Many years ago I went drinking with Alex Higgins & survived!
I got very drunk on the expense of Alex, but that’s what I remembered of my encounter with Alex that he seemed to want to ensure that we had a good a time as he & we certainly did.
Though I only ever met Alex Higgins the one time, he did come to reside for a short while in a village near to where I live. Friends told me that he was hustling snooker games for £10 a time in the local club. I met Alex when he was past his prime & though by the time I went drinking with Alex that one night he was already on slide; at least I didn’t encounter Alex in the sorry state he became as some who I know who knew Alex have recounted to me when sometime in the 90s he came to reside locally.
Alex Higgins died yesterday after a long battle with throat cancer. Many might remember him for a lifetime of self destructive behaviour & yet they might forget he was a sporting genius.
Alex Higgins was the man who almost single handedly popularized snooker. If it wasn’t Alex Higgins the likes of Jimmy White and Ronnie O’Sullivan wouldn’t of become household names.
Maybe it’s irony or many it does say something in regards to the the culture of Northern Ireland or maybe it’s just irony that that part of the world has spawned two the greatest sportsmen in George Best and Alex Higgins. Both Alex Higgins and George Best were immensely talented & both were extremely flawed & were known equally for their notorious exploits away from the sporting arena as they were known for their talents in the sporting arena.
Some might say it’s a stretch to put Alex Higgins in the same class of genius as George Best, because most experts will consider Best as the greatest footballer that the British Isles has ever produced & yet Higgins isn’t statistically nowhere near the best snooker player there’s been. Its true to say that Alex Higgins wasn’t the best snooker player there’s ever been, but ask anybody in the snooker fraternity who catapulted snooker into the the mainstream of sport in the 70s & 80s & they will say Alex Higgins. Before Alex came along snooker was a rather sedate sport more in tune with golf. It was the frenetic pace which Alex Higgins played the game as well as his outrageous shot selection that popularize snooker. It was Alex who packed the punters in, it was Alex playing that drew television interest, it was Alex’s antic on & off the snooker table that got the column inches in the press; it was Alex Higgins who helped popularize snooker. Maybe now that snooker has been somewhat in decline the last decade that the snooker fraternity is more grateful to Alex for helping to create its heyday back in the 80s, then they were back in the 80s when Alex was at his peak.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that Alex did have his demons, two broken marriages & a history of violence, his decline was a sorry state to witness & it begs the question as to why those in the sport he helped popularize didn’t do more to maybe help him cope better with his demons. If it was not for Alex Higgins snooker would not of been as popular as it has been. Its his achievements upon the snooker baize which I think Alex should be remembered for not how many bottles whiskey he drank.
The Hurricane you were a flawed genius but a genius none the less RIP.