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By Alasdair McClintock on February 28, 2017 in Sport

Business in the front, party at the back.

Business in the front, party at the back.

“One hundred and eighty!”

If you’ve ever watched a professional darts contest, I’d wager good money that there’s only one way you could have read that – with the wild hysteria of someone who loves their bar-sports. And why not? Everything is so serious and horrifying these days. Watching chubby men competitively throw darts in the Premier League, which kicks off this month, makes about as much sense as anything.

The incongruity of these chubby men in pubs suddenly being thrust into the spotlight certainly has a romance to it. They have long been the bedrock of professional sports, but only as spectators. Drinking themselves to a slow death, all in the name of love for a bunch of athletes who really don’t care for them, but begrudgingly admit that they need these sad, fat men to load up their obscene pay packets. In professional darts, however, these men become the heroes.

Where are the women, though? If ever a sport lent itself to gender equality, in terms of the required attributes to compete, darts would be it. It requires no outstanding physical prowess, just good eyesight and the ability to stand on two feet, and in this way darts is a beacon for all of us well past our sporting prime. Not that I’m suggesting women are the equivalent of men being past their best, just that the old argument of men naturally being quicker and stronger, and therefore better to watch, holds no sway in darts.

Darts lets us all dream that perhaps we still can be professional sportspeople. Fitness and fast reflexes are irrelevant, so (for once) being youthful isn’t necessarily an advantage. In fact, being old, desperate and hopeless is the real advantage. Who else would be willing to spend the required hours perfecting the art form, camped out in dark, seedy pubs that smell like the naked old drunks routinely pass out in their every corner? If you’re doing that at 25, you really need to start making better life choices.

There is a good chance, however, that even those of us who are past our physical peak aren’t going to jump at that opportunity. Thus, we must assuage ourselves with watching these epic battles, which inevitably bubble with tension, from the comfort of our lounges. One could even go to watch them live, but that is a dangerous choice in itself.

The live events appear incredible affairs. Debaucherous, even. Dressing up like a Tellytubby and getting hammered at a competitive game of darts is not a decision to be made lightly. You need to embark on some deep soul-searching before you make that sort of commitment.

It might just be safer to load up on the chips and dip and watch the bouts from home. I warn you, though, if you do happen to get sucked in it can be very hard to turn away – near impossible, in fact, if Simon ‘The Wizard’ Whitlock is launching a stirring comeback from two sets down.