Ronnie O'Sullivan earns SPOTY nomination: Why snooker GOAT would be worthy winner
Ronnie O'Sullivan is the greatest snooker player of all time and one of the most naturally gifted sportsmen in the world. His first nomination for the Sports Personality of the Year Award is not only right, it should also be used to celebrate a body of work that continues to brim with inimitable brilliance after lifting his sixth world title with an 18-8 win over Kyren Wilson in August.
Eyes on the prize: Ronnie O'Sullivan revels in his sixth world title triumph.
He has been blackballed more times than he’s potted them, but Ronnie O’Sullivan has finally reached the palace of wisdom as a SPOTY nominee. Finally, the British public gets to decide how much they appreciate his effervescent and rapidly moving repertoire of timeless snooker supremacy.
After three decades of refusal, the Sports Personality of the Year Award’s judgemental judging panel has deemed snooker’s greatest player worthy of a place on the public ballot paper. For that, we should all rejoice.
Snooker's evergreen popularity should not be underestimated when the SPOTY public vote takes place on 20 December in Manchester. Like Hurricane Higgins in the past, the reigning world champion is also the people's champion.
At last there has been a common sense call by the committee.
“At last, the skies above are blue,” as Etta rather than Steve James once warbled.
Ronnie O'Sullivan on what his nomination means for snooker
At the venerable green baize age of 44, Rocket Ronnie's nomination for a pristine body of work that has just witnessed him lift a sixth world title entering his fourth decade of delectable play was announced by Joe Wicks, the body coach, rather than Joe Perry, the gentleman.
O’Sullivan’s opus pots for itself:
Six world titles
Seven UK titles
Most Triple Crown victories: 20
Most ranking events in history: 37
Most 147s in history: 15
Fastest 147 in history: Five minutes and eight seconds
Most centuries in history: 1063
Youngest winner of a ranking event: UK Championship aged 17 and 358 days in 1993
The list goes on and on and on.
Such has been the eccentricity of the SPOTY decision-making in the past, one would not have been surprised if Wicks' lockdown workouts were chosen ahead of O’Sullivan by a panel who have previously deemed Dressage as a form of sporting excellence, achievement and personality worthier of their attention.
It is a rather tragic and farcical state of affairs that it has taken this long for an appointed “expert independent panel” to reach the conclusion that the ongoing Essex man is lively enough to make the shortlist. 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 incomparable levels of commitment that it takes to master the most imposing of all cue sports.
It should also be noted that it has required the arrival of a global pandemic and a decimated sporting calendar with Euro 2020 and the Olympic Games called off for O’Sullivan to touch down in the final six.
O'Sullivan explains how and why he plays with both hands
“You are never sure whether it is a personality contest or actually for your achievements,” he told Eurosport prior to the shortlist being announced. “For years, there are people who have won it or have come in the top three who I’ve never even heard of.
“Sometimes it is just whether your face fits. I’m not sure it’s actually about sport these days. I think it’s more a reflection on snooker rather than me. Snooker is where it is in comparison to other sports. I think a lot of snooker players get overlooked because of the sport, not because of their achievements. If it was on their achievements, you’d probably have to say Judd Trump was deserving of getting in the top three because he’s broken records: winning six ranking tournaments last season was a great achievement.”
Since the inception of SPOTY in 1954, snooker has gradually been potted off the table. This is a prize last won by a snooker player when six-times world champion Steve Davis triumphed in 1988, a time when Nelson Mandela was still inside, the Berlin Wall had yet to topple and David Hasselhoff had yet to sing about it.
It's about time! - Eurosport studio on Ronnie O'Sullivan SPOTY nomination
A young Stephen Hendry – the seven-times Crucible winner – finished second behind Paul Gascoigne in 1990. Alex Higgins was also runner-up behind decathlete Daley Thompson after his second world title in 1982, but that has been your lot.
Lewis Hamilton is the 1/6 favourite for the award after winning his seventh F1 title ahead of O'Sullivan (9/1) and the thoughtful and thoroughbred heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury (10/1). Some will argue that snooker is not a traditional sweaty sport such as boxing, football, athletics or tennis, but O’Sullivan also feels that F1 should be viewed differently if that is the criteria for selection because of the benefits of operating the best car.
Unlike Hamilton, O'Sullivan is armed only with a lump of chalk, a snooker cue, an imagination to create and willingness to offer an opinion on a variety of subjects throughout his prosperous 28-year career. He refuses to include Hamilton in his top seven list of sporting icons instead opting for Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in tennis, Phil Taylor in darts, golf great Tiger Woods and football icons Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
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. Like Fury, Ronnie O’Sullivan has more than a puncher’s chance because the British public warm to personality as much as sporting perfection. Of which he has both.