Phil Taylor defeated Michael Van Gerwen to lift the Sid Waddell trophy and become 16-time champion of the world on New Years Day. But is the sport often maligned for its athletic aptitude becoming more the peoples game than football?
It is a year now since my obsession with Darts first started. It was last year’s World Championships at Alexandra Palace that first alerted me to the excitement of a sport I had long dismissed as a mere pub game; not worthy of my attention.
Since that viewpoint was changed so dramatically much has happened. The Premier League was full of thrills and spills while the world of darts sadly lost it’s ‘voice’ with the passing of legendary announcer Sid Waddell. For somebody who was just getting to know him I was as sad as the rest of the country when he was gone.
On New Year’s Day the first ever Sid Waddell Trophy was up-for-grabs as Phil Taylor took on Michael Van Gerwen in a dream finale. MVG has been the in-form player on the dart racket for the past six months and as for Taylor he is simply the best.
Taylor won out triumphant 7-4 as his staying power overcame the precocious talent of the 23-year-old from Holland who had dominated proceedings early on. A clearly emotional Taylor lifted the trophy with pride. Now at 52-years-old he is a 16 time champion of the world. No matter what you say or believe about the athleticism of darts or its credibility as a sport that truly is an unparalleled achievement.
While an analysis of the game would be a simple avenue and premise for an article it is not that I wish to comment on but more in fact the rise of darts; is it becoming the new people’s game?
The crowd at the Ally Pally was as per usual on top form. Whether singing of Taylor’s wonderland or belting out ‘Michael Van Gerwen’ to the tune of Seven Nation Army by the White Stripes they were rarely quiet throughout. When they were it matched the mood of the game. At vital points in the action where both players were at tenterhooks the crowd watched on open-mouthed and silent. Even the likes of Wolverine, Spiderman, Bugs Bunny or a giant banana could not take their eyes off the action; unless it was time for a refill on their beverages. That silence would soon be broken with a respectful rendition of ‘stand up for Sid Waddell’ that clearly got Taylor’s eyes misty and clouded.
The fans interact with Darts in a way that some football grounds are starting to lose out. Of course it is difficult to compare. The cacophony of noise inside a closed off hall will be much more sublime then that in a wispy football stadium but you can begin to see why perhaps darts is so fondly thought of by a growing mass of championing followers.
There once was a time that football fans could see the everyman in their favourite players. Nowadays with the lucrative contracts and foreign ownership of clubs that mentality is slowly dissipating. The rise of the metrosexual male has also had its effect on the kinship fans can achieve with professional footballers. At the oche such qualms are rare.
So as a New Year in sport begins once again Phil Taylor will reign as World Champion with Michael Van Gerwen showing the type of precocious talent only previously seen with the likes of Eric Bristow to become the ultimate contender to his throne as ‘The Power’ admits that the energy is slowly drying up.
With its theatrical openings, carefree attitude and player-fan relationship more intact then ever 2013 proves to be another exciting year in the world of darts as it continues its rise as perhaps the new ‘peoples game’ of Great Britain.
What do you think; is darts more the peoples game than football?
image: © richard_of_england