining. At least when they do complain, which isn’t as often as some people make out, there is usually good reason. To the bah humbug division, I say… get over yourselves for goodness sake!

Another small point worth remembering : Whoever wins the Shootout it won’t be by accident. Think about the tons by Ricky & Gouldy in round one this year under that pressure, in one 10 minute frame, in a noisy cauldron, for a few quid and ranking points to boot. The balls don’t go in the pockets by themselves.

The verdict : Enjoy it for what it is… an annual four days of something a bit different. For the players, many unheralded or unheard of, it’s a chance of some financial reward, a few ranking points, and vital (if brief) main arena exposure. For the true snooker fans who pay their money? well, they get to feel they are an integral part of a professional tournament.

Surely we can’t deny them that? Not once a year!

Yours in snooker

Standard

6 thoughts on “Time to embrace the Shootout?

  1. MissPear says:

    Great to see you blogging again, Alan; wise words indeed, as always.

    I have to admit, we used to be a vocal critics of the Shootout, but last year we decided to give it a try and went along. We were pleasantly surprised at how much fun it was actually being there, and that if you didn’t take it seriously (and ignored the ranking aspect), it was excellent entertainment. It’s great to be able to watch players that you wouldn’t ordinarily get the opportunity to, and it’s also a fantastic opportunity for those players to get some television exposure and crowd support.

    The only aspect I’m not so keen on is getting more or less molested by drunk men who tell me what they would like to do to me in terms I’m too polite to repeat here. Sadly, gender equality in the snooker fandom has a long way to go! I suppose when drink is involved it’s kind of unavoidable, but it’s still disconcerting and upsetting.

    We love the funny chants that people come up with (some of which make us groan, but that’s half the fun) and the general respect shown to players. The World Snooker security staff do a fantastic job, too, especially when someone gets a bit lippy. We feel really looked after by everyone.

    Good luck in Round 2 and with the commentating for the rest of this weekend. You continue to be a star!

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  2. Lyndsey Feakes says:

    I think you’re right in most points. The only problem I have with it is that the winner gets to play in the C of Cs – not sure that’s really deserved. Other than that it’s a laugh and if you don’t like it don’t watch.

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    • MissPear says:

      I can see your thinking about the winner getting to the CofC – after all, the Shootout can be a kind of lottery – but I will admit it’s refreshing if you see a player there who is more of a surprise. We attend every year, and I keep a notepad file on my laptop of who has qualified over the various events of the year (because I’m a nerd!), and so far there have been only four qualifiers from seven tournaments, all from the top 16. If too few names qualify, they go down the top 16 for more names, and a lot of years, you see several of the same players. While this is undoubtedly deserved, it’s also nice to see players who perhaps wouldn’t have got so far in an “ordinary” tournament. (Not trying to disparage anyone’s abilities, of course!)

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      • MissPear says:

        Whoops – I should have said five names had qualified; I miscounted! Now six, of course, with Thepchaiya Un-Nooh’s superb win last night.

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  3. Good to have you back blogging Alan – very well put!

    Personally, I’ve always been a fan of the Shootout, and absolutely love watching it – not everybody’s going to be entertained by the long, drawn-out matches (which, for me, have an appeal of their own), and so it’s nice to have something a bit different from the norm that provides short, sharp bursts of action. The fact the big names often choose to skip it means you get a chance to see some new faces that might not get onto the TV table at regular events…and, above all else, it just looks like a lot of fun to be involved in.

    My only problem is with the idea of it being a ranking event – imagine, for example, how much uproar there would be if winning the Shootout title was the difference between a tour card going to an amateur player (who might only be able to compete in a handful of events) and a pro who’s taken part in the vast majority of tournaments during the season!
    There’s no reason to make other variant events, such as the 6-Reds, a ranking event either, so I’m confused as to why something where the matches are just one frame – which makes it more of a lottery than any other – should be any different?

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