When people think of great sport stars, the stereotypical images are of supreme athletes like Cristiano Ronaldo, Rafael Nadal and LeBron James, with toned abs, bulging biceps and monstrous thighs. Darts players however are normally further down the list when ‘athletes’ are being talked about.
Beer bellies, questionable tattoos and outrageous bling are more commonly associated with the sport that many still see as just a pub game, akin to that of pool or table football. To view darts in such a light would be a huge disservice to both the sport and its stars, who deserve great credit for the skill and dedication they display when perfecting their craft.
The appeal of darts can sometimes be hard to see, as people throw small arrows at a wall while a man shouts random numbers at varying degrees of intensity.
But it is a sport that grows on you with an infectious excitement and usually tempts you into watching just ‘one more leg’. By the time one leg has been won, the next is underway and it would be rude to turn off half way through.
Perhaps there was no better way of enticing spectators into this crazy, raucous world than by sitting them down to watch the respective PDC and BDO World Championship Finals that took place early in the new year. Despite the split in darts between these two factions, both finals told remarkably similar stories. In the PDC final, Gary Anderson faced off against 16-time-winner Phil Taylor, widely regarded as the greatest player to ever pick up a dart.
In a tense match, the Scot edged past his illustrious competitor to claim his maiden World Championship crown, 7 sets to 6.
In the BDO final a few days later, a similar tale unfolded as Scott Mitchell sneaked past triple world champion Martin Adams to seize his first ever World Championship victory. These two matches summed up everything that’s right with the sport: close matches, high quality, and drama to the very last throw.
Darts also has the unique selling point of the two competitors being in such close proximity without actually ever really playing against each other. It is a sport that, in theory, can only be affected by the individual, where the opponent can do nothing but play their game while they play theirs.
In a world where some athletes seem increasingly distant and out of touch to the everyday fan, the world of darts thrives on the intoxicating personalities of its players. With nicknames like “Scotty Dog”, “The Wizard of Oz” and “Crocodile Dundee” to name but a few, it is easy to quickly find a favourite and start rooting for them.
Darts is an everyman’s sport, which is probably one of its greatest draws. You do not need to be 6 foot, have a washboard stomach and arms the size of small trees. It is a skill sport, rather than an athletic one; and this should be seen as a positive in every sense.
You will not see athletes in the best physical condition possible, but you will see unbelievable drama and bucket loads of passion.