Darts has been around for a long time, but even now people continue to debate whether it has the right to call itself a sport or should remain confined to the dank setting of a local pub.
Here we take a look at whether this classic throwing game deserves to be categorised as a sport, and why people have continued to claim otherwise throughout the game’s existence.
The Changing Image
Darts probably did not help itself by allowing its players to guzzle pints of bitter and smoke cigarettes in between throws. Many people have quite rightly questioned a “sport” that – for a long time – allowed its participants to indulge in alcohol whilst a match was underway.
Those campaigning for darts to be considered a sport must have twigged too, as professional darts players were eventually forced by the regulatory body to swap their John Smiths for a jug of water and save their smoking (if they did enjoy a cigarette) until they were off stage.
Nowadays, the game is televised in front of big crowds and made into a spectacle just like boxing or MMA – with loud music, models and audience singing all part and parcel of every professional match.
Luck versus Skill
Do darts require a strong element of luck in order for the participant to emerge victorious? This is a point that several people (who regard darts as little more than a glorified pub activity) have brought up in the debate of whether darts is a sport or not. True or not, it’s also naïve to suggest that the best darts players in the world are simply lucky individuals. An enormous amount of skill is required to master landing the right throws at the right moments. Even if the pub regular did fancy himself against Phil “The Power” Taylor in a matchup, you can bet your life savings the pro would wipe the floor with him.
Also, when you look a little closer, the “luck” argument doesn’t really hold up. Every sport requires luck somewhere along the line; it plays a role regardless of how capable an individual or team may be. Just look at all those shocks you see in soccer’s FA Cup. When a minnow defeats a Premier League side, it’s not because they ought to be in the same division, it’s because lady luck was smiling on them that day.
Another piece of ammo groups like to use to label darts as little more than a game is the fact that very little equipment or preparation is required to play. All you need is a board, a handful of darts and a chalkboard and you’re good to go. Inexpensive, yes, but does that make darts any less of a sport than one that requires state of the art equipment to ahead? Football only requires a ball and two goalposts.
You only need a few chunks of wood and a bat to play cricket. A tennis match can go ahead with a couple of rackets and a waist-high net in the middle. “But what about the pitch linings?” the doubters cry. True, darts doesn’t require a pitch and can be played pretty much anywhere and anytime, but not without its board. A darts board is the equivalent of a football field or tennis court. Participants need to work their way around certain areas of it in order to win a match.
From Pub Game to Sport
Darts was, for many years, a pub game that gained a high degree of popularity among the working class people and somehow managed its way onto terrestrial television. But at some point during the 1990’s, this all changed. Players, promotion companies and people began to take to the game more seriously as it cleaned up its act, and before long the “big” matches between the star players were some of the most sought after shows in the United Kingdom.
Participants might not be sinewy, athletic or the archetypal sport poster boys – but they are individuals with admirable skill who compete against one another in a ranking system. The exertion of physical movement is somewhat minimal but it does require a great deal of accuracy, patience and natural talent – three traits that pretty much every athlete in football, tennis, cricket or any other popular sport need to develop or possess in order to make their way onto the professional circuit. Darts is a game that always had the potential to be a real sport. Now it’s probably safe to say that it is one.