Today’s dart players offer sports entertainment of the highest standard

2013-05-02 00:00

IT’S not really classified as a top notch sport in South Africa and is seen more as bar entertainment, an excuse to get home late from work or, in extreme circumstances, a ground for divorce.

Unfortunately, that’s the stigma darts lives with, but tuning into the McCoy’s Premier League every Thursday for the past 12 weeks has thrown new light on an ancient art.

Ten of the world’s best — admittedly they are mostly Brits with two Dutchmen and an Aussie thrown in — battle to secure a top four finish in the standings, thereby qualifying for a place in the semi-finals. Each week the party moves to a different venue and it’s fair to say, this is sport entertainment at its best.

Packed and sold out venues bear testimony to the sport and the players’ popularity knows no bounds. Boxing … take a look at all the razzmatazz that goes with these arrowsmiths, their nicknames, their style, their shirts even and of course, the girls who escort them through the mad throng of fans on their way to the stage. Each player has his own signature tune played when he enters and the fans adore them.

Want to know what sport such names as “The Hammer” (Andy Hamilton), “The Power” (Phil Taylor), “Jackpot” (Adrian Lewis), “Wizard of Oz” (Simon Whitlock), “Barny” (Raymond Van Barneveld), “Mighty Mike” (Michael Van Gerwen), “The Machine” (James Wade), “The Thorn” (Robert Thornton), “The Warrior” (Wes Newton) and “The Flying Scotsman” (Gary Anderson) play? It’s darts, not wrestling.

These were the ten who started the league and after nine weeks, it was “Judgment Night”, with the bottom two players on the log dropping out. In this instance, it was Newton and Anderson, leaving the rest to battle for dominance.

There’s no doubt these guys are skilled and bring a new dimension to the game.

Maximum 180s abound, finishes of more than a hundred are knocked off with ease and you cannot help but recognise the time, effort and practice the lads put in. Any betting man is left scratching his head week in and week out, so unpredictable is the play. One week a player cannot miss the treble 20 zone, the next he is hitting five and one on either side.

The business end of the league is approaching where the top four will be determined. This is no small matter, with the winner taking home £150 000 (R2,1 million) and the semi-finals at the O2 Arena.

This is big time sport and makes people wonder whether a professional career in darts might be worth something.

Phil Taylor, arguably the greatest player to ever throw a dart, has no qualms about the challenges facing today’s modern arrow men.

“It’s a full calendar these days and besides the premier league, there are tournaments all over Europe. It may sound funny, absurd to some, but today’s professional darts player has a busy schedule and believe it or not, needs to stay in shape to cope with it all,” he said.

Stuff to scoff at perhaps in South Africa where the big three — cricket, rugby and soccer — rule the roost. But, looking at the whole darts vibe, there is some truth in Taylor’s comment.

Those fortunate enough to have satellite TV should do themselves a favour and tune in on Thursdays at 8 pm. It’s a new world, an education, and viewing of the highest standard.

As most of us mere mortals know, trying to throw a straight dart is one of life’s lesser challenges, but a challenge nonetheless. Trying to hit what is aimed for … that’s more a laugh accompanied by luck.

Rather, get comfortable, put your feet up and watch the best show you how it’s done. These arrowsmiths put William Tell to shame and might make you put up that old dartboard that’s been lying around, sharpen the tungsten and take aim.

Then we can appreciate the skill associated with a great game.

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