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Stick History

from Nautilus

The Stick Is an Unsung Hero of Human Evolution

Stone’s silent sister in the archaeological record.


In April 1997, at the snooker world championship held at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, Ronnie O’Sullivan stepped up to the table to play a frame in what was expected to be a routine victory in his first-round match against Mick Price. What happened in the next 5 minutes and 20 seconds sent shock waves through the world of snooker and ripples of respect through the wider world of professional sport. To the uninitiated, there is a sequence of 36 balls that must be potted in order to achieve the highest score possible in a frame: 147—what aficionados call a “maximum break.” Up until 1997, this had been achieved in official competition snooker on a handful of occasions, in a sport that had effectively turned professional in the late 1960s. It was only a matter of time before the gifted O’Sullivan scored his first competition 147, but it was the manner in which he did it that created such a stir. As he glided around the table he played with a pace and confidence that belied his 21 years. A man at one with the stick in his hands and in a trancelike engagement with his art, he was demonstrably thinking four or five shots ahead and, in playing with such fluidity of movement, O’Sullivan had found a new zone within which the game could be played.

It may seem crude, but to put the achievement into context, it can be compared on pure financial terms with other sports. For a frame that lasted a mere 320 seconds, O’Sullivan was awarded bonus prize money of £165,000. Few can brag that they’ve ever earned £515.63 per second for the work they do—especially at such a tender age. At its most basic, he makes his money with a length of polished wood and a lump of chalk. For many people, earnings aside, O’Sullivan’s feat ranks among the very best sporting achievements in the world. But for me, it’s a celebration of mankind’s perfection at stick usage: a poetically beautiful combination of craft, genius, nerve, and swagger.

[ click to continue reading at Nautilus ]

Posted on January 11, 2018 by Editor

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