Column #CM17 Taking a break…

Thursday, February 2, 2017
Column CM17
Taking a break…

I needed a break after the PDC World Championship, a not uncommon need for all people who are in some way involved a rather exhausting affair. I also needed to pause and reflect on whether I thought it was a good event or not. Well, I still can’t tell you – probably the break was in no way long enough (in a way it was no break at all because the BDO World Championship immediately followed). And then the PDC Qualifying School. And then the PDC Masters…

But at least I can tell you now that my feelings relating the PDC World Championship were and are ambivalent. Not regarding the darts (we did see a lot of great matches during the World Championship, some upsets, a few new faces in the mix) even though somehow the outcome was rather predictable.

My mixed feelings have more to do with the fans – this very important ingredient in the success of the sport.

The fans were “vociferous” at Alexandra Palace but also always interested and in the action on stage. Yet, it often felt much different than during the last World Championship. The vociferous part was the same – but why did a lot of people feel the need to sing “Michael, Michael van Gerwen” or “Walking in a Taylor Wonderland” on evenings when neither of the two was around but when, for example, Gary Anderson stood on stage? Why does a fan enter a still almost empty venue and sing “Boring, Boring tables” when no one is sitting at the tables? Of course you could argue empty tables are boring – but I doubt that was the reason…

Why must German fans sing about German football players while visiting a darts World Championship in England?

Sometimes I got the impression some people had bought their tickets only to get as drunk as possible – and had no idea who would play, and were not remotely interested in the fact there was live sport on the stage. They were there only to party and some to be sure will probably only remember the evening because it was cool to get as drunk as possible with around 2,000 other people – not because Daryl Gurney played a great match on stage. Probably they will never know who Daryl Gurney is…

The security had much more to do with drunken fans then in the years before. I don’t know how many people were expelled – one night outside the Palace the police turned up because a group of drunkards congested the streets.

I found encounters rather interesting with two journalists from Germany in the press room on my first day. The one from a tabloid was enthusiastic about the cool party going on. The other from the opposite kind of press was disgusted and told me he had been here before near the end of the tournament and had been appalled by carpets sticky with spoiled beer and drunken fans – and wanted to have a look to see whether he liked the beginning of the tournament better. I couldn’t help the feeling he was even more disgusted – among other things about the behavior of his fellow countrymen…

What was especially thought-provoking for me (as well as the attitudes of both German journalists) was the realization that, apparently, for a lot of fans the one crucial element that seemed not to matter was the players on stage.

The PDC and the demands the players at the highest level have to meet today have changed the players. Of course alcohol still is involved in tournament play but we’ve got the DRA which has a look at players’ behavior during and sometimes even outside the tournaments.

Competition is hard, the schedule quite full – you have to be fit as a player if you really want a shot at a piece of the cake. This means a lot of players work at their fitness and, as the pressure is growing, many players work with mental coaches, learn relaxation techniques and try to fine tune their equipment. A lot are bonafide professionals, which mean they earn their living competing at darts and dedicate a great deal of time and work to even manage to qualify for a big tournament.

My thinking is that we, the fans, owe them some respect for their achievements and should show some interest in what they do up there on stage, encourage them and support them – not to ignore them and get as drunk as possible…

Maybe be that’s too idealistic. Perhaps concepts like “respect” or “interest” are just old fashioned. I just can’t fathom why some can’t have their fun and drink their beer while showing some respect to the players at the same time.

Maybe they should at least try. Maybe they’ll realize that watching darts is entertaining. Maybe they will discover that there is real sport going on on stage. Maybe they will learn to identify the different players.

It might be they will be inspired to try and play themselves?

It might be they will find out there is so much more to darts then just partying.

So, the break is over and the new darting year already started. Not much has changed – the first tournament winner of the New Year is the last winner of the last year. The green dominance continues.

The bigger news were that the dominator before van Gerwen has decided it is time for him to end his career – and so a certain Phil Taylor will stand for the last time on the big stage of Alexandra Palace during the PDC World Championship 2018. He still is a great player but now he is only a great player among others of the same standard. He finds it difficult to motivate himself, and for him this is an unaccustomed situation. Phil Taylor is not the only one who will retire – Terry Jenkins will also hang up his darts.

I am sure we’ll miss both but of course, the green dominance notwithstanding, there is a lot of up and coming new talent and to be sure an interesting year of darts ahead!

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Charis Mutschler
The founder of Global Darts, darts journalist Charis Mutschler hails from Marbach, near Stuttgart, Germany. A regular at most major PDC tournaments, a lover of literature, dance and music and cats, Charis' popular writings about darts and its players often transcend the usual. She brings something unique to the chroniclers of the sport we all love.