In this week’s issue of The New Yorker, Sam Knight profiles the great, and fairly unstable, British snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan. It’s a great read, not least because Damien Hirst, who is a snooker aficionado, makes a guest appearance to talk about O’Sullivan, with whom he’s been friends for years.
Here’s the relevant passage:
Damien Hirst, the artist, is fascinated by snooker: the promise of its seemingly straight lines, “the grid over the landscape,” as he calls it, and the struggle of the players caught up in its geometry. Hirst is close friends with O’Sullivan and often accompanies him to tournaments. When we met, I asked Hirst if he thought O’Sullivan was afraid of the future and of what would happen when his talent eventually faded. “I think he’s scared of everything,” Hirst said. “That’s his beauty—that he is absolutely shitting himself. Do you know what I mean? He doesn’t know what the fuck is going on.”
Hirst seems to be spending a lot of time worrying about O’Sullivan’s game. Last year he told The Independent:
It has been up and down like a yo-yo for Ronnie this year…Ronnie used to go on about his negativity and I’d be the positive one, but he’s got me being negative now. I think I’m more worried about his cue tip than anything else, which was giving him problems. I used to think all that was in his head but now it’s in my head, so I’m not so sure.
As some readers may recall, Hirst was playing snooker as $127.2 million of his art sold in a single evening sale at Sotheby’s in September 2008, just after Lehman Brothers had filed for bankruptcy. His partner that night was none other than O’Sullivan. As the sportsman recounted in a 2013 interview with The Daily Mail: “After an hour-and-a-half he finished with £111m. My head was gone. To be fair, so was his.”