Column #CM87 Corona Darts!
Wednesday, May 6, 2020
I had no idea when I returned home from the UK Open in Minehead how radically in a very short time the darts scene all over the world would change. Well, I had a queasy feeling…
I already had that queasy feeling on my journey to Minehead. But never would I have predicted that the virus would spread so fast and all over the world and that, as a result, all live sport events would be cancelled. No football, no Olympics, no handball, no rugby, cricket, no Tour de France – though that was only postponed, not cancelled – and of course no darts.
First all organisations tried to postpone events, to shift them from one month to the another. But soon it was clear the corona crisis would not be over quickly and it was clear as well all kinds of sport mass gathering events would be the last events which would be allowed to take place again – at least those indoors, because the danger to catch the virus at those events just was too high.
In some ways, based on what we know now about the virus it’s unbelievable that the UK Open or the last Premier League event that took place didn’t lead to a big onset of the disease – or if it did we never heard about it.
So, we were all suddenly stranded at home with a lot of leisure time but no darts to watch… a shocking thought, though perhaps not really the most urgent problem (except of course for all those who earn their living from darts) – but all in all compared to other things not really a disaster.
But I missed the darts!
It seems I was not the only one who missed it – as a solution to the problem was found soon, much sooner to be sure than a solution to the problem of a medication or vaccination against the disease which will take a lot of time and work to solve.
But the dart problem turned out to be solved quite easily and within a limited amount of time.
One of the reasons is that most people have a dartboard at home and most also have some kind of camera – even if it is only a smart phone – and it’s possible to connect our dartboards with our cameras. Don’t ask me much about the technical side of it – though I am fairly well able to install Skype and such things and use them without having any technical knowledge. And so, voila! We can compete from home with other people playing from their homes. Easy, isn’t it?
And so, suddenly everywhere online darts can be found – whether from Target, where one could see a win from reactivated Raymond van Barneveld over reactivated Phil Taylor or Modus Darts with its own league, CDC online matches and the PDC Home Tour.
With the exception of the Barneveld vs. Taylor match I only watch the PDC Home Tour. As it is on at the moment every night for 32 nights there is not much time to watch anything else. It is a simple concept – four Tour Card holders play in round robin format six matches, all six best of nine legs and the winner heads the table and progresses. Well, so far, we don’t know where he progresses to, but I am sure we will be told as soon as the PDC has decided what will happen with the group winners.
Dan Dawson acts as the moderator and he’s doing a good job – in fact, I can’t imagine anybody else doing the job as good as Dan Dawson. That is a great praise from me as I am not generally a fan of Dan Dawson as a darts commentator…
The charm of the concept lies in many of the details – you get to know the more private side of the players; you can see their set-up and parts of their home and nothing is really perfect.
I have learned that a lot of players play on Unicorn boards while most surrounds are from other brands, all kinds of lightings are used, lots play from their kitchen, several from their bedrooms. For me, rather astonishing is the fact that only very few of the “professional players” have their own “darts room” – the practice arrangements are definitely not professional. Scott Waites, for example, practices at home on his landing and every bouncer requires him to run down several stairs to retrieve his darts. Those who practice in the kitchen have, of course, to share the room with the whole family. Some, like the astonishing Carl Wilkinson, don’t practice at all at home – they go to their pub to practice.
You learn a lot about the quality of the internet in the UK as well. It is not always that good – while most of the players from other countries have got quite strong internet connections whether they are down under like Damon Heta or like Krzysztof Kciuk in Poland.
A lot of players find the experience of online darts “nerve racking” – interesting but perhaps attributable to the need to film oneself while you work. Some have a problem performing – as did Peter Wright, who told Dawson he finds it hard to perform because he can’t see his opponent’s body language. Some play the darts of their life online like the before mentioned Carl Wilkinson, until now not successful at all on the PDC Pro Tour, or Austrian Harald Leitinger, new as well on the Pro Tour and until now an unknown quantity in the world of darts. And let’s not forget Luke Woodhouse who even threw a nine-darter.
Some players turn out to be really entertaining like (not surprisingly) Ricky Evans or the slightly weird Matthew Edgar or (my favourite) Steve Beaton.
Sometimes the connection is really bad. The connection for Keegan Brown broke down completely after his first match and the group ended with only three players and a completely different format – not easy for the players involved. The match between Darren Webster, who played in his conservatory, and Bradley Brooks was interrupted when a downpour hit the conservatory.
This PDC Home Tour has turned out to be quite kind of adventure even when on some evenings the most thrilling is the wallpaper in the players bedrooms!
It is a pity some players don’t take part. Gary Anderson for example explained his internet is too poor (from what we’ve seen so far, I tend to believe him). Daryl Gurney shared that to play on his dartboard at home he has to place one foot in the bathroom and he can’t block that room for several hours for the other members of the household (from what we’ve heard and seen so far I tend to believe him as well).
World #1 Michael van Gerwen’s “excuse” is that he has three dogs (well, Damon Heta has three dogs as well). And who will not remember Kai Fan Leung’s cute poodle who watched him play and was even included in the after-match interview – and he has two small children (I think there were quite a lot of players playing with small children) and players for whom there was not much at stake.
Well, the last point is the one I believe in…
I sometimes wonder whether in van Gerwen’s case the real reason might be that he has something to hide… perhaps the wallpaper in his bedroom is pink with small lilac flowers or he has to play in a cold awful tool shed. What a pity we’ll never know…
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