Individual sports are littered with household names from the United States who have achieved legendary status in their chosen profession. From Serena Williams to Tiger Woods via Pete Sampras, Jack Nicklaus and Michael Johnson, it is not just the team pursuits of American football, basketball and baseball that captivate audiences.
Not all activities that require somebody to step out on their own have been fully embraced, though, with some events that just do not resonate with performers and a general public that already boast plenty to keep them entertained.
Getting some practice in. See you all tomorrow! pic.twitter.com/jW3YzMPXdH
— Ronnie O’Sullivan (@ronnieo147) January 10, 2022
Darts has started to break down a few barriers, with major tournaments being staged on US soil, but the same cannot be said when competition swaps flights and tungsten for wooden cues and chalk.
There are as many star names to be found in snooker circles as any other pastime, with some iconic figures having taken to the baize down the years. One of those, Ronnie O’Sullivan, is already heavily fancied at +400 in snooker betting to claim a history-making eighth World Championship crown in 2023.
He could be considered one of the sport’s all-time greats, but few in the USA will have heard of him or be fully aware of what he can do in one of the most challenging games of skill around. That is because knocking multi-colored balls around a green table is not an idea of fun to most Americans.
Canada has dabbled a little more than their neighbors to the south, with Cliff Thorburn becoming a two-time world champion in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but success such as that has tended to be an exception to the norm.
Why is that? Barry Hearn, the president of the World Snooker Tour, has said of struggles to get a US audience on-side: “The American psyche is all about results and crash, bang, wallop. Do they have the ability to appreciate something that takes time and is cultured? An American audience would never understand why a semi-final takes three days. Some sports don’t translate to other countries and you have to accept that.”
He makes a valid point, with there seemingly little point in snooker’s governing body attempting to crack America. Cue games can be found in the region, with pool boasting a lively following and the cross-continental Mosconi Cup competition, but that is where interest tends to begin and end.
Snooker great Steve Davis argues over the pool rules with Jim Rempe at the 1999 Mosconi Cup at London’s York Hall. pic.twitter.com/TGtSHpso0Z
— Snooker Memories (@SnookerMemories) February 19, 2015
Throughout the long and distinguished history of snooker, no American has ever broken into the top 100 when it comes to the men’s world rankings. Jim Rempe came the closest to claiming a notable record in 1987-88, but the pocket billiards icon topped out at 101 after posting a personal best return of reaching the last-64 at the World Championships while becoming the only man from his country to record a century break in professional competition.
With there no role models to be found at the very highest level, meaning that little inspiration is offered to the next generation, it appears unlikely that snooker’s standing in the States will change any time soon. It may, however, require just one person to break through a glass ceiling in order for general opinion to shift dramatically.