Is darts actually a sport, or is it just a game?
The laymen answer: “Well… yes? No? I’m not sure, actually.”
To the non-darts fan, this fact is quite difficult to grasp. Those who are against Darts will produce the following five points to disrepute darts as a sport, and more of a simple game like tiddlywinks. There’s no doubting that Darts is a popular game, but does it earn the title of ‘sport’?
Here are the four reasons why darts shouldn’t be labelled a sport:
Point #1: It’s not exactly challenging.
For single-player sports within the sports realm, found in Olympic games or World Championships, there are some intense and gruelling sports that only the highly-skilled can do. Olympic Gymnastics, World Championship Swimming, Pentathlons that test the versatility of some of the fittest athletes on the planet. These take years of practice, fitness regimes, thought-through tactics and nutrition schedules. Gymnasts risk their lives when they take to the balance beam. Athletes risk their limbs practising pole vaults.
…and then there’s darts players.
Mostly middle aged, mostly male, and mostly pot-bellied.
Darts players don’t tend to have the gruelling physical training schedule, strategic planning ahead of competitions, or the stringent nutritionists that other sports have.
It seems to the laymen, that Darts is just people throwing hand-sized javelins at a corkboard and aiming to hit a specific spot to earn the most points. This is quite a fair assumption since this is literally what it is. Darts World Championships showcase the very best in precise sharp-object throwing.
If you give it some thought, it becomes apparent just how accessible this sport is. You just need to practice, know some basic subtraction and stay as beer-bellied as you want to be.
Point #2: Darts is a throwing sport, and there are too many already.
Darts is probably the easiest of all the throwing sports. There’s no run-up, no harnessing of centrifugal energy to combat gravity, and hardly any risk of harm.
Javelin, shot-put, discus and hammer-throw are all throwing sports that are recognised by the Olympic Committee. And it’s because they’re legitimately historic and strenuous. They take years of practice and look bloody difficult to master. When the Olympic Games come around in Summer, we sometimes watch them on TV in awe. The way they spin in the hammer-throw, the lofty sprinting of the Javelin throwers, the grunting and screeching from shot-putters. They put their blood, sweat and tears into their sport and they’re proud of it.
Darts to Olympic throwing sports is like Scalextric is to an Aston Martin.
If there are already many different throwing sports, do we need one like darts? One in which the player hardly even moves from their planted feet. Thus, if the people in the crowd watching take part in more exercise than the ‘athletes’ themselves, then who’s playing the sport?
Recently there have been multiple attempts at a plea to the Olympic Committee to certify Darts as an Olympic Sport. This has led to the possibility that Darts could make the 2024 Summer games in Paris. When you compare all the other Olympic throwing sports to Darts, it’s no question which is more of a sport. But thus, the Olympic Games aren’t called the ‘Olympic Sports’ for a reason. And Darts aficionados aim to exploit this reframing of words.
Point #3: Darts is a game you play at a bar, not a respectable sport you train for.
Most people who play Darts, or are aware of the sport, will often find it at a bar or a local pub. Most sports that are played whilst drunk, or in a venue that can feature a darts board as infrequently used as a 70s jukebox or the hand soap in the men’s bathroom, would likely not feature as a mainstay within the public consciousness.
Would you say that Pool/Billiards/Snooker should be featured as an Olympic event? Most people would say that those sports are more deserving, since there’s more of a thought process as to angles, timing and power when competing. You should possess at least some physique so play those sports, since there’s more exercise involved than just standing on one spot and throwing a small object like a crumpled-up piece of paper into a recycling bin.
How does a training session go for a game such as Darts? Do you just keep practising and practising repeatedly? Are there tactics? Training exercises? Warm ups?
It’s actually quite difficult to imagine what a Darts player’s schedule looks like.
I think the difficulty that Darts faces is the crowds it produces during live events. The atmosphere isn’t the same as sports such as golf or tennis. It doesn’t have families attending like football or basketball either. It’s just drunk people singing and shouting everywhere at the top of their lungs. How can a respectable sport encourage rowdy behaviour within its auditoriums?
Point #4: Watching Darts on TV is sooooo boring.
