Snooker world champion Stuart Bingham provides classic life lesson in the value of believing in
It really was so engrossing, it is sad to see it go.
The 2015 World Championship snooker final was not the Steve Davis v Dennis Taylor final of 1985 and its 18.5 million television viewers, but then that much-vaunted classic never attained the high standard of this modern epic. 30 years after the ‘black ball final’ came the ‘ball-run’ final.
For enjoyment, quality and a serene sense of the feel-good factor, Stuart ‘Ball-run’ Bingham’s awe-inspiring 18-15 win over Shaun Murphy will live long in the memory for its bloody brilliance. It deserves to give snooker greater recognition as a sport that can twist, contort and torment the senses like no other.
This was the night when Bingham looked into the abyss, especially at 15-15 when he was bleeding frames and all seemed lost, and found his vocation in life smiling right back at him. Twenty years a snooker professional, man and boy, making ends meet with few trophies to show for it, two ranking events to be precise over the past four years, but the Cinderella story came true for this late developer at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.
At 38, Bingham is the oldest winner since Ray Reardon, then 45, in 1978. He is the oldest first-time champion since Walter Donaldson in 1947, back in a era when they played safety with safety in mind.
‘Ball-run’ Bingham, an honest, smiling, sometimes teary and largely unassuming bloke from Basildon in Essex who looks like a henchman from The Untouchables, and appears to be dedicated to his sport like no other person alive, was left clutching the famous old pot after 17 days in spring. A period of the year when grown men become living ghosts, their faces turning whiter than the cue ball in such hushed, delicate, darkened environs.
There are no characters in the game has become the default setting from critics of snooker amid a generation of rapidly dwindling attention spans and a theme of what have you done for me lately. Snooker in Britain has become a victim of a time in which we live, a relic of the Raj that thrived on four terrestrial TV channels four decades ago, but has been shamefully relegated to the sporting subconscious.
Bingham has spades of character, courage and ability even if I wouldn’t hold my breath about a nomination for BBC’s British Sports Personality, but that is a hoary old argument best left for another day.
“Winner, winner, chicken dinner,” said Bingham before going on to name every person he has come across in a speech normally delivered by Oscar winners. Chas 'n Dave couldn’t have put it better themselves when the Great British public was going Snooker Loopy after the ’85 final. Best male in a lead role also goes to him for the Bingham Supremacy.
After a Bank Holiday weekend that spawned the technical excellence of Floyd Mayweather winning boxing’s richest bout without actually fighting and the tactical supremacy of Chelsea lifting the Premier League title without appearing to play any football, it was left to two largely unheralded English blokes who aren’t exactly gym bunnies battling amid the mental marathon of this slightly eccentric game.
Snooker is a sport that leaves the two main protagonists somewhat cruelly confronting self-doubt and wrestling with impending images of glory or despair as the twilight zone approaches late on a Monday night. It also reminds us why professional sport is such a gripping and ripping spectacle in its rawest form.
At 50-1, Bingham was not quite the 150-1 outsider Bradford’s Joe Johnson was he lifted the world title against Steve Davis in 1986, but then Joe never had to confront Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump and Murphy - three titans of the sport - to realise his lifetime ambition.
The champ’s walk-on music was surely selected by a snooker soothsayer. "Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity. To seize everything you ever wanted. One moment. Would you capture it, or just let it slip?"
"Congratulations to Stuart Bingham this morning great final last night ,enjoy the feeling snooker champ— Nigel Mansell CBE (@nigelmansell) May 5, 2015"
Bingham has spent the past fortnight bounding out to Eminem's Lose Yourself prior to matches. It was the nearest he came to losing himself. These days of his life will be recalled as a moment in time when he found himself.
As a world champion, he will travel the world over the next 12 months. He plays in every event. He wants to play in more events. “He loves snooker more than life itself,” commented Murphy.
Mark Allen once accused Bingham of lacking bottle before he proceeded to flummox the Nothern Irish player on his way to winning win his first ranking trophy aged 35 at the Australian Open in 2011.
"No point in replying to everyone individually so I'll tweet it!! I said @Stuart__Bingham had no bottle 4 years ago!! I was wrong!! So what?!— Mark Allen (@pistol147) May 4, 2015"
Allen was left out of the gratitude speech, but Bingham later made a point of thanking him for inspiring his flowering.
Bingham lifted the Shanghai Masters earlier this season, but one did fear for him leading 15-12 when he began to miss. At one point, you feared he might drown in the dawning of the moment.
Murphy, Masters champion and 2005 world winner, drew level at 15-15 before Bingham gleaned 42 points in fouls from a remarkable 31st frame running for over an hour that tipped the balance of his power in his favour after his fellow Englishman had missed a makeable yellow.
" "At 15-15 I thought my chance was gone, my arm felt like someone else’s and nerves sort of got to me,” said Bingham. “We had a marathon 31st frame and I sort of pinched it on the colours and from then on I played pretty solid. It’s just unreal, I can’t believe I’m the 2015 world champion. I’m going to be the same person. I’m going to be playing in all the tournaments, and hopefully I’ll be a good role model being a world champion.” "
Bingham joins Ken Doherty as the only player to win the world title at amateur and professional level. Like Andy Murray, he is a sportsman who does not need to win again from here on in.
It was arguably the finest world championship since snooker became a mainstream television sport in the 1970s with a record 86 centuries made. Bingham contributed of 10 of them, four in the final, including a 145 to share the highest break with Neil Robertson. It produced more than an air of romanticism with its winner and a value much higher than taking all blacks with reds. Or the £300,000 Bingham trousered as winner.
" “Any kids growing up wanting to play, just stick at it. Lots of hard work, practice and self belief, things like this can happen,” said Bingham. "
Like Andy Murray at Wimbledon in 2013 or Stuart Bingham in 2015, don't listen to detractors. Confront self-doubt. Don’t run from it. Embrace it. Like Bingham, think of life as your own little snooker hall. Avoid the noise.
And if opportunity doesn't knock, build your own door.