R.I.P. Alex “Hurricane” Higgins. No matter what happens in world snooker, we will never see your like again. There will be many tributes paid to the most entertaining player snooker has ever known and most of them will speak of a great, if wayward, man who tore up the rule book, transgressed the written laws, and stuck two fingers up at the stuffy dickie-bow-and-Brylcreem authoritarians who wanted to keep the game conservative and exclusive.
Higgins was The People’s Champion, the true antidote to murderously slow, deliberate players like Cliff Thorburn and Terry Griffiths. Even the 70s and 80s ‘playboys’ Kirk Stevens and Tony Knowles couldn’t hold a candle to him for entertainment on and off the baize. His old sparring partner Steve Davis, whom Higgins called “the apprentice Grinder”, described him as “the one true genius snooker ever produced”. Amen to that.
I was 12 when Higgins beat Ray Reardon 18-15 to become World Snooker Champion for the second time in 1982. No one who saw that match, while rooting for The Hurricane, could ever forget the emotional scenes right after the game when he tearfully embraced his baby daughter Lauren. I’ve watched that final frame more times than I care to remember, and I still get the shivers and the tears still well. It’ll be tough to watch again now that he’s gone.
Snooker has had a few controversial figures since but no one to match Higgins – mainly because he wrote the book on being a controversial figure in snooker. From his (almost) steadfast refusal to wear a tie in tournaments, through his chain smoking, constantly imbibing image, to his ability to instill a fanaticism in his loyal fans as yet unmatched in the game, he was an original, a total one-off. I mean, who else in the game would ever have been ‘good friends’ with that old ‘hellraiser’ Oliver Reed? What a pairing they were.
It’s tragic that Higgins had deteriorated so badly in front of our eyes in recent years, the effects of the throat cancer that ultimately ended his life. I don’t want to remember him as that sad, gaunt little figure in the hat, much as his eyes still reminded me of the tempest he used to leave in his wake.
I will only remember the dazzlingly talented, dizzyingly fast, flamboyant, egocentric and heroic figure that was Alex “Hurricane” Higgins. May you rest in peace, sir.