The Blog

Will the Real John Virgo Please Shut Up?

I don't like John Virgo because, in my opinion, he is the complete and utter antithesis of what a quality snooker commentator should be all about.

This might seem a little inflammatory for some of you, but I really don't like John Virgo.

And before you start, it's not because he's a Manchester United supporter or the fact that, even in his later years, he could probably still slaughter me in a game of snooker (only just mind).

No, I don't like John Virgo because, in my opinion, he is the complete and utter antithesis of what a quality snooker commentator should be all about.

I have been watching and playing snooker ever since I could pick up a cue. I had my first century break when I was around 13-14 years old (admittedly on a small table), I came runner-up in the Lancashire under 19's snooker championships when I was 17 and I have been an impassioned and fervent student of the game for all of my life; so I feel like I can be something of an authority on this subject.

What Virgo seemingly fails to grasp, is what the late, great cricket commentator Richie Benaud (RIP) would undoubtedly have called 'the importance of silence', or as I like to call it, KNOWING WHEN TO KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT.

He just doesn't get it!

His now, sadly infamous - "Where's the cue-ball going?" - catchphrase grinds my gears so much that I have started to mute the sound if there is ever a time when the white ball goes near a pocket; it's just becoming too much for me.

It's almost as if his entire day, and ultimately his existence, is based around waiting for that very moment to happen, and frankly, it's getting beyond a joke now; and it wasn't even funny in the first place!

I know he is probably well liked by many people in the snooker community, but I also know that there are a number of fans (ok, most of my mates) that feel as I do - it's high time he hung up the mic and took up gardening or grouse-shooting or something.

I know that might sound harsh, but...

Back when I was a kid we had whispering Ted Lowe, Jim Meadowcroft and Clive Everton describing the action on the baize, and they were ultimate professionals in their field, consummate, unassuming and reserved at the microphone.

They understood how to encapsulate the drama of the game of snooker, how to manipulate the viewer into thinking that what they were watching was the single, greatest and most important event of that very moment - nothing mattered more when they were describing the action.

You never heard any of them shouting and screaming about the white ball going in (and the white is almost inevitably going to be potted at some point, its snooker, that happens!), they just got on with their jobs and let the sport itself do the talking.

But still, with these great men as commentary forebears, Virgo persists.

Still I hear that all too familiar intake of breath, just before he expels those words from his ample chops - "Where's the cue-ball going?" - I could tell you where I would like to put the cue-ball, but I am trying to remain calm and polite in the face of this insufferable annoyance.

I can't believe that this guy has been commentating at the BBC for the best part of 20 years or more and not a single producer in that time has had the gumption to tell him to stop doing it.

So, in light of their failure to reign him in, that's what I am doing right now.

John, I beg you, if you must continue to commentate on the game that I love so much, please refrain from those basic banalities that just fill the air. I know that, as a Salford lad, the only thing more important than the sound of your own voice, is the sound of your own voice being heard by millions of people.

But let's be honest now, there's a new generation of actual snooker greats - Hendry, Doherty, et al - who could do a far better job of telling us where a ball is going than you could and they actually speak from experience when doing so.

Yes you did win the UK Championship in 1979, but it wasn't even a ranking title back then was it?


It wasn't.

So let's face up to the truth.

It's time you peeled yourself out of the seat you've been allowed to get too comfortable in for too long, let the younger, fresher and far less irritating generation have a go at those commentating chops, and kicked back in a bar on the Quays with a pint of Boddies.

Where's the cue-ball going?

Hopefully the retirement home!

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