Never lacking in unpredictable characters, snooker could– with some justification– advertise itself as the sport that ‘bad boys’ play.
Perhaps the most iconic of the game’s tortured geniuses are Alex Higgins, Jimmy White and Ronnie O’Sullivan and on Sunday morning, shortly before the 2017 Masters kicks off, BBC Two is broadcasting a documentary celebrating the lives of these three mavericks.
One maverick who will not feature heavily in the programme is Kirk Stevens– the white-suited Canadian who, in 1984, made the first-ever maximum break at the Masters.
In Jimmy White, Stevens’ famous 147 could hardly have been against a more talented opponent.
But away from the table, White and Stevens were both suffering from the same problem.
“Stevens liked drugs as an alcoholic usually likes drinking,” wrote Clive Everton in ‘Black Farce and Cue Ball Wizards’, his 2007 book.
Although addicted to cocaine since the age of 19, it wasn’t until after the 1985 British Open, when Stevens was 26 years old, that his problem was forced above the surface.
Clive Everton outlines events in his book:
“(During the 1985 British Open Final) Francisco (Stevens’ opponent) became convinced that Stevens was on drugs, a possibility to which he might have been alerted by living in a flat near the one that Stevens had in Chesterfield.
“He protested to the tournament’s director, Paul Hatherell, after the second of the final’s three sessions. No action was taken, so the following afternoon, between frames, he followed Stevens to the toilet and confronted him.”
The story made the papers, but Stevens escaped punishment.
Six weeks later, he admitted to a newspaper that he had a problem. It was so bad, he said, that in a six-year stretch he had spent £250,000 on cocaine.
His addiction was so plainly destructive that, on one occasion, the wretched sight of him was enough for Jimmy White to ditch his own cocaine habit.
Although Stevens never won a ranking event, he reached an impressive peak of no.4 in the world rankings and twice made the semi-finals at the Crucible (1980, 1984)– the earlier of which saw him make history as the youngest player to reach that stage of the event.
What heights would Stevens have reached if he had not been plagued by addiction?