The other day I eagerly leaped into another photojournalistic self-assignment. This time I would cover the China Open Snooker Championship, as it played out on my TV. I used a digital Nikon, and grabbed shots throughout the match. Here’s the result:
On Eurosport Wednesday an enormously talented snooker champion threw away a match with his childish behavior. World Number One ranking Ronnie O’Sullivan, in his early round meeting with China’s Marco Fu, seemed to be aiming for a new record in the rapidity of his shooting. He bent over, aimed, shot, and potted a ball. Then quickly went to the next one, and aimed, not waiting for referee Michaela Tabb to respot a color ball. The second she placed it, he thrust his cue in a shot, and then impatiently brushed by her to set up the next one.
The two Eurosport voice-over presenters, both of them former snooker champions themselves, complained that while Ronnie’s behavior was not exactly disrespectful to Michaela, it nevertheless was a very risky way to play because it unnecessarily invited error. “Oh, Ronnie,” one lamented, “Why do you do this to us?”
And sure enough, in the deciding game of the tied match, with Ronnie ahead by 50, he missed a ball and the calm, quiet and methodical Marco Fu caught up, tied, and then beat the moody champion.
Earlier in the game one of the presenters said that Ronnie had been working on an endorsement deal with a Chinese watch company, because he’s quite popular in that country. His face is all over billboards and in magazines and on TV.
I suspect that during the match Ronnie suddenly understood that posing for a billboard photo on the one hand, and competing with an extremely talented player on the other, were two different things. One requires time, concentration, effort, and talent, whereas the other is short and virtually effortless. The easy gig brings millions. The hard one much less so.
Part of Ronnie’s charm is his rather dark personality. He has a history of depression. He’s volatile. Sometimes during post match press conferences he gets snippy with reporters, walks out, refuses to speak. One time he got fed up with the slow pace of a game and conceded the entire match, which brought him a big fine from the snooker governing body. They called it a breach of contract. “You come to play, my boy, and you come to win. We expect nothing less.”
Now, if Ronnie hadn’t missed that last shot and had won, well, we would now be talking about how quickly he dispatched his highly skilled opponent. As it stands, we’re all shaking our heads.
Why, Ronnie? Why?