Tuesday, January 09, 2007


I've been off work with a cold for the last couple of days, so consequently I've been watching a bit of the BDO World Darts Championship on the BBC. There's no getting away from a couple of obvious truths when it comes to darts, specifically:
  • it's a game of great skill requiring nerves of steel
  • most of the players look as if they'd have a heart attack running for a bus
- the second of which may be what keeps it from being a huge ratings winner, i.e. it's not a "sexy" sport, though on the other hand it couldn't be better suited for television (very much like snooker). The other problem, sadly, is that there are two rival versions of the World Darts Championship, the BDO (the original championship) and the PDC (which broke away in the early 1990's). No prizes for guessing that it was all about money and broadcasting rights; trouble is that we now have the situation where there are two World Championships which happen within a few weeks of each other in December and January, one (the PDC one, broadcast on Sky) featuring undoubtedly the greatest darts player ever to walk the earth, Phil Taylor, and the other (the BDO one, on the BBC) featuring a whole host of worthies from around the world, including, until last year, the only player to challenge Taylor for the status of world's best, Raymond van Barneveld. Since Barneveld's defection to the PDC (and his dramatic win over Taylor in the 2007 PDC final) the BBC have had to drop their slightly amusing policy of never alluding to the "other" world championship during the BDO coverage; they've even mentioned Taylor's name a couple of times. The point is, though: is the BDO winner's achievement cheapened by not having to face the world's best player? Undoubtedly. Is Taylor's remarkable achievement in winning 11 PDC championships (to go with the two BDO titles he won before the split) cheapened by not facing 50% of the world's best players on the way? Undoubtedly.

There's a wider point about television interference in sport to be made here. There was a lot of stand-up comedy mileage made out of what demands the American TV broadcasters might make before the 1994 FIFA World Cup - quarters instead of halves for more ad breaks and cheerleading, bigger goals, etc. etc. - but what happens when these demands are allowed to go unchecked can be seen by simply watching the Super Bowl every year, or, if you prefer, in a couple of weeks. Or, worse, still, wrestling, though I'm not sure this was ever meant to be serious. Any sport where short-term money-grabbing takes precedence over the sport itself to the extent of rival championships will suffer in the long term. Look at the ludicrous situation boxing has got itself into - with the IBF, WBA, WBC, WBO and doubtless a few others there's a title fight (with pay-per-view facilities on whichever TV supplier has the relevant title-giving authority in a headlock) every week. Cricket was in danger of going the same way with World Series Cricket in the late 1970's, though long-term disaster was averted by the award of broadcasting rights to Test cricket proper to Kerry Packer (which was what he really wanted in the first place).

Darts seems to be on the up at the moment - given that the original split was prompted by a slump in TV coverage and prize money, what better time for the rival organisations to agree to a fully open and unified World Darts Championship? Just imagine the bidding war for the TV rights....


The Black Rabbit said...

Not much mention of "The darts match of a lifetime" which happened recently - in which Raymond "Barney" Barneveld beat Phil "The Power" Taylor 6-5 in a sudden death finale, after going 0-3 down!

I used to love watching the darts on tv, and know a few pals who have gone to see it live at Frimley Green - it's meant to be a hoot.

Rather like Lyall Watson's "Sumo" (remember that?), I find the whole theatre of it, especially their nicknames absolutely hilarious - "Wolfie", "The Count", "The Viking" etc...

And of course, there's one of the best sports commentators ever, associated with darts.

I present "Sir" Sid Waddell to you, and some of his more memorable in-match quotes, (some of which I remember, some of which I've lifted from the web...)

