Darts – The sporting jester
Sport could be accused of taking itself too seriously these days.
Money-driven boards; image conscious players; egos and expectations; scandals and steroids – for something so billed as great drama, it often seems remarkably devoid of that archaic dramatic device: humour.
Peter Crouch’s infamous robot dance, now over two years old, remains fresh in the memory partially for its comic value but significantly for its individuality in a world of self-indulgent celebration. The rarity of even such a fleeting moment of self-deprecation ensured Crouch made history.
It’s in that context where the efforts of Sky Sports and the Professional Darts Corporation feel most refreshing.
Darts has become the resident court jester of the sporting world, and while the rules remain unchanged and the players still look a pint short of a pub, the sport has been repackaged into such a sensationalised spectacle that there’s no doubting the underlying self-mockery.
Whereas your eyes might roll at a pro-wrestler entering an arena with a model either side of him, brash theme music and pumping arm gestures, to see a darts player do so carries with it such an obvious smack of irony that it feels nothing short of endearing.
And that is the direction in which the PDC has taken the sport since it broke off from the British Darts Organisation in 1992. Opting for larger, noisier venues, alcohol in abundance and the overblown entrances described above, the actual darts becomes highlighted for its slower, quieter appeal – once an obstacle for spectators, now relished by contrast.
The makeover has rejuvenated public opinion, with the World Championships packing out the 2,700-capacity Alexandra Palace earlier this year. The 2008 Grand Slam concluded last week, and with its victor, Phil Ã¢â‚¬ËœThe Power’ Taylor – considered the greatest to ever play the game – still an ever present in the sport, the UK remains the world’s best showcase for the game’s top talents.
Indeed, after a year that included a European Championships absent of all four home nations, and autumn disasters for our cricket and rugby teams, darts might appeal purely for our record of success.
How British, then, for that to be the one sport that triumphs the notion of laughing at yourself.