A week ago I had an epiphany. As one would expect, this was accompanied by the shining of bright lights, unfamiliar sounds and the presence of a higher power.
The differences between my own epiphany and Paul’s on the road to Damascus were threefold. The bright lights illuminated an overweight man in a flamboyant short-sleeved shirt, the sound I heard was a roar of “ONE HUNDREEEEEEDDD AND EIGHTYYYYYYY”, and the higher power I witnessed was Martin “Wolfie” Adams on his way to a third BDO (British Darts Organisation) championship victory.
Previously my attitude to darts was one of cynicism. I smirked at the so called “sport” that consisted of throwing three bits of metal at a board of cork. I grimaced at the outrageously designed and terribly cut shirts (although a lot of that may have due to the shape of the wearers themselves). I looked down at the jewellery, the ponytails and the raucous atmosphere with disdain.
What I have now realised is that this is exactly the point. The reason darts has such a cult following (now including myself) is that it is the Anti-Christ to the purist followers of sports like football. The pampered and preening athletes are replaced by real men with real characters.
Take the object of my conversion to darts; Martin Adams. He is more close in stature to a 1980s pornstar than an athlete. His BMI is certainly in the “overweight” category at best and he sports a throwback handlebar moustache matched with a rug of chest hair that I can only marvel at.
Darts players are real men. Their paunch is evident from beneath their personalised shirts and they shine a radiant light as the TV glare catches their sweat and golden jewellery. Drinking and smoking help rather than hinder their performances.
With names like “Wolfie”, “The Count” and “The Power” these men would appear to more at home in a ridiculously overblown spectacle like Wrestlemania than professional sporting leagues, yet this leads to an atmosphere at the Riverside unrivalled by some of the world’s most prestigious arenas.
Not only do these men entertain, they have ridiculous skills in their own right. They aim for the treble twenty (less than two inches wide) from up to to nine feet away, and they hit it, three times in a row. Add to this the mental arithmetic of a Primary School times-table prodigy as they calculate the best way to “check out” – get the total number of points to win the frame (for all you darts novices) – and you realise that darts is a demanding discipline.
If you go for an evening at Wimbledon you will experience Pimms, pleasantries and the perfumed smell of a well-groomed Roger Federer. If you go for a night at the darts you get pints and pandemonium, infused with the B.O of Wolfie and the ash of cigarettes. I know where I’d rather spend my time.