Is there a more manly sport than darts? I don’t think there is.
You see more manly flesh when a bout of fisticuffs commences in the ring but exposed manly flesh is not a measure of the overall manliness of a sport or David Beckham would have joined a men’s synchronised swimming team in his youth. And he didn’t. He joined a netball team. A girls netball team. For girls. Nakedness or partial nudity does not a manly sport make.
Aggression is something that is often considered manly while hoovering and painting toenails, often together, are those traits we all associate with women of the feminine persuasion. Darts is not an aggressive sport, unlike cock fighting. Seriously, nothing pisses me off more than touching another man’s bell end with my own. Rage. Building. Still, if pure anger made a sport manly then there’d be a whole new channel just for men called Sky Sports Leaving The Toilet Seat Up featuring housewives and girlfriends storming into rooms berating their partners and then throwing their remote controls at the window. Disclaimer: that’s never happened to me.
Is sheer size something we can measure sporting manliness against? No. The men may be larger in sumo but darts players don’t wear nappies and hug one another. They are, however, armed with slivers of metal! That’s like ninja-sumo and I think we can all agree that nothing could possibly beat ninja-sumo on the manly scale of sports.
So, with the position of Most Manly Sport attained, just who are some of the stars of the manly sport of darts these days?
What do you mean by "I don’t care"?
Stoke has given the world many wonderful things: pottery, for instance, and, of course, potters. And pottery shops. There are probably courses in learning to pot available in Stoke and don’t forget to take a guided tour of the amazing Stoke Pottery Experience.
But Stoke also has people, some of whom have become famous for some ghastly reason or another; people like Anthea Turner and Neil Morrissey and, of course, Phil "The Power" Taylor.
Phil’s record in darts is quite phenomenal. Nobody – and I mean nobody – in the world of darts has annoyed the living shit out of me more than Phil and that’s some record indeed! I’ve sent him some of those trophies you can buy in trophy shops engraved with "World’s Most Ungracious Winner" and "You’re No. 1 In My Book. My Book Of Arrogant Dart Players That Is!" (that last one cost a fortune to have done) but I suspect he hasn’t room for them in the Genuine Trophy Cavern under his mansion.
"The Man" or "Barney"
Phil’s big rival in the world of darts is the world’s best Dutch darts player, Raymond "Barney" van Barneveld. Raymond only recently switched from the BDO to the PDC – initials that mean things to darts players – specifically so that he could challenge the dominance of Taylor in the game and there have certainly been fireworks ever since.
In November 2006 Barneveld and Taylor fought bareknuckle-style in front of the oche on live television after the Dutchman accused his opponent of using motorised darts for an unfair advantage. Before being split up by commentator Sid Waddell’s shaolin moves Raymond was caught by an uppercut that dislodged part of his brain. It’s currently in his left calf and is expected to migrate back to the head naturally in the latter half of 2010.
Andy’s nickname derives from the fact that he trains by punching cold meat in freezers (something that has seen him barred from Sainsburys in Farlington) and runs up the steps of the Guildhall before a big match in much the same way as his hero Sylvester Stallone. However, bruised hands and panting heavily are not the best ways to prepare for a game of darts and this partly explains his run of poor performances whenever anyone watches him on TV.
Andy plays for the local darts team in The Railway pub in Cosham. As he is now recognised throughout Portsmouth and its surroundings Andy has taken to wearing a fake beard made from dead wasps in matches to avoid accusations of unfairness. Cosham is full of dead wasps and it seemed a cost-effective and sensible solution to a darts player’s beard problems.
John Part is a Canadian but apart from that (puns graciously supplied by Grieves & Clitheroe of Chelsea, Punners to Her Majesty since 1952) he’s an okay guy and was the first non-British darts player to win the world championship in both major darts organisations.
Before becoming a darts player Part was a Mountie – apparently every Canadian is at some point – and it was during this period of his life that he developed his hatred for all horsekind. One day, while hurling shuriken into the police force’s stables, angry at his steed’s persistent tongue lolling while on patrol, he was spotted by legendary darts promoter Barry Hearn and the rest, as they say, is history.
When other darts players chose to wear bowling-style shirts emblazoned with their nickname in metallic threads on their backs, decked out in overly large jewellery, and entering venues to pop hits and misses from decades earlier Wayne, instead, walked another route. His path took him to the islands of Hawaii and the music that played along that journey was the haunting sounds of a classic cop show.
The hula skirt was a bad move though and hardly anyone recognised the theme to Kojak spin-off, Crocker And Cat, so a little while later Wayne Mardle switched to Hawaiian shirts and Hawaii-5-O instead. The result was immediate – slightly less laughing – and a new darts style was born.
Thankfully never imitated.
And that’s the manly sport of darts’ basics covered. And all without mentioning Peter Manley.