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One of the most hotly contested debates in sport is the old one that will probably never go away. Is darts a sport?

I can answer that for you here once and for all...

Darts is no mere game. It is an art form. A graceful display of poetry all encapsulated in the magic of the clash of titans on the oche, the quiver of the flights as the dart penetrates the air, the dull thud of tungsten on bristle and the eternal cry of 180, as free as the eagle's call. The powerful energy of the walk-on rousing the gladiators to battle and the millions of passionate spectators, all leading to one of the best atmospheres in sport.
Darts goes from total silence to total uproar and back inside a second. The reaction to a maximum or a high finish is on a par with that to the winning goal in any cup final, the tension as great. Time seems to stop when the last dart of a nine-dart finish flies towards its target, usually the double 12, but there are other ways (to earn half a million pounds).
Since the very first days of televised darts, the spectacle has matured to become a multi-million pound empire with interest from sponsors second only to football (in the UK), and with the appeal growing globally, countless people of all ages are stepping up to the oche to glide their arrows into the promised land of the treble twenty. The traditional hotbed for the game is the UK, which has produced most of the world champions, but Holland has given us MVG, RVB, Kist and Klaasen, with players in the Americas and the far East also upping their game (albeit the latter mostly in the soft tip version of darts).

John Part (three times world champion) and myself

Darts is a clash of experience, ability and belief. No matter how strong the player, there is nothing he can do to prevent his opponent from playing well. It is more a question of mental stamina than physical ability. The main factor in a player winning, aside their ability and confidence, is a capacity to cope with something that dart players call ‘bullying’. Not the ugly playground variety of course, but the mental battle that two players fight on and aside the oche.
Many players can throw regular 180s, and this takes some skill, but doing it in a match is a big step up from doing it in the comfort of their own local. The difference between a good pub player and a county player, and those between every level from there on up, is the ability to react to the pressure of the situation and sustain the performance level when your opponent is landing darts with daunting precision.
This confidence factor is not something unique to darts. But this ostensibly simple game involves some of the highest levels of skill, with darts needing to hit targets a mere centimetre across at times. Any variance in the projection of the throw leads to the dart missing its target, and it only takes a millimetre. The accuracy needed to land consistently high scores depends quite wholly on a steady arm, which depends on a steady posture. The slightest tremor registers in the arm, the throwing action receives this and sends the dart well off target. Millimetres in the wrist equals inches on the board. So although playing well and playing badly may seem the same to non-dart players (that incidentally is part of the reason more people don’t take to darts, a bad game seems the same as a good game), but for us who know the sport inside out there is an enormous difference.
The standards in the game have risen exponentially since the days of the still iconic Eric Bristow, with regular matchplay averages having gone from 85 to close to 110, with the highest ever being 123, achieved by the mighty Michael van Gerwen, the new world champion. There are also far more maximums, and let's not forget the nine-dart finish. The first televised nine-darter was achieved by John Lowe (darting legend and former social media friend of mine), although Jocky Wilson came very close a year or so before, something which has largely been forgotten. But in those days this was a monumental event. Today, while still amazing, it has become far more common. Phil Taylor, the greatest player ever, hit two in one game once. MVG almost hit two in succession here
and do you know, he still lost that set!
At his best, Michael is unplayable, but this is what darts is about. Capitalising on the opponent's missed doubles can change the momentum of a game, and even MVG is beatable, on occasion (although not by me). As it says above, darts is one of the few sports in which you can only play your own game, the other player may hit top form or not, you can only control that through the psychological aspect of the game. Van Gerwen won the 2017 World Championship at a canter, and although he was tested in his game against the Spaniard Cristo Reyes, there was just nobody who could do anything to stop him.
The world darts scene has been mildly beset by politics with there being two World Championships, both decided in January, but most darts fans are only really interested in the PDC where all the top players perform, and which has televised matchplay throughout the whole year. The BDO does a lot of good for the game at grass roots, but its top players are not generally considered to be among the world's elite. Nor has the BDO taken advantage of its status as the 'official' governing body, with sponsorship and prize money dwarfed by that of its rival, and perhaps this is not set to change, hence the number of high profile defections to the PDC.
So when we talk world champions, we don't really talk Glen Durrant, although fair play to the lad. We talk MVG, Gary Anderson, Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis. When we talk top players we add Peter Wright to that, alongside Raymond van Barneveld and James Wade. These lads are, put simply, the personality of the game, and with the odd occasional exception, easily the better players. Easily!

I can't prove this, but it is my view that any player in the top 20 of the PDC, would win majors with regularity in the BDO. Some may knock this down to the top 10, some may disagree entirely. Granted, some of the lads who made the switch to the PDC have gone on to win with regularity, in the case of Raymond van Barneveld, with immediate effect, but in a nutshell, the world of big time darts IS the PDC.
Another thing which makes this view easier to justify is the prize money, which is more than three times higher in the PDC, and set to rise. It is said that the world champion in 2018 will pick up £450,000. And while the crowd at the BDO worlds is passionate and loves the game too, the PDC event provides probably one of the best atmospheres in sport.

Players to look out for in the future, Rowby-John Rogriguez, Corey Cadby & Cristo Reyes. Which of course assumes MVG has a bad day :) And the Russian girl Koroleva could make waves too.
Nice Youtube channel