HAVE you been watching darts on television recently?
No, me neither.
But I’m assured there is a massive following for what its fans term a sport, without even a shred of irony.
In certain pubs and clubs you cannot escape the world championships that have been underway since December last year.
Two world championships, no less. The first with total prize money of more than £1m and the second with £258,000 on offer.
But are the exponents sportsmen? These gentlemen are of varying size and structure but few have the toned muscles of athletes.
The only exercise in which they seem to indulge is the lifting of a pint glass, which is quite possibly the only weight training they actually need to keep their chucking arm in trim.
True, girths appear to have been contained since days of yore when some players made mockery of the oche. This is the line behind which they have to stand before hurling their missiles at the board 7ft 9¼ ins away. Their stomachs could frequently reduce this distance to 6 ft.
As you may guess, I prefer a paint drying contest ahead of darts any day of the week.
Which is why I had to laugh when I heard it suggested that darts should be included in the pantheon of Olympic sports. Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor alongside Mo Farah in a British blazer.
Then I stopped laughing. Could this actually happen?
I mooted the possibility in a local bar as the British Darts Organisation world championship was played out on the screen in the corner.
Should darts become an Olympic sport?
“Why not?” said Ian.
“Because it’s not a sport,” I said.
“It’s just as much a sport as archery,” he said. “In olden days, archers probably trained with darts to keep their eye in.”
“Next you’ll be suggesting we have snooker and dominoes in the Olympics.”
“Why not? Dominoes would be brilliant. And all fours and cribbage. True sports. Not like dressage and yachting.”
“Mind, dressage in a yacht is difficult,” said Carl.
“Not your namby pamby sports. Sports of the people,” said Ian.
What next? How much dafter could this get? If we introduced skittles we have ready made gold medallists across Somerset, Devon and Cornwall. Or how about draughts, knur and spell, shove ’appeny and marbles? Why not conkers? But not origami on the grounds that the Japanese would probably win.
Then Carl said, thoughtfully: “The next Olympics are in Rio in Brazil. Isn’t that full of crime? We could have a Whodunnit Olympics. Detectives from all over the world could compete.”
“Miss Scarlet in the Study with an AK-47,” said Ian.
A vision of Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, Frost, Maigret, Philip Marlow, Sam Spade and Inspector Clouseau all rubbing shoulders at the opening ceremony was diverting.
“Belgium would get a gold for a change,” said Ian. “Poirot would be bound to win. Mind, Morse would take him close.”
“And Ironside would be in the Paralympics,” said Carl.
At that point, I knew I was on a loser so I gave up and went home and Googled ‘darts’ to put things into perspective and make them look foolish. And guess what?
A “darte” was first referred to in journals in 1314. They were 18ins long and used as weapons in close combat. Watching some dart players today, I can believe it.
Archers and soldiers in the middle ages cut down weapons to a shorter length and used them for sport by throwing them into the end of a wine barrel or a slice of tree trunk. The forerunner of a dart board.
Not only that, Anne Boleyn apparently gave Henry VIII a set of darts as a present in 1530. Which makes it a royal sport. If it’s fit for a king, perhaps it is fit for the Olympics.
Just don’t tell Ian and Carl.