Very few lines of snooker commentary are remembered. Indeed, many would argue that most are better forgotten.
Ted Lowe’s hushed, concerned ‘no’ when Steve Davis missed the black against Dennis Taylor stands out, but the best known sentence uttered in a snooker commentary box came courtesy of Jack Karnehm.
The son of a Czechoslavkian baron, Karnehm’s own World Championship record was not to be envied. In three appearances in the qualifiers he failed to win a single frame in the 28 he played.
Billiards was his sport. He won the UK Championship at the three ball game in 1980 and lost in two world finals.
Indeed, he appeared in one of Roger Lee’s heritage room DVDs with John Pulman, in which he stated he always made a 500 break at billiards before breakfast.
“Yes, Jack,” said the laconic Pulman, “but you don’t eat until two in the afternoon.”
Karnehm had a great voice for commentary. Never demonstrative or intrusive, he kept his comments to a minimum, as was the style in the 1980s.
In 1983 he found himself commentating on the opening session of Cliff Thorburn’s second round match against Terry Griffiths at the Crucible.
At the start of the fourth frame, Thorburn fluked a red and so began the dramatic build up to his 147.
As Cliff stood over the final black, poised to make history a ball away from making the World Championship’s first maximum break, Karnehem looked down from the box and said simply: “Good luck, mate.”
There was no hype, no talking over the moment. He just put into words what everyone was thinking.
The addition of “mate” was the masterstroke. It gave the impression, rightly or not, that this happy band of snooker folk were pals, grateful that they had been given a moment in the spotlight after years of toil before the BBC showed interest in covering the game and thus happy that one of their own was about to experience such elation.
The previous year, Karnehm had also commentated on the classic semi-final between Alex Higgins and Jimmy White, one of many golden moments to which he lent his distinctive voice.
Karnehm’s other crucial contribution to the World Championship was in manufacturing the famous ‘upside down’ spectacles sported by Dennis Taylor.
Taylor was much mocked for his appearance but, of course, had the last laugh. Indeed, still is.
Karnehm’s commentary, like that of Lowe, was of its time. Television has changed. Doubtless many would say not for the better.
Karnehm commentated for the BBC from 1978 until 1993. He died in 2002 at the age of 85.