With all this Jubilee malarkey going on, you could be forgiven for missing the most anticipated sporting event of the century. I’m talking of course about the mighty clash in the pool room of the Brecknock Arms between the reigning champ Richard “A Bridge Too” Farr (about 80) and the young pretender Jon “No Chance” Stamford (more than 60).
To say that these were two athletes at the very peak of their form is of course to undermine the concept of athlete and indeed form. Nevertheless, with a joint experience at the pool table of more than a century, expectations were high. This was a match awaited for more than 50 years.
As the time for the fixture drew close, the opponents stared into each other’s eyes, like gunfighters looking for signs of weakness – that fatal twitch or blink of an eye. Like Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef, the two gunfighters sized each other up. As Stamford nervously sipped his half of Coronation Ale, Farr, the champ gave nothing away. Slight shake perhaps as he lifted the dregs of his tomato juice to his lips. You could cut the tension with a butter knife.
In normal circumstances, a gigantic partisan crowd would assemble, with klaxons, rattles, smoke grenades and so on, all those symbols of partisanshipship. With the failure of BT sport and Sky to reach agreement on broadcast fees, the match was in the end fought out under closed conditions with occasional visits and advice from Monsieur Will, a local Michelin starred chef.
There was controversy from the first. Neither contestant had any coins. Despite the huge depth of talent and experience on offer, neither combatant had actually entertained the idea that they might have to actually pay for this. For one fleeting moment the fixture hung in the balance. Fortunately a sponsorship deal was quickly assembled when Will, after briefly rummaging around for loose change stumbled across some pound coins in a plastic bag. Relief all round, the fixture would go ahead.
Friendship would be cast aside in the war that was to follow. This was no longer a brief interlude between lunch and tea time. This was, in sporting terms, The Somme, Gettysburg, Agincourt and Waterloo all rolled into one. Two hours and an unbelievable three frames later, the warriors emerged, blinking into the light.
these were games that, in a very real sense, had redefined the way the game is played. So many foul strokes, open pockets, miscues and complete misses were registered that neither player came to the table with only a single shot on offer. Time after time, the competitors would set up a part with their first shot only to then throwaway the advantage with a baize ripping miscue.
The afternoon wore on. And on. And on. Whilst most of the spectators were praying for rain, the pool itself had collapsed into trench warfare, with long wearying gaps between legal shots. It was like the siege of Vicksburg all over again. Night began to fall. Or at least it felt like that. Eventually, a result was declared. The champion returned to the pub for a celebratory tomato juice. The challenger licked his wounds with a small Diet Coke.
“You took how long to play the frame?” said Lady Eleanor, the Aphrodite of the alehouse, making no effort to hide her incredulity. I prefer to think of it as a tactical war of attrition. I suspect I am in a minority here.
Of course such pinnacles of sporting achievement are never allowed to rest. As Mohammed Ali found out, there is always one more Thriller in Manila or Rumble in the Jungle.
But, in our case, it’s probably indigestion.