Rocket Ronnie snookered by fixing row but sport still in the frame
‘It doesn’t matter what I believe, it only matters what I can prove’
Ronnie O’Sullivan: climbdown to Barry Hearn over tweets
Ronnie O’Sullivan has found out the embarrassing way how a rock ’n’roll “calling it as I see it” attitude is all very well when propping up Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood, but it doesn’t insulate you from the consequences of goading authority.
Ronnie O’s climbdown to snooker supremo Barry Hearn over those “I’ve heard there are many players out there throwing matches . . . I just love putting it out there . . . nothing like a bit of transparency, no need to worry if you’ve nothing to hide . . . no free speech” tweets was as inevitable as a Woody bum note.
And of course those original comments on the back of Stephen Lee’s match-fixing were outrageous, scurrilous, all very tut-tut. What was he thinking, tarnishing everyone?
And they were all of that, and more, but what they were mostly was naive. You see, what O’Sullivan has now learned is what every callow hack quickly finds out when standing at the crossroads of putting stuff out to the public, or taking a detour to the High Court.
Tom Cruise, of all people, put it best when playing a shiny lawyer in A Few Good Men: “It doesn’t matter what I believe, it only matters what I can prove.”
And in a game where it requires only a fraction of a millimetre or an imperceptible twitch to make the ball deviate crucially, the futility of trying to back up an argument based on “I’ve heard . . . ” was all over O’Sullivan’s subsequent grovelling retraction.
All of which doesn’t mean Ronnie was delusional in his original belief, or still doesn’t possess it, just that he can’t prove it. And he’s hardly alone in that.
Anyone with even the vaguest connection to a sport knows about less than savoury realities which pulse underneath the officially pristine surface. It can go from petty cynicism on a GAA field, which of course everybody knows is not systematic, to the big lie of international athletics where everybody knows officialdom is one hundred per cent resolutely not complicit in turning a blind eye to doping.
Indeed just as we can be sure racehorses are not pulled, tennis players are not motoring on anything bar unleaded, and footballers are not being disingenuous when kissing the jersey, we can also be sure the truth will eventually out. To suggest otherwise would be to throw around irresponsible and groundless allegations, your honour.
However, just as in doping, it is commonly accepted that when it comes to match-fixing, it is mostly stupidity that eventually catches people out. Lee appears to have been particularly stupid during his dabble with easy cash. Money was actually paid into his wife’s account, which must rank pretty high on the stupidity scale, and suggests we’re hardly dealing with a criminal mastermind here.
Maybe that will prove a mitigating factor when he finds out the extent of his punishment from the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association.