Pro darts: hard to see what all the fuss is about
Michael Van Gerwen is very good at darts.
The Tuesday Morning Quarterback knows this because it spent a good portion of time over the weekend scuffling around a room where the Dutchman threw his arrows at a dartboard – and did so much more effectively than anybody else.
The current world number one – and now Auckland Darts Masters champion – is best known for a couple of things. The first, as mentioned, is being a crash hot darts player. The second is being the closest human embodiment of the Disney character Shrek.
MVG is, quite frankly, a hideous creature. Even from afar, in a large barn in Henderson, that much was obvious.
It’s doubtful the aesthetically-challenged Dutchman minds the inevitable parallels with Shrek. If he did, it’s unlikely he’d make a habit of playing in a bright green shirt, for starters. The fact that he has made over $NZ3.2 million in the last two years and, by any objective measure, his glamourous wife does not look like Shrek, would almost certainly insulate him from the pain of any playful insults about his cartoon-infused DNA.
Not that he’d cop many barbs. In the world of pro darts, MVG is a godlike figure, and not really all that far removed physically from most of his competitors, anyway.
Speaking of far removed, TMQB spent much of Friday night sitting roughly 25m from where MVG and his mates from the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) went about their business of stepping up to the oche, relentlessly pounding the triple 20 and seeing off a bunch of local Kiwi hopefuls.
From that distance, it was impossible to see the board in any sort of detail. The best players in the world might as well have been lobbing balls into open clown mouths at a village fete.
Initially, given we’d each forked out close to $100 for ‘platinum’ seats, this presented as a bit of a problem for our group.
Curiously, our ‘platinum’ location was in the third of four large bays – Bay 1 being closest to the stage and Bay 4, at the very back, being entirely empty. So, of the people in attendance, our seats were the worst in house, barring the GA section located in another postcode.
Discussions with the helpful ushers confirmed there had been a bit of a cock-up labelling the tables. Our seating issue, however, could only be rectified at the ticket office. Discussions with the ticket office weren’t fruitful. Our seats, as ticketed, were in fact in Bay 3.
“But they are in fact platinum seats,” I asked.
“Is it possible to buy a better/more expensive ticket than platinum?”
“So, you are telling me the best seats in the house are near the back?”
“They are in the middle-back.”
It went on a bit from there. The situation – which looked suspiciously like the PDC couldn’t organise a piss-up at a piss-up – was eventually resolved by the fact that the seats at the front we were adamant we had paid for were curiously unoccupied. So we sat in them anyway, thus discovering that the view from the front wasn’t appreciably better than the view from the middle-back platinum-coated rows.
No matter where you sat, it transpired, successful viewing required the use of a big tv screen – and the consumption fewer $11 beers.
Darts, it was immediately obvious, is a sport in which the live experience is dramatically less rewarding than watching on television.
Attending an event – which looks like great fun on tele – involves dressing up stupidly, paying through the nose, having a crap view of something that really isn’t all that interesting, and losing total interest after a few pints.
And that’s from someone who regularly plays and loves the sport.
The best bit, without doubt, is getting to sing along to a song that goes something like “doot do do do do, do do do, do do do da” in the breaks between the ‘action’.
That’s not to be sneezed at. But there’s a fine line between “do do dahing” your heart out and being put in time-out by security, as several of our group discovered.
The most impressive folks on display, in fact, were the event security staff, who exhibited wonderful patience, calmness and judgment when dealing with hammered bored people dressed as pieces of fruit.
If major darts events have a future in New Zealand (they probably don’t) it’s likely as a training ground for security staff. The zero tolerance ogres who patrol the likes of Eden Park during the summer could learn a thing or two about how to treat people like fellow human beings.
The most curious thing about darts is that the sport is typically dramatic and compelling – provided you have a clear view and a clear (ish) head. The PDC World Championships that take place annually over the Christmas/New Year period are adored by folks all over the world in part, one suspects, because they are held at a time when many people struggle to extract themselves from their couches.
There’s no doubt that the rousing, colourful crowd scenes beaming out of London’s Alexandra Palace are a huge part of the television experience.
“Please don’t take me home,” the packed houses at the Ally Pally sing on loop for two weeks solid – suggesting they are quite happy to be there.
“I don’t wanna go home. I just don’t wanna go to work. I wanna stay here, drink all the beer, so please don’t take me home.”
The same sentiment didn’t seem to exist in Auckland. Most of our group took an Uber back into the city long before the beer ran dry in Henderson.
Sadly, they didn’t stay long enough to see Michael Van Gerwen in the flesh in the last match of the evening.
That truly was a sight to behold.
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