As I am not remotely interested in watching Manchester United demolish Celta Vigo in the Europa League (where is Europa, by the way?), I am watching the Darts Premier League on Sky. When I say watching, I really mean half-watching the darts, but half-watching the darts is a lot more watching than the Aberdeen crowd is doing tonight.
PDC darts is the one of the great success stories in TV sport. What used to be little more than a pub game played by big fat blokes is now an arena sport played by fat blokes. And it’s a million miles from how darts used to be.
The announcer would begin a game by shouting “Best of order” and the game would proceed in near silence. If the noise built up, he’d call for order again and usually get it. In the PDC, the announcer’s job is to call the scores and that’s it. The more noise the merrier.
PDC darts must be one of the few sports where the majority of fans don’t really care too much about the sport. Of course, they cheer and jeer the heroes and villains and boy do they sing. Even from the front row you can’t actually see the board so everyone faces the big screens to watch, assuming they bother to watch at all. Many, you observe, are only there for the beer.
As it’s Aberdeen, you know you are going to hear the Scottish national dirge, Flower of Scotland, and a wide variety of Tartan Army tunes. And as it’s the PDC, you hear that timeless classic “Stand up if you love the darts”. Given the state of some of the crowd tonight, they will do well to stand up at all in a very short space of time.
After the World Championships later this year, the man who really made it famous all on his own, Phil “The Power” Taylor is retiring, somewhere near the top. Good for him. If you, like me, see darts as a sport (not everyone does, including some very good darts players), then Taylor is one of the greatest sportsmen of all time. He is no longer ranked number one in the world but he is the one, the only, player I go out of my way to watch when darts is on the telly box. Yes, there are a shed load of other players who attract passing adulation, but Phil Taylor is the only player to transcend the sport.
The Power won again, defeating Adrian “Jackpot” Lewis, and now it’s Peter “Snakebite” Wright and Raymond van Barneveld, Barney to you and I. The crowd are singing “Peter Wright” over and over again to the tune of KC and the Sunshine Band’s Give It Up. It’s fun but it ain’t the power. I doubt that many in attendance tonight will be that bothered when the PDC circus arrives in town this time next year, so long as the bars are open.