There are perhaps really only two mysteries in life: first, is there a God? And second, why do people watch darts? I expect to go to my grave not knowing the answer to either of these mysteries.
It used to horrify me when I was a kid that my dad would very occasionally watch darts on TV. Actually, the truth was he used to fall asleep watching darts on TV. Dads did that kind of thing. It perplexes me even now not only that anyone would want to watch it but that apparently so many people want to watch it that Sky Sports regularly broadcasts it.
For me, darts is a pub game. I even played it a few times and could appreciate the concentration needed to co-ordinate eye and right arm. Ok, it’s a skill and in a pub makes for a jolly half hour. But it ain’t no sport. Sport entails athleticism and I don’t call the capacity to raise your arm and throw a dart into a board athletic. Even downing 17 pints a day, as the five times world darts champion Eric Bristow apparently did, is not athletic. Though it is an extraordinary feat. As the old saying goes, you can take darts out of the pub, but you can’t take the pub out of darts. As a kid I thought having a huge gut was a pre-requisite to being a darts player.
Bristow died this week at the age of 60 from a heart attack. ‘Darts is drinking’ is how Bristow himself summed it up. He not only drank to excess, he smoked ‘like a train’ a friend said. But reading what people wrote about him this week made me wish I had met him.
One said: “He understood what crowds wanted to see – he was controversial, he was a maverick, he spoke his mind and upset a few people from time to time, but the man in the street warmed to him because he was very much one of theirs.”
A fabulous testament and it made me ask myself (not for the first time) why it is that some wonderful people are driven to push themselves into an early grave. Well, that’s another mystery.