Rivalry is the stuff of sport, certainly in the newspapers where slanging matches, particularly in the football world, fill many a column inch.
Neil Robertson commented last year that he thought snooker players were too friendly with each other. Of course, some are more friendly than others.
It’s 20 years now since Alex Higgins threatened – within earshot of the then WPBSA chairman John Spencer – to have Dennis Taylor shot if he ever went back to Northern Ireland.
They were team mates in the World Cup at the time.
More recently, we’ve had Stephen Maguire and Shaun Murphy opting not to become Facebook friends and Graeme Dott and Ian McCulloch not exactly planning to team up for the World Doubles.
Much has been made this week of the rivalry between Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Selby in the wake of their Pokerstars.com Masters final.
I think O’Sullivan was mainly down on himself, not Selby, but he did appear to get wound up towards the end.
In the penultimate frame, O’Sullivan fluked a snooker. The camera did not pan to Selby but he presumably smiled, as if to say, ‘that was lucky.’ O’Sullivan’s response was, ‘How can you moan?’ as if Selby was the luckiest player who ever lived.
In the heat of battle – and it was some battle – such things do, from time to time, get said, although Selby wasn’t overly impressed.
Answering questions on the Eurosport website today, he said: “I suppose it is true that there were times in the match when we both had the run of the balls, but I didn’t think it was the right time for him to be making such a statement.”
However, Selby isn’t the sort to lose his rag and seeing O’Sullivan begin to crack probably gave him confidence rather than put him under pressure.
Not everyone thought O’Sullivan conducted himself well at the post match interview but this was mere seconds after a very disappointing defeat and I believe he should be cut some slack.
It wasn’t a bit of fun, it was a major final. Steve Davis could memorably barely utter a word after losing to Dennis Taylor in the 1985 world final. It’s hard to say the right things when you are completely devastated.
O’Sullivan left the arena before Selby received his trophy. This was wrong. He should have stayed for a few more minutes.
“I’d like to think I would have shown a little bit more respect at the end. We are paid to play in these events, that's our job, and if Ronnie had won I would have stayed to applaud him,” Selby told Eurosport.
In the press conference that followed O’Sullivan suggested Selby would struggle to win the world title because of his inconsistency, which he compared to his own game.
“I think I'll take what he said as compliment,” was Selby’s verdict on this.
“For me Ronnie is among the top two or three greatest players to have played the game, I have massive respect for him as a player, and if he is putting me in a similar position to him, then, as I said, I'll take it as a big compliment. When it comes to my game, I don't mind having the same problems as him.”
I’m not sure it was meant as a compliment but Selby is right not to dwell on it.
Such is the stuff of sport. I remember Stephen Hendry losing to Mark Johnston-Allen (who beat him three times out of three) and then saying he shouldn’t even have been in the same room as him.
He later apologised to Mark, who found the whole thing hilarious.
The fact is, things get said in the heat of the moment, usually after a disappointing defeat.
If we want our sportsmen and women to be human, we should accept that they will, at times, be brutally honest and just say what is on their mind.
Surely this is better than bland PR epithets, even if their comments do sometimes leave a sour taste in the mouth.