Shout at the devil

You know that feeling of being out of control? That knowing, ebbing thought-bubble that things may not be within your jurisdiction, when the future lies ahead of you but you don’t know whether you will be greeted at life’s next junction by a coffin or the winning EuroMillions numbers. I feel like that when I play snooker and, though the link may seem tenuous, Motley Crue certainly were out of control too. Indeed, snooker and Motley Crue have a lot more in common than silly outfits (I’m thinking the bow ties and waistcoats) and being at their most popular in the 80s. Let me explain.

Motley Crue – they have an umlaut in their name but being technology’s answer to fourteenth-century druids I cannot find it on my word processor – were mental. Proper nuts. The details are all laid bare in ‘The Dirt’, the band’s autobiography, and it’s the most disgusting but engrossing book I have ever read. Much of the time, their outrageous tendencies were confined to drug-fuelled bonhomie and standard rock star excess cliché.

One chapter, however, stands above the rest as a testament to things getting out of hand. Two of the group bring a pair of groupies back to their hotel for general lights-off frolics. On this occasion, Nikki Syxx decides, for reasons best kept to himself, that one of the girls should have a toothbrush and toothpaste tube inserted into her vagina. I suppose that’s one way of solving the age-old conundrum of post-coital bad breath.

Not yet finished, Nikki also inserts the hotel room’s phone receiver up there as well, which makes me wonder if we’re talking about a vagina or a filing cabinet. The other groupie, whose thoughts on the events unfolding before her eyes would doubtless be fascinating, is then asked for her parents’ phone number. Said digits are hammered on the phone and the scene is complete.  One girl is talking at another’s crotch, answering her mother’s muffled questions saying “yes, we’ll be home soon”. Nikki admitted that he lost all respect for himself as well as womankind that day and I cannot entirely blame him. Rumour has it that film rights have been bought for ‘The Dirt’, which makes me wonder how such a scene will fit on the big screen without being placed beyond a paywall or on YouPorn.

So we have established that Motley Crue simmered on the borderline of insanity. Well, surprisingly, snooker is much the same. It’s the most psychologically demanding pastime out there. If you think snooker is sedate, the indoor equivalent of a game of cricket on a gentrified village lawn, think again. I have finished a best of five match more exhausted than when I ran a half-marathon.

Many people play snooker to get away from the fripperies of modern life and take a break from the constant nagging of ‘er indoors. Quite often I hear people say they play the game to relax but half an hour later they can be found hyperventilating in the corner of a leaky hut, cursing a missed opportunity and muttering swear words of increasing intensity under their breath. It is the only game, as far as I’m aware, that makes perfectly ordinary people shout “Fuck. Tits. Wank. Prick” in quick succession, and that’s when you’re playing decent.

It must mean something that an outburst like that would be considered a perfectly reasonable response to missing an easy black. I am a docile creature, rarely awoken from my slumbersome attitude to things going Pete Tong. In recent months I have vested anger in print towards Manchester United fans, Christmas radio, prostitutes in Magaluf, the coalition government and landlords. But this is all exaggerated and my shackles in real life aren’t nearly as easily raised as they are when I’m writing. Nonetheless, if truth be told, snooker has occasionally made me hold a single-word conversation in my head, which involves the worst swear word repeated endlessly. I’m playing a sport I profess to love, yet at intermittent moments, all I can think is “C**t, c**t, c**t, c**t”. It’s not even directed at my opponent, usually just the fuckpig of a game itself.

Quite madly, some of the players I used to watch on the telly now play in the same tournaments I enter. A few months back, David Gray, a one-time world Top 16 player, popped along for a tournament in Brighton. Usually I’m rubbish when I meet anyone famous. On the razz, after one too many glasses of shandy, I chanced upon Paul Weller – the Paul Weller – and told him he looked like a Paul Weller lookalike. His mates laughed and said “you could make some money out of that Paul”. David Gray may not be on the same level of fame as the Modfather but he’s well known in the game so I was apprehensive about  saying anything. I finally plucked up the courage when he sat down beside me.

“I used to watch you on the box when I was little” I said, noting as I did so that things have changed drastically in the world of snooker in the past decade. Back in 2000, Ronnie O’Sullivan had a full plume of hair and John Virgo made sense. Now the Rocket is a crazed recluse who only comes out of hibernation for the World Championships after farming for six months (I kid ye not) and John Virgo is the king of the nonsensical aside. Asked by Ken Doherty what Mark Williams should do to improve in a match he was losing heavily, Virgo harrumphed and said “he needs to start playing better”. Oh mighty oracle! Such insight!

David Gray nodded solemnly. “Time flies dunnit” he wistfully said, bearing the unmistakeable scars of a man who plugged away on the circuit for years, never quite making it. It didn’t help that he was off his rocker most of the time. In 2009 he was found unconscious in his underpants on a Thailand high street following a bender with his mates. Yet here he was, sitting beside me, wearing a hangdog expression and competing for £100 and a mention in the local newspaper. He still didn’t win.

Alcohol consumption is undoubtedly a common theme between the Crue and the boys on the baize. When we used to enter competitions in Prestatyn, a number of pros would turn up and spend the weekend nursing a pint of cider and blackcurrant beside the bar, getting royally smashed. Of course, I did the same. Hell, I was in such a state the last time I went, I forgot my own name. But these people were the best in their field, indicating that heavy boozing is what life on the road must entail, whether you’re Steve Davis or celebrating a number one record.

One big difference is that snooker is not a sexy sport, unlike the untethered promiscuity of a band on the run. It originates from pubs and working men’s clubs, not exactly a hotbed of sexiness – although darts gets a pair of dolly birds to walk the players to the stage, an ingenious ruse which only manages to make the players seem fatter and uglier than their already fugly appearances. God help a sport when Judd bloody Trump is its pin-up. He might be a stunning player but he looks like a poor man’s poor man’s Justin Bieber and has the charisma of wet pavement. His interviews come from the Steven Gerrard school of looking mildly ill-at-ease while dispensing pointless platitudes. Definitely not sexy.

There you have it. In many ways, snooker is similar to Motley Crue. The feeling of spinning totally out of control. A host of mad and bad characters. And the loneliness of touring, although in snooker there’s not even an easily manipulated groupie to use as a toiletries bag to stave off the boredom.