Bonus Bafflement

Jenny Diski

I know nothing about snooker, but the other week I noticed that someone called Ronnie O'Sullivan almost refused to pot the final black in a maximum break (whatever that means) because there wasn't a decent bonus for doing so. Previously he would have got £147,000 but it's been dropped because it can't be insured against any more since the maximum break thing is too common an occurrence. So O'Sullivan would only have got an extra £4000 which he'd already won for the highest break (whatever that means). He said it wasn't worth the effort, especially once he'd paid tax on it. £25,000 would have been OK, apparently, at least he could have bought himself a holiday. Now he's saying that everyone has misunderstood him and it's not about the money, it's a matter of principle. But isn't it sort of odd to expect to get an extra prize for something you've already won a prize for?

Or am I confusing snooker players with bankers? 'It seems that the wave of public anger towards bank bonuses may be ebbing a little,' according to Benjamin Williams of the Centre for Economics and Business Research. Because of the new tax rate for incomes over £150,000, it seems that of the nearly £7 billion likely to be dished out in bankers' bonuses this year, £4.1 billion is going to government and only £3.8 billion goes to city workers after tax. I feel much more relaxed about that, and it makes Ronnie O'Sullivan's holiday requirements look like a Butlin's budget getaway.


  • 5 October 2010 at 1:51pm
    Joe Morison says:
    The attitude of the very rich towards money seems strange, i find it particularly odd the way so many celebrities who earn more in a year than most of us will in lifetime debase themselves by doing adverts (Stephen Fry is a particularly egregious example) - i suppose it's because they feel the need to keep up with their even richer friends. In other words, it's all relative; those billions who live on $2 a day or less probably see not much difference between those who earn £40,000 a year and those who earn £4 million.

    • 5 October 2010 at 3:09pm
      pinhut says: @ Joe Morison
      The only difference, it would seem, is that those on 40k apparently can't live without child benefit!

  • 5 October 2010 at 2:50pm
    Geoff Roberts says:
    Ah, now you will be given the inside story by a snooker bore - what's worse, an O'Sullivan bore. The maximum break (do you want to know what that is? I thought not.) is a huge achievment for a snooker player, a bit like winning the Booker prize, say, or being on the short list. O'Sullivan has probably made more maximum breaks than anyone else (I think) including one in about five minutes - that's fifteen reds, each followed by a black,(total 120 points) plus the other colours = 147. That's 36 pots, or one every 10 seconds. (If you're now interested, take a look - it's on You Tube) I did warn you, if you are still with me.
    Now, to take an analogy from another part of the planet, if bankers were given, say 500 Quid as their annual bonus, wouldn't they rightly be quite upset? Ronnie is a genius and when he plays it's always a cliff hanger to the spectators as he goes from the sublime to the very ordinary. When he's good he's absolutely brilliant, but when he's bad he'll simply stop playing, concede the game, go home and brood. The stopping at 140 was his ironic comment on the way the game is administered. But that's another story.

    • 5 October 2010 at 3:08pm
      pinhut says: @ Geoff Roberts
      Ha, I'm a huge snooker fan, too. O'Sullivan's point would go something like this:

      1) a highest break of less than 147 is nothing special
      2) a 147, on the other hand, despite their happening now and then, remains something special, particularly for the crowd who happen to be there to witness it in person.

      Therefore, why should point 2 not be recognised with some extra amount of prize money? Otherwise, seeing as he had already scored 140 (a total unlikely to be beaten, and, besides, only going to cost him 4k), why not just down tools (in this instance, a cue) and carry on regardless, thereby making a point.

      He did this, and knocked in the black, so he achieved both the goals. I think it was rather nicely done, particularly the narrative that it was the referee's intercession on behalf of the fans that swayed him. It was like calling him back for an encore.

    • 5 October 2010 at 6:03pm
      Geoff Roberts says: @ pinhut
      Not so sure about #1! At Ronnie's level of achievement, yes, you're right and there should be a reward (highest break gets one so why not the 147?) The other difference to a banker of course is that O'Sullivan performs at the very highest level of the game, with an elegance and style that is breathtaking. Doesn't apply to bankers, however much they get in bonuses.

    • 6 October 2010 at 1:44am
      pinhut says: @ Geoff Roberts
      A banker would contend that without increasing the amount on offer for his efforts, that somehow, sooner rather than later, the entire society would collapse. And they would have an incremental bonus system, where even potting a single red would produce massive rewards. "Well, that's a break of 1. We can't go disincentivising the very foundation of a 147 break... We are not communists, Sir!"

    • 6 October 2010 at 9:32am
      Geoff Roberts says: @ pinhut
      I think Ms Diski should be told about the meaning of 'snooker' n Snooker. When a player cannot directly hit a target ball because the path os blocked by other balls then he/she is snookered. How does that fit into the analogy with bankers?

    • 6 October 2010 at 9:34am
      pinhut says: @ Geoff Roberts
      And the calling of 'a miss' when the referee feels a genuine attempt to escape the snooker was not made...

      As well as being able to concede.

      "Referee there, speaking with the board of Northern Rock, that's his final warning. Wait, Gordon Brown, what's this? He's conceding the frame with six reds left on the table??? Extraordinary..."

      It could become rather complicated.

  • 5 October 2010 at 8:08pm
    alex says:
    Imagine if Bernard Porter writing about Swedish politics was considered a special virtuoso achievement in the literary-magazine-blogging fraterno-sorority. And that Thomas Jones, having paid Professor Porter the agreed £4,000 for his jackpot essay, then horsewhipped him into spending time engaging in courteous banter with the posters of 'smart' comments. Wouldn't Porter be entitled to negotiate a rise, or at least a beach holiday in southern Europe, on the LRB's expenses account?

    • 6 October 2010 at 6:24am
      Joe Morison says: @ alex
      If Bernard Porter had amassed untold millions writing his blogs; then no, i'd hope he'd banter with us for the pleasure of engaging with those whose interest had brought him his wealth. But given what money seems to do to people, i wouldn't hold my breath.

    • 6 October 2010 at 6:26am
      Joe Morison says: @ Joe Morison
      But i do think Thomas Jones should invest in a horse whip!

    • 6 October 2010 at 3:38pm
      alex says: @ Joe Morison
      What makes you think he hasn't got one already?

    • 6 October 2010 at 4:13pm
      Joe Morison says: @ alex
      I think we should be told!

  • 5 October 2010 at 8:14pm
    loxhore says:
    Hey Ms Diski. I happened to read your piece about noise on Sunday. Then I caught Horizon yesterday. If you didn't, watch in on iPlayer: there's a pertinent sequence about dolphin deafness and Atlantic shipping lanes.

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