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Darts- Why is it so popular?

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After another successful festive period, Tommy John tries to comprehend why the public have fallen in love with darts and examines its sporting credentials

With the PDC World Darts Championship at stake, the only obstacle left between Gary Anderson and world domination was a double 12. You’d have excused The Flying Scotsman for feeling the pressure, but as the arrow soared into the red zone, a delirious Alexandra Palace erupted as Phil Taylor fell victim to one of the biggest upsets in darts history.

New PDC World Champion Gary Anderson was crowned in front of 1.7 million TV viewers. Photo Credit: Independent
New PDC World Champion Gary Anderson was crowned in front of 1.7 million TV viewers. Photo Credit: Independent

Darts players worldwide finely tune their game to cater for the stress and distractions found at a darts fixture, and the eccentric behaviour from a sold out Ally Pally on January 4th proved one of the biggest challenges to date for the two finalists. However what Anderson may not have been aware of, were the 1.7 million viewers who opted to watch him win his first World Championship – an unprecedented statistic for a so called ‘pantomime sport’. But why did so many people choose the darts as their desired TV entertainment throughout the festive period?

On the surface, the notion of gaping at two overweight men sweating profusely over a dartboard could easily be achieved at everyone’s local on a Friday night. Therefore, there must be a set of unique qualities surrounding the game – qualities which has seen the sport being plunged into unparalleled popularity recently.

The Players

The athleticism and physiques of superstars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Usain Bolt are marvelled at across the globe, often begging the question as to how human beings can achieve such incredible physical feats. Admittedly, the idea of Andy Fordham running a sub 10 second 100m is beyond anyone’s wildest imaginations, but it’s that unassuming aura of darts players which make them so relatable to the working class audience. Very few darts players are attached with a celebrity stigma, thus allowing them to have down to earth personas and attracting popularity

Despite his outlandish image, 'Snakebite' Peter Wright is still a popular figure with the crowds. Photo Credit: Getty Images
Despite his outlandish image, ‘Snakebite’ Peter Wright is still a popular figure with the crowds. Photo Credit: Getty Images

from the majority who could never imagine the champagne lifestyle of other sports.

Even the more exuberant performers such as Peter Wright and his colourful mohawk are embraced by the crowd, when in contrast a player wearing yellow boots in football will be taunted for a full 90 minutes. There are no egos, no publicity seekers and no melodramatics, making the players some of the most endearing sports professionals in the business.

The Atmosphere

No other sport could ever rival the party atmosphere found at the darts. As the World Championships always falls throughout Christmas, the feeling of unity and togetherness synonymous with the festive period is emulated in the Ally Pally year in year out. Therefore, when this is combined with the vast array of fancy dress on show and the seemingly unlimited supply of beer, it makes for a truly unique experience dart-side and at home.

The 'Ally Pally' was packed day and night for a fortnight, providing a magnificent sporting arena. Photo Credit: alexandrapalace.com
The ‘Ally Pally’ was packed day and night for a fortnight, providing a magnificent sporting arena. Photo Credit: alexandrapalace.com

Football, rugby and cricket fixtures in particular rely on the excitement of the game to produce energy from the stands, but even the dullest game of darts will have the spectators producing a camaraderie unlike any other sport. In addition to this, when taking into account the extreme levels of alcohol, the crowd trouble is basically non existent. In comparison to football, violence is rife even when alcohol is prohibited in the stadium. Therefore, it’s hard to deny that the atmosphere at a darts fixture is the friendliest in sport.

The Game Itself

Not many could relate with the feeling of slotting a 60 yard penalty in rugby, or scoring a 30 yard volley in football, but for those who have dabbled with a dartboard in their time, the feeling of hitting that rare 180 is euphoric. You don’t have to be in any immense physical condition to play, and you don’t have to break the bank to buy a cheap set of darts and a board.

Furthermore, there is very little needed ability to become a good player. It’s a model example of where practise makes perfect, and anyone of any desire and mental ability can progress to become a talented arrow slinger. Gary Anderson’s winning dart was undoubtedly replicated across pubs nationwide the night after his success, making it one of the most accessible sports today.

But is it really a sport? The term ‘sport’ can be described as ‘an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature’. Admittedly, athletic activity is minimal and physical prowess is seldom found amongst the professionals, but two of the four boxes are ticked with it requiring high amounts of skill and being in a competitive environment. However, anybody who has played darts before will tell you that it is one of the hardest games to master. Those who have not will probably argue that it’s as close to a sport as tiddlywinks.

Therefore as always, the sporting world will divide opinion on this topic, but for those who disagree with the validity of darts, don’t criticise the game until you have tried it. You’ll soon find out what all the fuss is about.

Tommy John- Sports Team

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