BBC replaced the snooker void in its scheduled last Sunday with the first of a three part series called "Gods of Snooker." The first episode focused the career of the legendary Alex Higgins.
Higgins' career is every bit that of the wild child of the game. The supreme talent who was often his own worst enemy. His world title win in 1982 was the centrepiece of the programme. What happened to The Hurricane thorughout the rest of his career and life is one of disappointment and sadness, but for that one fleeting moment in 1982, he was on top of the world.
A crying world champion Alex Higgins holding his trophy in one hand and his baby with the other - one of snooker's greatest moments. #godsofsnooker
— Snooker Chat 🔴⚫🔴 (@Snooker_Chat) May 9, 2021
World champion again after a 10 year wait, his baby girl in his arms, and tears streaming down his face, this was a sporting image for the ages. When we think of great snooker moments, or even great TV moments, this has to be up there with the very best.
And yet, it so nearly didn't happen, and wouldn't have if not for possibly the greatest break ever seen on a snoooker table.
The show journeys Higgins' rise from the streets of Belfast to world snooker champion in 1972, and his 10 year quest to regain the title.
The ultimate crowd pleaser throughout the '70s, he was the original people's champion. And while he made finals in 1976 and 1980, the second world title was proving elusive, and by 1982, the chance seemed to be slipping away.
The 1976 final in particular produced an incredible piece of television with Higgins turning up to the final "pissed," as his opponent Ray Reardon put it.
— World Snooker Tour (@WeAreWST) May 7, 2021
Ahead of the '82 World Championships, Higgins could barely pot a ball, as the show remembered. He was losing exhibition games to amateurs throughout the UK and had absolutely no form.
Somehow, The Hurricane muddled through the opening rounds of the tournament, before meeting a 20-year-old upstart named Jimmy White in the semi-finals. White, who absolutely idolised Higgins, was on the verge of qualifying for the World Final at his just his second ever appearance at The Crucible. In a first to 16 match, White led by 15 frames to 14, and was within a shot of wrapping up the 30th frame.
Higgins came to the table, one shot away from going out of the tournament, and with the balls in a seemingly impossible position. What followed was pure magic. For the first seven shots of the break, The Hurricane was never in position, and continuing the break looked extremely unlikely. But with one incredible shot after another, he somehow stayed at the table, and completed a 69 clearance to stay in the game.
Higgins would go on to win the deciding frame, and would get revenge over Reardon in the final, finally capturing his second title.
In a Eurosport feature at last year's Scottish Open, Ronnie O'Sullivan and Jimmy White tried to recreate probably most famous shot of the break, the blue to the corner pocket, with White calling it the "best break ever," and O'Sullivan saying that with the pressure of the situation and the lie of the ball, only two of three players in history could have made cleared the table.
"The greatest break ever!" - @ronnieo147, @JimmyWhite147 and @AndyGoldstein05 pay tribute to the great Alex Higgins 🌪#OTD in 2018: The snooker icons attempt to recreate the Hurricane's famous blue at the 1982 World Championship 🔵pic.twitter.com/FVzYUKEoYm
— Eurosport UK (@Eurosport_UK) December 16, 2020
While there have been far more successful snooker players, and possibly even more talented, there'll never be anyone else like Alex Higgins. And this 69 break may have been his crowning achievement.
Remember so well watching the Higgins White semi final in 82. Great to be reminded of Higgins' closing break in the tremendous #godsofsnooker on BBC2.
— Kevin Cormack (@KevinCormack4) May 9, 2021
How good was #godsofsnooker ? Alex Higgins in his purple felt fedora playing sensational shots and taking mad risks. Pure George Best vibes. Made me nostalgic for the days when we had only four TV channels
— Gladstone (@shane_gladstone) May 9, 2021