There were many reasons why snooker found itself as one of the most popular attractions on British television in the 1980s.
There were only three channels until 1982 when Channel 4 launched and despite what people would have you believe it wasn’t all wall-to-wall Fawlty Towers and Boys from the Black Stuff: there was as much rubbish then as there is now.
There was no internet or DVDs. Videos were becoming popular but television had a power that it has perhaps lost in the digital age.
Snooker was cheap to produce and offered up late night drama in the days when you could easily avoid the scores before the highlights came on.
But it was the varied cast of characters that really made snooker such a success. Like a soap opera there were heroes and villains, people you could root for and those who you wished would fall under a bus.
Snooker is still like this but the game is now a profession, largely due to the way the circuit was built in the 1980s.
Prior to this, players made their money on the exhibition circuit, where they slogged around the country trying to earn a living.
For this, they had to develop their personalities. They had to tell jokes and do trick-shots and everything they could to get asked back.
Many of them never lost that knack for entertaining off the table: Dennis Taylor and Willie Thorne for instance are both great value doing after dinner speeches and on corporate occasions.
When they started playing, there was no issue of there being “too many” tournaments. There was the World Championship and the odd event here or there, mostly for paltry prize money.
Alex Higgins earned less than £500 for winning the 1972 world title but he more than anyone had the sort of charisma that helped lead to snooker’s rise and rise.
With Higgins, you not only got exciting snooker but also an atmosphere of threat, the feeling that anything could kick-off at any moment.
I heard a story that Alex did an exhibition at which a famous racehorse was brought in so they could pose for pictures, the Hurricane being a very keen follower of racing.
Except, he decided to leap on the horse’s back, which startled it to the extent that it defecated all over the floor. Higgins wasn’t asked back.
Exhibitions were often fraught affairs. Fred Davis turned up at one once and asked where the table was. The promoter replied: “we thought you’d bring it with you.”
The laconic John Pulman had a bad experience at an exhibition which resulted in some name calling.
“Who called the organiser a c***?” someone angrily demanded.
Pulman responded: “Who called the c*** an organiser?”
Many exhibitions were held in holiday camps where there was a captive audience of holidaymakers looking to be entertained.
From this, Ted Lowe helped to found the Pontin’s festival of snooker in Prestatyn, which at its height attracted all of snooker’s biggest names as well as many plucky amateurs and juniors.
When Steve Davis started to become successful he ventured out on the exhibition circuit and it proved to be very lucrative for him. He’s still great value now, playing up his deadpan ‘interesting’ image.
Today’s top players don’t need to do exhibitions to top up their tournament earnings but they still happen.
Jimmy White does plenty and always seems to play great in them, and last weekend Judd Trump did some in Ireland.
Jason Francis has made a success of the Snooker Legends tour, featuring some of those names who began on the exhibition road in the 1970s and are still entertaining audiences 40 years on.
Exhibitions are fun and show audiences a different side to a player’s personality but they should only ever serve as an sideshow to professional snooker.
When Joe Davis retired in 1946 he still played regularly and this diminished the World Championship because everyone knew the best player in the game wasn’t playing in it.
Trump and Ding Junhui have elected not to play in the new Brazilian Masters but instead take part in a televised exhibition in China.
I find it hard to believe World Snooker will sanction this because it is a very dangerous precedent at a time where the governing body is trying to build a global calendar.
Snooker is a less innocent sport since money came into it and began to influence virtually every decision.
But that’s life and there’s no point complaining about it. Snooker has attracted millions over the years because, as a product, it has proven itself to be popular.
It has grown to a level the guys of the 1970s, driving up another motorway to undertake an exhibition engagement, could scarcely have believed was possible.
They deserve credit and thanks for helping to make that happen.
EDIT: Since posting this yesterday, Trump's management have got in touch and asked to make the following two points:
1. The Chinese event is a promotional event to promote the game in one of the poorer underserved regions of China. Judd is keen to help promote the game's profile and was delighted to have been asked.
2. When Judd agreed to do this, we were aware of the Brazilian event but Judd was outside the top 16 and did not expect to have such a big leap so quickly. Crucially if Judd had not reached the final of the WSC he may not have received an invite to Brazil at all.