It seems unfair to record that Alex Hurricane Higgins appears to have passed away in his sleep. If ever there was a man who required a blaze of glory for his final moments it was Higgins. A quiet end doesn't seem to fit.
The tributes have poured in for the unhinged Ulsterman since he died at the weekend. Very few of his colleagues can have had any feelings of comradeship for a man whose career petered out in a whirl of excuses and blame for everyone else and apparently very little acknowledgement of his own frailties. Even as cancer treatment turned his teeth to powder and his tiny frame resembled nothing so much as a cue-wielding Gollum, he was still suggesting a comeback was on the cards.
What his fellow pros cannot deny of course is that before the Hurricane, snooker was sedate, sleepy and seldom watched. The first World final Higgins won was by 37-32. It wasn't so much a sporting showpiece as a feat of endurance (for the audience especially).
Alex wasn't called the Hurricane for nothing. People'll tell you it's cos of the miraculous pace of his play, but I think it's because after he'd passed through Snooker Town a lot of genteel cosy types had to put all the furniture back and rebuild the game with him at the forefront of their minds.
When I first picked up a cue in a snooker hall, and somehow found my way through the half-midday hum of beer and fug of fags to the top of a table, I wasn't reckoning on myself being Ray Reardon. I couldn't see me as middle-aged, methodical, relaxed. Nah, I wanted to be a twitchy little firecracker freak, scuttling around the table like I was doing the 20km walk in double-quick time, lining up shots like Shere Khan on the pounce, following through like I was running a cutlass through some salty sea dog.
And more than that, making a white ball behave like the tip of my cue had its soul at its mercy. They can all do it now, fizz it off the top cush, screw it back so hard that the thing flies up the table like a scalded cat. But until Higgins it wasn't seen.
The oft-quoted break against Jimmy White in '82 is still the best 69 I've ever seen -maybe I should get out more. He was so much agaiinst the wall, he was almost through it. The Whirlwind, a monosyllabic genius with all Higgins's brilliance and most of his human weaknesses was in position to don his mentor's fedora and stride off into the snooker sunset. One mistake and the Hurricane was nowt but a nostalgic breeze.
And yet Higgins mustered shot after shot of unparalleled magnificence. Think the Nadal-Federer final two years ago. It was like that. Never was the cue-ball at his mercy when I think about it. He was always willing it to do his bidding against its better judgement.
It was as if Butch and Sundance had escaped after that still-frame at the end of the movie. As if the Titanic had swerved left and slipped the iceberg. As if Frank Lampard's goal against Germany had stood and our boys had rescued triumph from utter indignity. (I include that to give our younger reader a sense of how it felt).
Of course Higgins had by then styled himself as the People's Champion, which was audacious but just about merited when you considered the dour buggers grinding away like overladen freighttrains all around him: Griffiths, Charlton, Reardon; and Thorburn, who beat him a few years before in the World final and was the utter flipside of Higgins: slow, inevitable, sleep-inducing; snooker morphine.
Of course the People saw what they loved in their champion, complete with 1982's award ceremony that saw Alex with a trophy in one arm and a baby in the other, like the sportsman who had it all. (It may well be that he inspired other nefarious characters to offset their public personas with images of perfect Dad-dom. Think Wisey, or JT, getting their chavved-up selves draped in kids on Cup Final day... are you coughing up a bit of last night's lager and beer nuts too?)
He was lovable. Why even his hot temper, his nap hand of addictions and his colourful late-night antics were all part of the charm. He was George Best in a waistcoat.
Truth is Higgins nutted and punched his way through a few officials, smashed a couple of urine samples along the way and probably a few tormented a number of lasses along the way. The notorious tirade at Dennis Taylor after a UK Championship defeat, when he threatened to get one of the least intimidating people on God's green earth shot if he went back to Ulster, must go down as one of his lowest professional moments. I mean that's like pointing a pop-gun into the eye of a kitten.
And yet there are hundreds of instances of gestures of kindness too. Although these grew less frequent as he got older and iller. Like Geri Halliwell he could barely hold a note (without losing it on the back of some lame nag or other) and in later years was sustained by the hand-outs of ex-colleagues and forgiving friends.
His story does look worryingly like the tale of a death foretold when you glance over at, say, one Paul Gascoigne - a similarly gaunt, delusional addict, talent oozing from his pores and bats flying round his belfry.
His track record would not suggest he was on a par with any of the true greats of the game - Davis, Hendry, O'Sullivan - and yet there has never been a cue-wielder that quite lit up a living room like Higgins.
They'll always tell you that snooker's rise was linked with the arrival of the colour telly but I reckon that when the Hurricane was on the box the rest of them still looked like they were playing in black and white.