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Weekend TV Review: The Immense Joy Of Watching Snooker On Eurosport Late At Night

Weekend TV Review: The Immense Joy Of Watching Snooker On Eurosport Late At Night
By Gavin Cooney
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Not that we can be accused of ever testing its very limits, but sometimes, the Oxford English dictionary doesn't quite have a word for everything.

There are quite a few incredibly esoteric words from other languages that would fit quite well in English, once they're anglicised for easier pronunciation. For example, David Moyes could have borrowed 'litost' from Czech years ago, meaning 'a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one's own misery'.

The word 'tartle' from Ulster Scots, describing that 'panicky hesitation just before you have to introduce someone whose name you can't remember' is a pithy way of summing up Ryan Tubridy's Katie Taylor/Hopkins horror-show last Friday night.

But the word that best describes the greatest aspect of sport is, in fact, found in English. It's not made its way into the Oxford dictionary just yet, but if Ian Dowie(!) can crowbar 'bouncebackability' into modern discourse, then it should only be a matter of time.

The word is 'sonder', and is found in the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. Here's the definition:

n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness.

It's an efficient way of summing up the most endlessly fascinating aspect of sport: that, regardless of how obscure the TV channel or the time slot, every event you mindlessly watch marks the most important day of someone's life. This reality is pretty much the only moral foundation still left beneath the Olympic games.


And it is this fact that makes Eurosport at 11pm on a Sunday night such compulsive viewing. Eurosport - like TG4's GAA coverage - seems committed to hovering on the outer edges of the collective consciousness; a kind of necessary tonic to the hype and cynicism of prime-time sport. Whenever the All Blacks become too cynical, or when men who drink complaining about Wayne Rooney drinking is laid bare for the absurd bluster that it is, Eurosport is always there; lurking in the reaches beyond Sky Sports News, ready to administer a healthy dose of earnest obscurity.

Last night, it was snooker.


The final of the Northern Irish Open between Barry Hawkins and Mark King went the distance, going to a deciding seventeenth frame. Snooker on Eurosport is a good fit: like the channel, snooker is always just there, a quaint ceremony shuffling of bow-ties and gratuitous hushing that reminds us of times when sport privileged bathos over bombast.


Snooker games that stretch into a Sunday night have an odd delight of truancy about them, and when the sport begins its magnetic draw, the better option is always to submit, because memories of great snooker and other sports which you stumble across when channel-surfing are often free of that veneer of inauthenticity that major sports come with, that idea that the event itself is worthy of remembering, rather than your commitment to it.

And King/Hawkins proved to be great theatre. Hawkins opened up a 5-1 lead, only for King to reel him in, eventually opening up a 7-5 lead. Hawkins then battled back, and completed the comeback when the final frame was rebranded as the penultimate:

But King secured victory in the final frame, and for those who stuck around to watch the post-match interviews with Colin Murray, the supreme narrative unfolded. The title was King's first ranking title in his 25 years as a professional, and a quarter-century of frustration, disappointment and justification set sail in a voice quivering with emotion when given the microphone.


He thanked his wife for sticking by him, having treated her "like crap" during the bleak years of his gambling addiction. He told the crowd that he had dreamed of this moment, and that, he had to borrow money off his ill father to travel to the event.


It was a tender moment of genuine humanity, a reminder that for all the weathermen telling you which way the wind blows, there exist men and women whose persistence through storms speaks for itself.

So all hail Eurosport for bringing it to us. And for as long as they continue to bring it to us, perhaps we don't need a word after all.


Literally Jamie strikes again

On the topic of words, the meaning of 'literally' has been changed to mean its exact opposite. This, perhaps, has a lot to do with the work of Jamie Redknapp. Here he is in outstanding form this weekend.



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