Fairly recently I have become a bit of a darts fan. A few nights ago there was a fantastic documentary about (the crafty cockney) Eric Bristow on TV and I was truly heartened by how brilliantly working class it all was; and it still is. Going to a live darts game is definitely on my cultural wish list for 2015. Loosely called a ‘sport’ it’s not that long ago that players could smoke and drink whilst ‘darting’ and the training ground was (and still is) the local pub. Beer guts are pre-requisite and the crowd is randomly fancy-dressed. There truly is nothing like it. Concentration is hardly hampered by the crowd’s banter, heckling and general good time buzz and individuals have nicknames with shirts to match. There are many legends of the game and their careers can be long. What’s not to like?
On TV, I find the repetitive thud of arrow hitting board vaguely mesmeric and the accuracy and inaccuracy from throw to throw as games swing from leg to leg and set to set is spellbinding.
But there’s nothing like a super-close match to get commentators and viewers (armchair or otherwise) into the spirit of things.
On Sunday evening the Lakeside held the 38th annual BDO world darts championship final. Martin Adams – 4 time winner and 22-year veteran of Lakeside, was playing first time finalist and protégée (and ‘son of Dorset') Scotty Mitchell. Wolf versus Dog. It was the closest game I have ever seen and it went to the wire. It’s always more enjoyable if you take sides in a darts match, so I was cheering (literally) for Wolfie. The commentators were gushing with lively puns and crass metaphors. The interval banter between Colin Murray (what a great career he has had, and how knowleadgable about sport is he?) and Bobby George (looking like a character from a David Lynch movie) was enthusiastic and suitably un-enlightening, this being the most accessible of sports in the world. The crowds get ups did not disappoint and the game was terrifically exciting stuff. No, really, it was, I promise.
At one crucial point a dart bounces off the board for a major setback: tension.
Scotty pulls his highest checkout out of the bag after missing doubles left, right and centre: drama.
Wolfie can’t believe he’s in another cliff-hanger after having played a drawn out semi just the night before: back story.
Close ups of family members enable the viewer to share in the highs and lows of what is essentially an emotional journey: empathy.
The love of the game, the joy of playing and watching, the crowd’s energy and the unique working men’s club atmosphere are second to none: heart.
All the ingredients of a great night out; a wonderful evening of theatre in its purest sense. This was like watching the gladiators in ancient Rome fight it out, and in darts, as in gladiatorial pursuits, there can only be one winner. It ended in a thumbs down for Adams, a man with so many sovereign rings you wonder how he can lift his hand up at all, let alone let a magic arrow fly from it; but unlike in ancient Rome, Wolfie will live to fight another day. And I will be watching.