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The death of a troubled genius that captivated millions

July 24th, 2010 · 1 Comment

Almost single-handedly lifted a sport from obscurity into the tv hit of the 1980s, adored by all (apart from those who actually knew him personally), banned from more hotel rooms around the world than any Brit before or after, drug abuser, alcoholic, head-banging officials, threatening to have a fellow players shot, having amassed a $6M fortune during his lifetime but dying penniless in squalor at 61..
Alex ‘hurricane’ Higgins, snooker player found death in his little flat in Dublin. (see also here, here, and here), long-time snooker commentator Clive Everton sums it all up, not to be missed.

A man who cast a spell on millions (including us) in the 1980s in a sport that is normally dominated by calculators playing the percentages. He was not a nice man, far from it (read below), but his style of play was so compelling that whenever he played, the atmosphere turned electric.

Higgins versus Davis (his complete opposite, sportsmen-like, civil, calculating, utterly composed) should go down as one of of the all-time classics in sports, apart from the fact that there have been way too few of these due to his erratic persona. Davis, always the gentleman, called him the only true genius the sport has produced.

But snooker is a sport which requires extreme self-control and composure, probably more so than any other sport. Hence the real classic that was so visibly going on when Higgins was playing was Higgins versus himself. It’s like he was on the edge of a nervous breakdown on almost every single shot he played that probably best explains just why it was so hard not to be sucked into a match that had Alex Higgins playing in it.

A man so visibly battling with his inner demons in a sport where this is about the greatest handicap made for absolutely compelling viewing, significantly enhanced by the sheer brilliance of his play. He should have won far more than just two world titles, but those demons could not be kept at bay for too long. In the end, they got the better of him, as one can read in one of the more compelling stories on Alex Higgins

Tags: Fun and Games

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 admin // Jul 28, 2010 at 10:51 pm

    [“Higgins’s last tournament was in Plymouth in 1997. He was escorted from the venue by police and discovered at 4am sprawled outside a nightclub, victim of an assault with an iron bar. He discharged himself from hospital and went back to living in a caravan in his then girlfriend’s garden. “]
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2003/feb/21/snooker

    [“Leading Cliff Thorburn 10-6 in the 1980 world final, Higgins disastrously abandoned the measured game which had given him this commanding position and started playing to the gallery. Thorburn was far too good a player to allow any such liberties and beat him 18-16.

    Off table, these two were frequently at loggerheads. In fact, they had played for money on the Canadian’s first day in England. As Thorburn was to recall: “There I am at the bottom of these stairs, I haven’t been paid and Alex is at the top of the stairs with a ball in his hand about to throw it at me.”]
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2010/jul/26/alex-higgins-genius-snooker