While trying to play darts during a pub-crawl, a common argument arose; an argument that always occurs when darts brings in the New Year: Is darts a sport?
A vast majority of people believe that darts can’t be a sport because it apparently doesn’t involve physical exertion, and is supposedly comprised mostly of overweight beer drinkers and purveyors of the pork scratching. It seems that it still works hard to rid itself of the Fred Trueman, Indoor League “na’then” connotations, where a jug of Tetley’s is lingering on the table, awaiting consumption by the parched man frowin’ a’raws. (Although I’ll admit, while watching the superb series Bellies and Bullseyes with Sid Waddell, to see Bristow nonchalantly hold his fag in his left hand while he threw with his right makes you understand why the image has, perhaps, stuck).
The definition of ‘sport’ is so ambiguous, confusing and has so many meanings, that the Oxford English Dictionary is reduced to a series of huge paperweights and door-stops, where clarity is the last thing you find.
It is a “pleasant pastime; entertainment or amusement; recreation, diversion”; “a theatrical performance or show; a play” and “a series of athletic contests engaged in or held at one time and forming a spectacle or social event.” Given those examples, perhaps arrows is definitely a sport, after all. It is the most obvious example of all of those examples, including the latter.
Still, I doubt that will quell the doubters.
So where best to look but at the website for that sporting of all sporting organizations: the International Olympic Committee.
As well as the IOC obviously listing the Olympic sports that figure in summer and winter games, it also has a list of ‘recognised sports’ which, if recommended and elected for by IOC members, could become an Olympic sport. These recognised sports, including golf, rugby and most recently cricket, also include bridge, orienteering and air sports (before you strain yourself, air sports encompasses the likes of aerobatics, ballooning, general aviation and gliding).
Now correct me if I’m wrong, but none of the above exert a large amount of physical strain (with the possible exception of orienteering; although from doing it once when I was 7-years-old at school, it mainly involved walking around a wood with a wet map and getting lost).
Most importantly, none of the above experience the atmosphere, the intensity and the physical and mental strain that a top-class darts player has to cope with, where you’re in front of 2,500 raving lunatics; throwing for trebles slightly wider than a postage stamp; (although according to Trueman, that’s nothing compared to a Yorkshire dart-board; computing sums at a rapid speed; and maintaining concentration of two hours plus, stood up, leaning over, continuously throwing and staring at a target.
The argument will continue, but I am unwavering: darts is a sport. Nothing demonstrates that more than this year’s PDC World Championship at Alexandra Palace, which has shown the physical and mental stamina needed in order to win in an intense and ruthless gladiatorial atmosphere devoid of your prawn sandwiches.
Indeed, with Sir. Alex coming out and criticising the Old Trafford crowd after the Birmingham game, you have to wonder whether darts could soon head back to its hay-day of the 80s, which could steal some of the apathetic football fans who are hungry for an atmosphere and, in evidence of this year’s PDC Worlds, close and thrilling action.
I wonder if we’ll ever see bridge in a similar setting? It would probably be reminiscent of this.