You Can't Beat A Bit Of Bully, But That Doesn't Make Darts A Sport

There’s nothing wrong with darts. If you’re in a pub and looking for something to do, other than get pissed; it’s an option. It beats folding up crisp packets into tiny triangles, and it’s cheaper than the trivia machine.
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I don’t mind watching darts on the telly either. It’s one of the better pantos on over Christmas; the main entertainment provided by drunken low-paid workers in novelty hats. So I haven’t got a problem with darts itself.

But what I can’t accept is the growing demand, fuelled by Sky TV, for darts to be accepted as a sport. And that Phil “The Power” Taylor is some kind of sporting god; a legend who ranks alongside Mohammed Ali, Pele, Lance Armstrong et al.

Utter bollocks.

Darts is many things. It’s a disappointing Christmas present. It’s a way of avoiding social contact in a public space. It’s a method of winning highly-flammable cuddly toys at fairground stalls.

It’s all of these things. The one thing it’s not – is a sport. Because if darts is a sport – which it isn’t – then so is Hungry Hippos. So is Kerplunk. So is Donkey Kong and Nintendo Wii bowling.

Darts is a game. It’s not a bad game - but it’s a game. It requires no physical effort, other than the flick of a wrist. A game of darts uses less calories than a wank – that’s probably a fact.

There’s a story about 80’s darts player Keith Deller. His mum had a dartboard set-up in the kitchen so she could cook chips with one hand while practice her arrows with the other. How many genuine sports can you practice while frying chips?

Phil “The Power” Taylor isn’t an athlete – he doesn’t have to be. He’s playing a game designed for fat, middle-aged men. There’s nothing wrong with that – but he’s got no right to be even entered into Sports Personality of the Year.

Taylor’s achievements aren’t sporting – they’re’ mental. He’s one of a small gaggle of men who have devoted their lives to this particular repetitive act. Days, months, years, decades pass and Phil is still out in the garage. Thump. Thump. Thump.

And now he’s reaping the rewards – just like the tedious bloke at work who achieves promotion by working daft hours.

Fair play to him. Darts is a testament to the working man’s ability to do repetitive and mundane tasks. It’s not about natural ability - it’s about putting in the hours. It’s not fun, it’s not enjoyable – but you stick at it. Thump, thump, thump.

I worked in a factory once and was given the task of hammering rubber stops into the bottom of microwaves. I was crap at it. Used to take ages, would sometimes dent the metal. But over the weeks and months I got better and better, until I was fucking brilliant at it. Thump, thump, thump, thump. So I can appreciate the single-minded determination needed to become a darts player.

Darts is a testament to the working man’s ability to do repetitive and mundane tasks. It’s not about natural ability - it’s about putting in the hours. It’s not fun, it’s not enjoyable – but you stick at it. Thump, thump, thump.

Most people fall by the wayside. How many dartboards hang forlornly from the doors of teenager’s bedrooms? Unlike Phil “The Power” Taylor, their feckless owners succumbed to temptation: music, books, sport; life.

This is one of the flaws with Sky’s attempt to transform darts into a sexy, vibrant, market friendly sport. The daft nicknames, entrance music and staged theatrics try to paper over the reality: darts is a game for mild-mannered introverts.

Again, it’s not a bad thing. It’s what makes it good. It’s gentle. It’s civilised. It doesn’t need the strained histrionics of a clown like Sid Waddell with his stream of shite pre-written ad-libs. I don’t think he even likes the game.

Bullseye was a much more genuine reflection of darts. It understood that it’s a game. That its origins can be traced back to the fairground stalls of the 18th century – along with skittles and hoopla. The board was segmented and numbered to allow for different prizes to be won – just like the Bullseye special prize board.

The darts players on Bullseye were allowed to be themselves – quiet, decent, socially awkward middle-aged men. They weren’t made to parade around in capes or adopt cartoony alter-egos. Darts should be proud of what is, rather than aspire to be something it’s not.

And, of course, Phil “The Power” Taylor deserves a place in the records books – right next to yo-yo world champion Jensen “Yo-Yo” Kimmitt.

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