Belfast Telegraph

Powerful stuff as darts takes flight

By Billy Weir

Many things have happened since 1993 - wars, natural disasters, technological advances we could only have dreamt of, although still no hover boards, widening waistbands, thinning hairlines and an alarming drop in fondue parties.

Darts is also a very different beast from the dark, bygone days when behemoths like Leighton Rees, Cliff Lazarenko and Jocky Wilson stalked the earth forcing a pint pot at the Lakeside to visibly tremble with the thud of a slip-on loafer onto the oche.

So it was with a sense of excited trepidation that we emerged from the televisual abyss and stepped bleary-eyed into the bright, shiny world of the BBC again, where proper dartists had not been allowed to tread since wobbling off into enforced exile 23 years ago.

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One constant remains though: Phil 'The Power' Taylor, the last tangible link to the past, who was a mere two-time World champion when the parting of the ways came between the BDO and PDC, with the good darts throwers heading to Sky and the rest staying on the Beeb to eventually be annoyed by Colin Murray and Bobby George.

At this stage there may be some of you who have no idea what the BDO and PDC are, and for that you have my sympathies. I am not here to clarify such things and certainly wouldn't patronise you by, for example, explaining the rules of darts.

Thankfully the BBC has no qualms about such things, so as the Champions League of Darts marked the triumphant return of arrows to the Beeb, someone clearly thought there would be a new mass audience tuning in who didn't know which end of the dart to chuck.

Throw in a very excited presenter in Jason Mohammad, although I was never sure whether he was excited about the darts or that he was in Cardiff as he only mentioned he was Welsh every other second.

"We have pulled in the top guns for our expert panel," he told us as things kicked off (for non-darters, don't kick the dart), introducing Paul Nicholson and Mark Webster, as lawyers for Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer weighed up their next move.

"One thing you know about the Welsh, they love their sport and their drama," Mohammad remembered, before handing over to two even more annoying people in reporter Caroline Barker and Dan Dawson down amongst the great unwashed folk in the arena.

Or rather that's Dan 'The Commentator' Dawson as she referred to him, or Caroline 'possibly even more annoying than Sue' Barker as I like to call her, before we had our 'cut out and keep guide to darts'. It would have been less painful having your eyes gouged out with a piece of tossed tungsten, which has to measure less than 12 inches and be no heavier than 50 grams.

"You're going to get people watching this week who can't afford Sky, who can't afford to go to the pub to watch it, so you're going to get people who don't really know who you are," said Phil Thingymajig.

After Saturday and Sunday afternoons' round-robin stages, the top eight in the world were whittled down to the final four, and Mr Whatshisname took on James 'The Machine' Wade, who didn't sound confident expressing his thought that "if my left arm turns up, who knows what might happen". But it didn't, and nor did something else, or rather, someone.

Although much remained the same for the Beeb's return to the big time, there was one major change - no leggy lovely to walk the players onto the stage. Personally I can't make it into the office unless I'm accompanied by a scantily-clad blonde, so never mind BDO or PDC, this is the BBC and it's PC, OK?

There are still the vast crowds of drunken men (and women) in fancy dress who create an 'atmosphere', but Nicholson was clearly one of the more refined throwers around.

"Things seem to be turning for Phil Taylor (who?). It's like he's got a big piece of cheese on a stick and he's dipping it into the fondue when he wants," he told us, prompting Mohammad to enquire "does anyone have fondue parties anymore?" Probably, but not dipping cheese into cheese, unless in Wales where you have to do it Caerphilly. Sorry about that…

The second semi saw Michael van Gerwen leading Gary Anderson, with Nicholson suggesting that when the Dutchman "gets in front of you he's like Mo Farah". Let's be honest, he isn't.

No Quorn has ever touched the lips of a darter or a fonduer for that matter.

He was to get through to meet the man with no name in the final, but it turned out that MVG was not like Mo and found himself out of puff to lose to the 56-year-old former toilet handle assembler.

A warm welcome back to the Beeb then, it's all round to Jason's house for a fondue party, just don't be bringing Quorn and check the guest list for a Mr Power.

Belfast Telegraph


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