You may wonder to yourself, why is Darts televised? Who decided Darts was a thing? Aliens? Idiots? Rupert Murdoch? Well, no. It began playing on TV in the UK back in the 80s. That was when it turned into a huge worldwide phenomenon, attracting all sorts of curious viewers around the world.
The result? The answer is quite simple. How fun is it to watch 2 hours of golf? Or 2 hours of poker? Just like with these sports, the television coverage of Darts has a reputation that precedes itself.
The games typically last around 10 minutes to half an hour, but they honestly feel like longer. I mean, you’re watching someone throw a dart at a corkboard for crying out loud; how entertaining can it truly be?
The excitement driven from Darts games is typically from the rowdy fans. The fans, the walkouts by the players and the score setter are honestly the most entertaining aspects of the game itself.
Also, games within legs, and legs within matches; Darts is honestly one of the most boring games to watch on TV. At least with tennis or Olympic sport, the act of playing itself can be quite the spectacle.
Turns out, even if the best Darts player in the world with thirty years’ experience is throwing his best-ever scores in front of your very eyes, it still just looks like someone throwing a piece of paper into a recycling bin.
Why so many people watch Darts on TV is an absolute mystery, except if the viewers themselves are as drunk as the ‘athletes’.
Devil’s Advocate Alert: An Analysis Of Darts As A Sport
Darts is a reputable sport with a long history. It’s steeped in tradition, has multiple variations and has a major worldwide following. It should be considered a sport, since there are so many professionals that play it for a living and pour their hearts and souls in the craft.
Also, it’s hard to argue with facts. England, United States, Ireland, Scotland, Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium officially recognise Darts as a sport.
As a matter of fact, the Oxford Dictionary defines ‘sport’ as: “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or a team competes against another or others for entertainment.”
Physical exertion? Check.
You have to throw with one arm sometimes hundreds of times in a game of Darts. It’s true that you stand with your feet planted, but one arm takes the brunt of repetitive throws. At least with javelin, you get just a couple of throws. Darts makes up with that by making you throw them quite a few times.
Requires skill? Check.
In any sport, it doesn’t matter what sport it is, a beginner can never match the skill of a professional. This is a sport because it takes at least some skill to be able to pinpoint an exact spot on the board to throw the dart at and land it with complete accuracy. Let’s see a beginner try to get 180. I dare you.
Individuals competing? Check.
Darts is an individual sport, this is quite obvious. But you must play against an opponent, and must take turns throwing. Imagine having to play golf shots against an opponent whilst they are stood a metre away from you, watching your every move? Daunting to say the least.
For entertainment? Check.
Darts games draw huge crowds in Europe, and I mean huge. In fact, the 2018 German Darts Masters broke the world record for a Darts match attendance. 20,210 fans flocked to the Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen to witness a Darts match.
You can’t argue with the English dictionary, and it clearly makes Darts a sport and not just a game. This isn’t to say that Darts can’t be a game or a hobby. In fact, it’s perfect for being those specific things since it’s so easy to set up a board and start throwing. As long as you stay safe, of course.
The Verdict On Darts As A Sport
Darts gets a reputation as being more of a game than a sport because of how simple it is. As a result of its simplicity, you don’t need a lot of equipment, a lot of training or a lot of muscles to compete. But how is this a bad thing?
What often gets overlooked in discussions such as these is the validity of a sport to those who are disabled. Darts is an extremely accessible sport that is readily available to those who are limited by their physical capabilities. Millions of people around the world play Darts, in many various forms, but the best part about Darts? Anyone can play it.
Firstly, darts are ready for anyone who wants to give it a try. Secondly, darts is the sport for those without a sport. Thirdly, darts can be as fun or as serious as you want them to be. Plus, if you have limited use of your limbs, Darts could potentially be the only sport left that you can still play.
So next time you consider badmouthing Darts, it’s validity as a sport, or for attempting to validate its negative connotations, remember this:
- For some people, Darts is everything.
- Millions of people watch it on TV.
- Anyone can decide to pick up Darts and start playing, with their friends or family.
- Those who are disabled can play it, those with limited use of limbs can play it.
- Phil “The Power” Taylor is an absolute legend.