I am following Palace’s progress as keenly as ever – we are doing our usual trick of starting off badly and then suddenly starting to do well when the season is half over, putting paid to any chances of automatic promotion but keeping the agonising possibility of a playoff place open for as long as possible before it all ends in disappointment.
But I haven’t been to a game all season, which makes it hard to write about much which the papers and bloggers haven’t already given a better-informed view on. As soon as there’s a hint of spring in the air I will do what I can to rectify this omission.
And in the meantime, there’s snooker! I have been a fan ever since I used the 1997 World Championship as a distraction from revising for my finals and happened to be watching when Ronnie O’Sullivan made the fastest-ever maximum break against Mick Price. I was hooked instantly, and I’ve watched as much of each subsequent televised tournament as I’ve been able to fit the rest of my life around (snooker is not always on at the most convenient times for those of us with jobs).
But it’s taken me nearly twelve years to actually go and watch a game, and on Sunday I finally managed it at the opening sessions of the Masters at Wembley Arena. Brilliantly, tickets for the early games only cost £10, and for that we got a full day’s play, Stephen Maguire beating wee Graeme Dott (“the pocket dynamo!”) in the morning session and Ronnie beating Joe Perry in the afternoon. Both games were good, but the crowd were obviously more excited about the second game, something about the way Ronnie plays inviting a passion and a loyalty that the other players don’t seem to arouse. True to form, he gave his fans an agonising wait for his eventual victory, conceding a frame when he only needed one snooker and dropping behind more than once. The final frame, at 5-5, was very tense and great fun to watch.
Football will always be my first love, and I will never be able to feel about a player the way I can about a team, but £10 for seven hours’ play in the warm indoors is bargainously good compared to £25 for ninety minutes in the cold outdoors, not to mention how much closer to the action one can be at the snooker (we were even on TV).
I enjoyed it so much I’m going back for the evening session in Sunday’s final (less bargainously cheap, more exciting). Look out for me on BBC2. If I see you I’ll wave.