AT least Bob Anderson, aka The Limestone Cowboy, spoke from some position of authority last week when he called for darts to be included in the Olympics. Anderson once had a chance to go to the Games with the Great Britain javelin team, but then broke his arm.
But really, the prospect of Phil Taylor, Raymond van Barneveld and Co throwing arrows for medals any time soon is about as likely as Jim Bowen becoming president of the International Olympic Committee.
Anderson, the 1988 world champion, was the latest tungsten chucker to call for darts to be included in the Olympics following his first-round defeat to Jason Clark at the PDC World Championships at the Alexandra Palace last week.
It’s that time of year again when a combination of Sky Sports hype, beer fumes and the odd dramatic match combine to cloud one or two people’s judgements as to the standing of darts in sport’s pecking order.
Yes, darts as its best can be incredibly dramatic. And Barneveld’s incredible victory over Taylor in last year’s PDC final was heart-stopping stuff. But an Olympic sport? Do me a favour.
This argument has been going on for years, and has gathered momentum since the UK Sports Council officially recognised darts as a sport in 2005. Phil Taylor once argued that darts should be included because it is just as much a sport as golf and snooker. A fair argument, were it not for the fact that golf and snooker are not Olympic sports either.
Yes, there are some ludicrous events at the Olympics . . . such as the 100 metres. (Train four years for an event that lasts 10 seconds? That’s far sillier than synchronised swimming or softball, both of which at least involve some skill.)
But I believe that any non-track and field event aiming for Olympic inclusion should be able to pass the Dougie Donnelly test. This test is very simple: Is the event in question still compulsive viewing if Dougie Donnelly commentates on it?
With darts, the answer is quite clearly ‘no’. I watched a couple of matches on Sky earlier this evening, both incredibly dramatic: Tony Eccles’ 4-3 victory over Steve Maish and Taylor’s last-set triumph over Alan Tabern. While Taylor pulled out some great darts towards the end of his win, both matches were riddled with enough missed doubles to shame a pub team. And neither match would have been remotely watchable but for the hysterics of the commentators.
Just as Formula One needed Murray Walker’s enthusiastic malapropisms to see through many a forgettable Grand Prix, so the PDC World Championship relies a little too much on the high-pitched yelling of Sid Waddell and two chaps who used to cover Oldham Athletic matches for local radio (John Gwynne and Stuart Pyke).
I’m not going to rehash the ‘isn’t Sid Waddell hilariously crazy?’ routine which is compulsory for anyone writing about the PDC Championships.
Yes, Waddell is hilariously crazy, but even he has been outshone by the legions of fans inside the Ally Pally while bouncing around to Planet Funk’s Chase The Sun at the end of each set while waving whiteboards containing handwritten messages such as ‘Get Me Tea On, Mum!’
It’s as if someone has recreated a scene from Tiswas with 15 times as many people. All that’s missing is that boy dressed as a giant rabbit singing ‘Bright Eyes’ and Chris Tarrant throwing buckets of water at a cage containing the members of Status Quo while Sally James attempts to interview Elvis Costello. (Maybe next year, eh?)
For that reason, darts fails the Olympics test. It isn’t meant to be treated with hushed reverence, Dougie Donnelly style. It’s meant to be a bit of a laugh, with a touch of drama thrown in at the end. And when its players start calling to be taken a little more seriously, I can’t help but feel that they’re somehow missing the point.