Sunday, January 15, 2006

Double top for the win


I was reading a piece in the paper the other week about the possibility of darts becoming an Olympic sport. Apparently it's unlikely, as the squabbling regulatory bodies have fallen out - and also there's uncertainty as to whether it's actually a sport. The argument goes that if you include darts, then you've got to consider snooker, fishing, ballroom dancing, stamp collecting, trainspotting and other 'hobbies'. I'd actually like to see trainspotting in the Olympics - the 'athletes' lined up on the platform edge like sprinters (behind the yellow line at all times), Nike notebooks in hand, peering eagerly down the tracks for the first locomotive. "And the Greek competitor spots a lovely Class 75 diesel there! Oh I say! The Germans have dropped the pencil!"

I mention darts because I've just finished watching the World Championships on the telly. It was live on the BBC, as are all the other parlour games played by pensioners/drunks such as snooker and bowls (Sky having stolen the proper sports years ago). I'm not a fan of darts, but if the alternative is watching Heartbeat or the Antiques Roadshow, I'd happily sit through anything. They should combine the Antiques Roadshow with Biathlon in the Olympics - Russians in spandex skiing around, shooting Delft pottery and Auntie Nora's Wedgewood dinner service. I'd definately watch that.

Anyway, the final was won by Jelle Klaasen - a 21yr old Dutch player (thrower? dartsman?) who started out as a 100-1 outsider (should have put my £50 on him) and wound up beating the multiple champion - also a Dutchman. Lot of pubs in the Netherlands, obviously. To be fair, darts has moved away from the stereotyped grotesquely obese lumps quivering as they flick metal arrows at the board, before downing half their pint. I've got a lot of respect for darts players - and not just because most of them look like East End gangsters who could get you concreted into a flyover if you spilled their drink. It's the maths. They are lightning-fast at working out what they have to aim for, and they do it counting backwards. Say they have 116 left to get, and they hit a treble 20. They instantly seem to know if they get a single 20 next, they have double 18 left. I have trouble just hitting the board. If you want to take on these mental giants - go here to take the BBC's darts arithmetic quiz. I did so badly, Jim Bowen refused to show me what I could have won. (It was probably a speedboat).