Darts or Weightlifting?
What can I say? I’ve always been a huge darts fan. Not to play (for that is impossible) but to watch. As a kid the Christmas holidays were a time for presents, the World’s Strongest Man and the Darts World Championship. The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.
There’s something feverishly magic about waiting for the final dart to land to take the leg, hit the 180 or secure the World Championship. It’s heart breaking to see your man lose, the agonised look of devastation, after all those months training in pubs up the land. For as is said, “you can take darts out a pub, but you can’t take the pub out of darts. The protagonists echo in our minds, for which sports fan doesn’t know their names:
Phil’ The Power’ Taylor quizzically described as “a true sporting phenomenon”, but correctly nominated for a Knighthood.
Steve “The Adonis’ Beaton, dart’s adonis, a man with the greatest curly mullet since the 1980s coupled with bushy moustache. Don’t believe me? Well take Sid Waddell words for it…”Here he is, stepping up to the oche, the Bronzed Adonis, Steve Beaton, most handsome man in darts …” But alas ladies, he’s married to some lucky, lucky lady.
Darts commentator Sid Waddell is worth a note for his pure unabated energy, his sheer lucidity through his near impenetrable accent. He once said of a player: “Under that heart of stone beat muscles of pure flint.” And the legendary comment after another victory by The Power, “there’s only one word for that…”great darts.” Genius.
Bobby George. Wow. The Liberace of darts. A man with more gold than BA. Bobby is a ‘Lanndannn’ fella to the ‘aert. This perma-tan just gets oranger and oranger but fault the guy? No way. You arr aving a larff.
And then there is Eric ‘the crafty Cockney’ Bristow. What can I say? The undisputed king of the sport in the 1980s. Five World Championships, five losing finals in 11 years. A confident man who quipped “I have two bowls of confidence for breakfast each morning,'” Bristow also won 5 World Masters in the same period and then just collapsed, unable to throw a dart, the most celebrated victim of dart’s block, a disease I’ve been struggling with all my life. But Eric was and still is the man. As Sid put it, ‘Eric showed that darts could be theatre and poetry and how far the anger of losing could be taken…He glowed with the arrogance of a cockney wideboy and he could psych out anybody.’
So that’s darts. convincing case isn’t it?
So why weightlifting eh? Well I dunno, but it’s fascinating. Along with darts, it has that one-manness about it, one man in front of a hopeful expectant crowd. It’s simple like darts, the pressure and the victory delivered by the same shoulders. And it’s brutal like darts, the competitors, coaches, and supporters’ hopes dashed instantly.
It’s not patriotic, you will them on and are impressed by any athlete. The beauty is in the simplicity. The tension in the silence. The pride in the achievement. The fun in the predictions. The men are so big that it took 10 people to carry a Norwegian lifter off the stage after he collapsed with a thigh strain.
Two things struck me these games in 2004.
1. Flicking over the channel, we found the weightlifting. I settled in my chair for hours of entertainment. I decided the first lifter named Batsiushka let me down by failing in the lift. Out came a handsome looking Michael J Fox from the Ukraine to pick my hopes and boy, he lifted effortlessly. Or did she? The next competitor confirmed I was watching pseudo-women. Interesting. Steroids are cool. But the Korean women looked like any Korean woman.
2. The Eastern European men have traditional dominated the Super Heavyweight category with their extensive competitions and drugs programmes. But now Hossein Reza Zadeh has usurped them, a rabid 140kg giant known as the Iranian Hercules. A man so strong that his nearest competitor said ” I never expected to win the gold medal,” “Reza Zadeh is unbeatable at present. He is the strongest man I have ever seen.”
Before each lift, Zadeh lowers his portly belly to pray, sings Allah’s (peace be with him) praise when holding the bar above his head and bows his forehead after each lift. The crowd love him and he loves them. It’s pure theatre. At 26 Zadeh will be around for a third gold medal attempt and maybe regarded as greater than Vasiliy Alexeyev, the 1972/1976 Soviet lifter who set 79 world records between 1970 and 1977.
There is something great about willing on a lifter. The sheer excitement as the bar slowly moves from the squat is fantastic. If this was a pub game, I’d never work again.
Both sports have but one task. Hit the target or lift the weight. The simplicity gives it clarity. The pressure is on one shoulders. There is no team or coach to share the burden. Darts players’ hands are like miniature painters, craftsmen of the highest order. It might be the ultimate test of human physical and mental strength. So what am I to say?
Sid Waddell’s greatest comments. This is very, very funny