When you think of Christmas not everybody will think of darts. In many people’s minds, overweight, beer-swilling blokes chucking metal spears at a circular target does not correlate with the season of good will.
Alas, think again. Watching the World Championships down at Alexandra Palace (the ‘Ally Pally’) couldn’t exemplify the festive season any better. For thousands, flocking down in fancy dress and watching high quality darts with friends is an absolute necessity at Christmas time.
Granted, not everybody pays full attention throughout the day. In fact, a large proportion of the crowd may be none the wiser about who is playing, but rather be getting merry in the crowd, bouncing up and down and springing into life when a 180 is hit.
For most, watching a pantomime is a cheery Christmas ritual, whereas singing your heart out at the Ally Pally does the trick for the darts aficionado.Culturally, it has an eccentric and unique quality in this country – achieving cult status as a sort of pilgrimage for some – but what is the fundamental appeal of darts?
First and foremost, the talent is unbelievably high these days, having come a long way since the grainy days of the 80s’. The individual quality is genuinely exceptional, with lots at stake and various elite competitors who could emerge victorious.
Mix that with a phenomenal atmosphere and you’re on to a winner. Nowhere else in professional sport will you combine technical excellence with a boisterous crowd having so much fun.
But why has it become synonymous with Christmas? One argument is that watching the darts sums up the flavour and fun of the Christmas period, as it possesses such an intangible and ridiculous quality.
Each year we look forward to Christmas time as it inserts a sense of light, merriment, and wonder to an otherwise cold and gloomy time of year. This is no different.
Whether it is rousing songs being blasted out the sound system, guzzling down some eggnog, or watching groups of grown adults clad in ridiculous costumes, a night at the darts brings us closer to our fellow man.
Fundamentally, the universality of Christmas cheer is matched by the game of darts itself. It is highly easy to follow, with fast-paced drama that is decided by fine margins and emblematic of darts being the ultimate democratic sport.
It’s also an opportunity to witness history, as seen in 2019 when Fallon Sherrock rose to stardom by becoming the first woman to beat not one, but two men in the PDC World Championships.
Above all, though, it provides that opportunity for release and togetherness after an emotionally taxing two years, particularly in a post-pandemic context. Getting creative in fancy dress, singing, dancing, and shouting with friends makes for a life-affirming occasion (as long as you don’t take it too far!)
Overall, the rewards are manifold. Darts exemplifies the Christmas spirit, provides an opportunity to reconnect with friends, and allows you to see world-class sportsmen up close. Why not give it a go?
The PDC World Championships run from Wednesday 15th December – Monday 3rd January