It is a bit odd to have a posting on a blog about academic quilting about snooker, but watching Ronnie O’Sullivan winning the world championship over the weekend made me think a lot about creativity.
I watch snooker mainly, I think, because I used to watch it with my dad, but a lot of the reason why I continue to watch it avidly is because of the creative genius of Ronnie O’Sullivan. You have to watch it for hours, and then suddenly he takes off and plays this wonderful delicate, deft, light-touched snooker which defies belief. It is beautiful and flowing and elegant. He makes a very tricky game look like anyone could do it. It is effortless. The very definition of glamour as I posted about previously. But Ronnie is particularly interesting because he is in the stereotype of the tortured genius. Most of the time he is playing himself, and I think that has a lot in common with us lone stitchers. We get bored if there are no challenges and so we provide them for ourselves. What if I did it this way? What happens if you heat it, or cover it with paint, or put a gauze over it? Other people might coo over what we make but we are dissatisfied and so we go on to make another piece which we hope will be better. There are quilters who just want to produce a nice bed quilt and that’s fine, but the most interesting work comes from the people who ask questions like, what would happen if I put a splash of turquoise or cerise or lime or all three in this? People who want to be expressive and push themselves to do better. Ronnie comes off the table having made a wonderful score and played dazzling snooker and he says he doesn’t feel he has played well at all. He isn’t being falsely modest, he genuinely sees where he could have done better.
The other reason I love him is because he is unafraid to talk about his experience of therapy, his depression, and how much he loves his son and daughter. A highly successful sportsman prepared to cradle and kiss his son while being interviewed after two weeks of competition seems to me to be a much better role model than our footballing fraternity with its drinking, fighting and casual misogyny. And I love the dashing side of him – always prepared to take a risk to win, and the world-weary and bored-to-death side of him. Sometimes the thing you love can turn boring for no apparent reason. And then it becomes viscerally exciting again. Ronnie knows that feeling very well.
Ronnie O’Sullivan is talking about retiring at the top. Even if he went tomorrow, he would have given more that his fair share of delight. If you want to see the equivalent of the best silk pile velvet in action there is plenty of film of him available on You Tube.