Glowing BBC tribute puts Sheffield, Crucible and snooker on world stage

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It’s one of the greatest love letters in the city’s history.

The BBC’s homage to snooker, the Crucible and to Sheffield glimpsed again after Sunday night’s opening session of the final is as warm a tribute to a sport, venue and city as there has ever been.

Of course the BBC, as the broadcaster of the world championships, is also blowing its own trumpet in its tribute, which might wear on some.

But to be fair, they do it brilliantly.

From early-hours audiences of 18 million in 1985 to having Sheffield rapper Coco introduce the final on Sunday night with a Sheffield and snooker version of his Big And Serious song, the BBC has helped build snooker into the fabric of the city.

Even the erudite and the educated fall for its whispering allure. Stephen Fry, polymath, jester and baize-lover speaks of the intensity of the Crucible and the heroic ‘dialectic’ of snooker:

“It is one of the great sporting arenas,” says Fry. “It is there with Wimbledon, Augusta

for the Masters, Yankee Stadium. It is the one.”

Hooked like the rest of us by Alex Higgins primal urgency and the characters of the 70s and 80s Fry is smitten by the colour and magnetism of a drama that still manages to keep one foot in its mis-spent past.

Brought to The Crucible almost on a whim by Chesterfield promoter Mike Watterson in 1977 it never grows old.

When the TV vans arrive, there’s a buzz. When the screens go up in Tudor Square and the tables appear in the Winter Garden it’s something special.

Catching a glimpse of Hazel Irvine in Marks and Spencers, Steve Davis on Fargate or John Parrot in Staniforth’s Bakers will always be a thrill.

As the lovely Hazel says: “You get fantastic drama at the world championship. It’s hard to describe the claustrophobia of that little arena and all the history.” Quite.

Like the man said snooker at the Crucible in Sheffield is big and serious.

Six-times world champion Steve Davis reckons playing there is like a trip to the dentist, your first driving test and first job interview rolled into one.

For us it’s the opposite.Where else in the world goes from the most intense silence to complete pandemonium in the single click of a ball.

Unique, emotional, irreplaceable and 100 per cent Sheffield.