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Hurricane who lost hero status

THIS column has a confession to make. Once upon a time, if you asked us to define the phrase Curve Ball, we'd take out our snooker cue and display the wonders of left-hand side or, better still, the showboating screw shot.

And it was all down to Alex Higgins.

'Hurricane' was our first childhood hero of the green baize, followed in his flamboyant wake by another meteorological phenomenon, 'Whirlwind' Jimmy White.

It was only years later that we came to appreciate that Alex Higgins was, in so many other respects, a thoroughly dislikeable individual.

Put it this way: if he weren't a genius (troubled, of course -- aren't they all?) the Belfast bad-boy would have been shunned by the wider public for his often loutish, sometimes despicable, carry-on. Instead, he became the People's Champion ... but surely sporting greatness shouldn't give you a free pass to behave badly?

We were saddened by Alex's death from cancer and especially by the impoverished and lonely circumstances of his demise. But we weren't moved to grief: that only comes when you say goodbye to a hero.