Seeking a sporting fixture to cocoon yourself in the 1980s? Tune in to the world snooker championship.

Sky Television has provided a pop-up channel of the action at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre from April 15 to May 1, the hosting venue since 1977.

Times have changed. The carpet is now crimson rather than khaki; Whispering Ted Lowe has long exited the commentary box; and Bill Werbeniuk is not guzzling pints between shots (he got permission via a medical certificate to control a "benign tremor" in his hand).

Yet familiar themes remained during defending champion Mark Selby's dispatch of qualifier Fergal O'Brien 10-2 in round one's opening match. Bow ties are an ornamental ritual; the baize stays verdant; and the guy in the Coventry City football shirt - Brian Wright - is anchored in the front row, as he has been for 23 years (his presence has been described as "deja cue").


Snooker is a craft which has elegance, tradition and tangibility. The premise of potting balls is simple, the game provides a ready-made carpet to socialise around, and most people can play, albeit without the refined motor skills of the pros.

As a television spectacle, the pinnacle of the snooker year is a savannah for sports fans in a jungle of footballing codes. Demand exceeds supply, making it something to savour each Kiwi autumn.

The sport's vocabulary is mellifluous, too. Words like "cannon", "cushion" and "cueing" pepper the lexicon. Commentators generally allow the coverage to breathe rather than getting breathless about every shot. The reassuring kiss of the white on a red or a colour does the talking.

Lowe excelled at this. When Steve Davis missed the black at 17-17 in the 35th frame to give Dennis Taylor a chance to win the 1985 world championship at 12.23am, the late commentator uttered one upward-inflected word - "No?" Taylor composed himself, leaned forward in his upside-down glasses and completed the pot.

That match, played in front of 18.5 million British viewers, showcased the era. New Zealanders were drawn to footage of Pot Black in record numbers.

Players' panache, control and strategising make snooker ripe for binge viewing, albeit framed in nostalgia that can transport you back a generation to suppers of clinking balls and cheese on toast before bed.