Day we all went snooker loopy for famous final

On a schoolnight, bedtime was 10pm. It was a strict rule. No exceptions. Except, that is, for this one, solitary, stand-out occasion.

And ever since, there’s been something particularly magical about the World Snooker Championships at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre.

It was way back in 1985 that my parents allowed their golden rule to be broken for that one and only time – even though, if memory serves me right, I had a fairly important exam to sit the next morning.

Carl Jones

Thank goodness they did, because at the school gates, there was only one question on everyone’s lips: “Did you stay up and watch it?”.

It was the ‘black ball final’, the amazing climax to the match between two giants of the sport, jovial Northern Irishman Dennis Taylor and the man the media ironically crowned Mr Interesting, Steve Davis . . . because, erm, he wasn’t.

After two days of gruelling battle, the richest and most prestigious prize in snooker all came down to who would pot the final ball in the final frame, in the wee-small hours of Monday morning, shortly before 12.30am.

As anyone with a passing interest in the game knows, Taylor triumphed by 18 frames to 17, having come back from the seemingly hopeless position of losing the first eight frames, triggering iconic, emotional celebrations.

Never before, or since, has the Crucible seen such a joyous display of trophy kissing, cue-thumping, and finger-wagging.

It’s almost unthinkable these days that any sport – let alone a snooker match – could capture the imagination of an entire nation in such a way.

But these were heady days for the boys on the beize. In the 1980s, the sport was big box office, and Chas ‘n’ Dave’s playful hit, Snooker Loopy, even rose as high as number six in the charts.

The climax of the 1985 final, long before satellite pay-per-view sport packages fragmented our viewing habits, was watched by an astonishing 18.5 million people in the UK alone.

It remains a record for BBC2, and the largest post-midnight audience for any channel in Britain.

Back then, the drama was brought to us by the legendary commentator ‘Whispering’ Ted Lowe. He was to snooker what Peter Alliss is to golf, and David Attenborough is to wildlife documentaries.

These days, much like cricket, it seems you have to have been a world champ, or national captain, to earn a place in the commentary booth, even though reaching the pinnacle of your sport doesn’t automatically make you a natural born broadcaster.

Not that whispering Ted always got things right, of course. Who can forget his most famous blooper, when he helpfully informed us: “Steve is going for the pink ball. For those of you who are watching in black and white, the pink is next to the green.”

This weekend, Dennis Taylor will be in the commentary booth for the 2013 final. Quite right too. He’s one of the former world champs who was born for the microphone, and it’s somehow fitting that the BBC’s coverage retains a link to the snooker’s finest hour.

And my exam? Thankfully, I passed. I told my parents it was proof that I should be allowed to stay up late more often. They weren’t buying it. They did, however, buy me a snooker table . . .

@carljones1

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