It has taken a global pandemic for snooker to be considered worthy enough, but there is no surely no way to avoid the stark truth confronting SPOTY with as much menace as Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins blowing the top off a few cold ones back in the golden years: Ronnie O'Sullivan will finally make it onto the public ballot paper after years of refusal.

With no Wimbledon, Euro 2020 and the Olympic Games in a sporting calendar decimated by the ongoing health crisis, snooker suddenly has its big break this time after being blackballed by the committee of judges more times than blacks have been sunk at the Crucible Theatre.

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The only snooker player to win the gong since its inception in 1954 was Steve Davis in 1988 with fellow world champion Stephen Hendry finishing second behind Paul Gascoigne in 1990 when the green baize was still considered trendy enough for a podium spot in the yearly bash. Higgins himself finished second behind decathlete Daley Thompson after his second world title in 1982.

The road to Damascus has been a long one, but if Paul the Apostle rather than Gazza was converted in the end, there seems to be several doubting Thomases on the judging panel in failing to appreciate what snooker brings to the table. Especially when Joe Wicks has enjoyed a productive few months on Zoom.

Never underestimate the ability of whoever comes up with the final list of nominees to abdicate their sense of responsibility in continually overlooking snooker's greatest player of all time for whatever reasons they refuse to disclose. Even a closed shop would find room for the Rocket Man this time. Either that, or let's call the whole thing off.

Whether or not they like O'Sullivan's persona or prefer his sport, is neither here nor there. Some people enjoy marmite, some recoil in horror at the very thought of it, but personal opinion should not be allowed to spread fake gospel. Which it certainly seems to have done in previous incarnations of a curious selection process which seems to have less rhyme or reason than refusing the final black on 140, which O'Sullivan contemplated doing for fun back in 2010 before referee Jan Verhaas intervened.

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In such a respect, O'Sullivan has given snooker credibility, a narrative and a serene sense of chaos beyond the darkened environs of his sport by conjuring up a consistent level of magic and mayhem that has rarely been witnessed in any professional arena, far less one that involves a bloke in a bow tie brandishing a cue and a lump of chalk on a 12ft table.

It would be interesting to hear why O'Sullivan has been continually ignored since he won the UK Championship as a 17-year-old in 1993 because the reasons are about as credible as attempting to outrun the virus in a camper van. It appears to be a curious piece of nonsense riddled in class bias and snobbery against the working class roots of snooker and a refusal to recognise the pristine levels that it takes to master the most imposing of all cue sports.

It is a hoary repetitive old tale made even more remarkable when the BBC have given the grandiose title of triple crown to three events it covers on terrestrial TV – the UK Championship, the Masters and the World Championship. You can forget all the hyperbole about snooker majors, a new phenomenon allowed to slip into general discourse without any historical fact, there is only one major and it is back in the clutches of the game's ultimate entertainer.

More engrossingly, at the age of 44 and playing well within himself, O'Sullivan conquered the Crucible by playing in fits and starts in a quite august August. The concentration levels and class to win such a tournament should not be underestimated even without a frazzled crowd due to the Covid conundrum.

The three frames he played against Mark Selby to recover from 16-14 behind in running out a 17-16 winner in the semi-finals with breaks of 138, 71 and 64 was arguably up there with the best combination of bone shakers world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury unearthed to floor Deontay Wilder in February.

It was three of the most poignant frames O'Sullivan has played in his 28-year career as he discusses on the exclusive hour-long special ‘Ronnie O’Sullivan: The Joy of Six’ on Friday 16 October at 10pm on Eurosport 1.

"I think the sixth one was more enjoyable, in many ways, than any of them," said O'Sullivan in reflecting on his 18-8 filleting of Kyren Wilson in the final.

Watch moment Ronnie O'Sullivan clinches sixth World Snooker Championship title

"Not because of the way I played, but because there was no pressure on me because I don’t feel like anyone expected me to go all the way this year whereas in previous years it’s always been ‘it’s Ronnie’s to lose’."

Phil Taylor – a 16-times world champion darts player with a better aim than Dirty Harry – made it onto the list of nominees a decade ago and finished runner-up to Champion Jockey Tony McCoy. Do not underestimate snooker's popularity if O'Sullivan is finally granted due respect with the ceremony due to take place on 20 December in Manchester.

He took a year off between his fourth and fifth victories at the World Championship yet was astonishingly not nominated in 2013. Seven years later, the BBC have the chance to make up for years of refusal by doing the right thing by O'Sullivan this time.

Anything else would amount to an abject dereliction of duty.

Desmond Kane

LEADING SPORTS PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR CONTENDERS

  • Lewis Hamilton (Formula One)
  • Marcus Rashford (Football)
  • Ronnie O'Sullivan (Snooker)
  • Tyson Fury (Boxing)

Eurosport’s exclusive hour-long special ‘Ronnie O’Sullivan: The Joy of Six’ airs Friday 16 October at 10pm on Eurosport 1.

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