"Bristow reasons. Bristow quickens.
Aaaah Bristow"

"Alexander of Macedonia cried tears at 33, realising he had no more worlds to conquer. Bristow is only 27"

"There's no-one quicker than these tungsten tossers"

"Even Hypotenuse would have trouble working out these angles"

"Bobby George. He stands firmer than the launch-pad at Cape Canaveral"

"Jockey Wilson. What an athlete"

"The atmosphere is so tense, if Elvis walked in with a plate of chips, you would hear the vinegar sizzle on them"

"Big Cliff Lazarenko's idea of exercise is sitting in a room with the windows open, taking the lid off something cool and fizzy"

"It's like trying to pin down a kangaroo on a trampoline"

"He looks about as happy as a penguin in a microwave"

"He is as slick as minestrone soup"

"He could take the flesh off your teeth with his tungsten tips"

"This lad has more checkouts than Tescos"

"The players are under so much duress, it's like duressic park out there"

"That's the greatest comeback since Lazarus"

"Keith Deller's not just an underdog, he's an underpuppy"

"Steve Beaton. The adonis of darts, what poise, what elegance, a true roman gladiator, with plenty of hair-wax"

"Steve Beaton. He's not Adonis. He's THE Donis"

"Eat your heart out Harold Pinter. We've got drama with a capital 'D' here in Essex"

As you will know, I will always have a soft spot for Bill McLaren's (sadly missed) rugby commentary style, but Sid makes him look like he had no imagination at all!

Long live Sid Waddell!

The Black Rabbit said...

Talking of legendary sports commentators, here's MY list of "The Voice(s) of Sports"

RUGBY UNION - Bill McLaren.
obviously. (although I think youz secretly prefer Nigel Stammer Smith!!!)

RUGBY LEAGUE - Ray French.
Though many might say Eddie Waring?
"He's going for that liiine!"

MOTOR RACING - Murray Walker.
(best partnered by James Hunt)
MW- "WHAT??!! There's a BODY on the track?!"
JH- "Urrmm... Murray, I think that's a piece of body-work from someone's car on the track"
The best double-act in sports commentary?

TENNIS - Dan "Oh I say, what a peach" Maskell.
DM-"And here's Zivojinivic. Six foot six inches tall, and fourteen pounds ten ounces"

HORSE RACING - Peter O'Sullevan

SNOOKER - Ted Lowe

ATHLETICS - David Coleman

GOLF - Peter Alliss.
Dodgy one this; he's undoubtedly the voice of golf, but should have retired years ago. Too much bleating on and on about some tossing octagenarian's birthday in 'Lower Codswallop Golf Club, Rutland' where Peter once played in the Middle-ages, and the 'curse of slow play' rather than actual or amusing commentary. In REAL danger of losing his crown to the EXCELLENT commentary team on Sky Sports. Which would be a great shame. Possibly rectified his 'value' (in my opinion) with an unprecedented and yet to be repeated loss of his mind and control of his thoughts and speech when Jean Van de Velde famously threw away the Open, handing it to our own Paul Lawrie a few years ago.
That said, he IS the only sports commentator to have mentioned ME at a live event, when Vicente Fernandez hooked his approach to the last, at the (then) Whyte and Mackay PGA at Wentworth, nearly killing me!
I can't remember exactly what he said, but it was something like "Uh oh, that's awwaayyyyy and awwwayyy and where's that gone?! Oh dear! I do hope that chap is ok? Yes he does seem to be. What was that?!"
(And he nearly ran me over in his Rolls Royce once, (number plate 3 PUTT))

DARTS - Sid Wadell

The greatest of them all?
Sid has got to be in with a shout!

electrichalibut said...

Well, I did mention the 2007 PDC final, but only in passing. And I agree, one of the main things that PDC has going for it (apart from Taylor and Barneveld) is that they've got Sid Waddell: "Taylor... Like a bear on cake-free cake day" - whatever that means.

And I know you did it on purpose, but you missed one:

CRICKET - Richie Benaud. The Guv'nor. Even if he is Australian.

And of course:

STARING : Barry Davies.

The Black Rabbit said...

Well, I didn't mention cricket, not to make any point bate, but it's just that I don't watch it, or never have anyway.
I know who Richie Benaud is - but I wouldn't have the foggiest if he was "The Voice of Cricket" or not?!