Once upon a time darts was played in a corner of a pub with a top whack audience of two dozen and the chuckers sometimes had to ask if the missile was in the right bed. Spectator sport? Don’t make me smile. For the past three months we have had upwards of 5000 punters riveted on ‘pomp darts’, as in ‘pomp rock’, played in massive arenas for the Premier Darts League and big audiences every Thursday night on Sky. Why are the modern masses hooked? In no particular order, here are a few reasons.
Watching the PDL on telly with the cartoons, fancy shots, kamikaze format and the fans with their pints and placards is a gas. It’s like watching the carnival in Rio or the Mardi Gras in New Orleans; it screams out over the tube ‘It’s FUN to be here!’ In my view the massive TV audiences in the early 1980s were gained because the aggro of Alan Evans, the arrogance of Brissy and the boozy brilliance of John Thomas Wilson had exactly the same raw appeal. Our PDL audiences seem to relate to Phil Taylor and Barney in a stronger way than they do to soccer and cricket stars. ‘They are just like us,’ is the message I get. Darts is the sport that never left its roots.
Another reason is the fancy showboat element epitomised in the play of Peter Manley and Adrian Lewis. Adrian mixed 11-darters with going for ‘blind 180s’ and the crowds went wild. Peter did the old 80 finish on double top TWICE against Terry Jenkins at Birmingham and the fans lapped it up. This is exactly the spirit of brazen flash adventure that Tommy O’Regan and Co. brought to the Indoor League in 1973 to start the whole darts on telly bandwagon rolling.
But the real attraction of the PDL is the majestic Phil Taylor. He ended the round robin stages with a 105 average in a convincing win over Barney. He went to 3-zip with two 13 darters and 15. Since February 2005 he has played 42 PDL matches and never lost! And how about his latest nine-darter in Holland?
Just imagine the semis of the UK Open in early May if they tossed up Taylor versus Van Gerwen and Barney versus James Wade. Look out for nine-darters – maybe even TWO in the same match - I reckon.
ALL ABOARD THE OCHE
It seems we are on a roll as a sport. Cricketers and soccer stars are falling over themselves to chuck arrers.
I have a standing invitation to go to the Newcastle United training ground to call the players’ regular league matches, dominated by James ‘The Mighty’ Milner.
And next Monday I’m off to a pub in Twickenham to MC and commentate on an Indoor League style event, the Betfair Pub Challenge. We’re having arm wrestling, shove ha’penny and darts and the teams are captained by Darren Gough and Mike Catt. I might just poke a bit of fun at Mike Tindall about his Royal connections. Sod the MBE!
I have already begun the publicity hoopla for BELLIES AND BULLSEYES, my offbeat look at the history of our sport, even though it won’t be in the shops till late in August.
I am now working on WOR SID, the tale of a Geordie miner’s son – a sort of ANGELA’S ASHES with belly laughs. Wait till you read the yarn of my cousin Johnny who tried to beat the bookies by DYING a whippet and putting it in the sweep as a ringer. Then the rain started….
Жаль, что вас не было на US Open, где наводили свои порядки Challenge TV, Сара Кэвуд, и Тони «BDO» Грин, обсуждая перипетии игры в середине матча, я думаю, что вам с компанией нужно обязательно появиться там в понедельник.
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