icWales - Snooker: Cue much embarrassment!
: "Snooker: Cue much embarrassment!Nov 18 2006
Darren Witcoop, South Wales Echo
'come down to Rileys at 7pm and we'll have a game of pool.'
That was the challenge thrown down to me by none other than Jimmy White.
So I did, and as I entered the recently refurbished American Pool and Snooker Club, I realised I would be playing the man known as The Whirlwind.
Just what exactly was I putting myself through?
To be invited to play against the green baize legend that is Jimmy White is one thing."
But to face him in a frame alongside 200 watching spectators is another.
Granted, it may not be the Crucible, but any sizeable crowd is enough to unnerve a young rookie in any game.
So once the six-time World Championship finalist had done with the dignitaries, I was first up on the list to face Jimmy at Cardiff's City Road complex.
I was introduced by the compere and amid a small group of hecklers was about to face one of the most nerve-wrecking experiences of my life.
A few thoughts went through my head. Don't tense up and don't show your nerves.
But it was the blunt message of a friend of mine, who I have had many battles with over pub pool tables down the years, that kept flashing in front of my eyes.
He said: 'Whatever you do, don't miss the balls.' It seemed simple - or so I'd thought.
The cool persona which I try to present had clearly deserted me as my clammy bridge hand touched the table.
And there it was, a fluid pull back of the pool cue - and the white ball bounced, bounced, and bounced off the side of the table and on to the floor.
Cue howls of laughter.
A clearly red-faced journalist told Jimmy and the crowd it was a practice trick shot, it was all show for the cameras.
I think they all knew better.
Fortunately the second break-off attempt, by which time I was reaching record levels of perspiration, went according to plan.
By that, I mean I hit the ball and with ironic cheers that greeted it, I was off and running. After potting two red balls in succession, my confidence soared. Could I really beat the godfather of the current snooker generation?
The 44-year-old is regarded as the best ever player not to lift the world crown.
So could he fail again?
Well, actually no.
After a natural miss by yours truly, White came along and finished me off before I could get back to the table.
Two minutes later and after a handshake and a wry smile, it was all over.
'I wouldn't worry about the break,' said White, referring to my embarrassing first shot error as he tried to cheer me up afterwards.
'In fact, I've seen a lot worse on the circuit over the years.'
Somehow, I think he was being a little kind.
We are offering 10 readers the chance to win a free 12-month membership with Rileys American Pool and Snooker Club on City Road.
Just answer this simple question: What is Jimmy White's nickname?
The closing date is on Friday, November 24. Usual terms and conditions apply. Send your answers via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or alternatively by post to: Darren Witcoop, South Wales Echo, Sports Desk, Thomson House, Havelock Street, Cardiff CF10 1XR