WHEN do some top-class professional sportsmen turn into world-class moaners?

Is there some dark and dismal force that suddenly inflicts heroes of the pitch, court, baize, track - whatever - into wizards of whinge and whine, captains of carp and complain, narcissists of nark and nit-pick?

Is there some sort of Faustian codicil to their rose-petalled and laurel-garnished ascent that once they hit the top they start to hit the roof?

The moan-o-meter has been at its most shrieking in our own city of York this past fortnight.

The UK Snooker Championship, a most welcome re-addition to York's sporting calendar, has been the focus of some of the most vigorous and vehement carping.

It's been like bitching in the Barbican with players complaining about various facilities at the venue.

Some railed at the switches in the tournament's format and also practice conditions, including likening the playing of a match in the sports hall to competing in "a toilet".

Then there were gripes about the atmosphere, while the world's best player Ronnie O'Sullivan questioned the cushioning on the match tables, a complaint he later said had been resolved by the powers that be.

But as the reds and the colours have been dropping into pockets with utmost expertise and regularity, the tournament has also been coloured by red rages and blue moods among the fractious fraternity of cue-wielders.

It beggars the question of whether the buttoned-up brigade of wescott-wearers have all conveniently forgotten their playing roots.

You cannot tell me they all started out in plush gentlemen's clubs, where the nap of the baize was ironed after every shot, where the cushions were tightened each time a ball cannoned into them, where gloved lackeys chalked all the players' cues amid the cathedral hush of reverence, respect and sainted patience.

Nah. I'll wager most of them took the tables in clubs where drab and dinghy was commonplace, where concentration was conducted amid the din of cusses, oaths and jukeboxes, where every so often a meter had to be fed with some coins of the realm. Bastions of luxury and holy orders hush they were not.

It's the same with footballers. The higher they go the more they quiver and quake if they have to tread their tootsies on anything other than verdant grass trimmed with an inch of its life.

They'll baulk at the prospect of entering a dressing-room that is missing ice-baths, heated cubicles, massage tables, foot rests, arm rests, night-safes for watches the size of a CD disc, and dinky little shelves on which to stand their foo-foo powders and potions.

All that effete ephemera is at odds from where they started out - muddied school fields, kits that may not properly fit, training-bibs that positively hum (check them out at Football Mundial at York College on a Monday night, if you want to know what a wart-hog's nether regions smell like), crossbars that actually sag in the middle.

This week's Barbican bleating reminds me of the time when The Open golf championship was held on a course where the rough was plenty and unforgiven.

For some peeved performers, and many purists, the sight of world-class players labouring in the roof was too much to bear. For us mere mortals it was just a heartening blast to witness the creme de la creme actually blast a ball a mere three foot deeper into the long stuff just as hackers like myself do every time I bring out the clubs.

Not only do our pampered sportsmen forget they way they were, they also seem to lose sight of the fact that whatever conditions apply, actually apply to both teams, both opponents, both rivals.

If a snooker table or practice facilities are not to your liking, well it's the same for all. They do not simply grate exclusively on one.

If a pitch is not the immaculate greensward that you play on week in week out, tough when you are pitched into the sort of surface where perhaps the run of the ball is not exactly true.