Darts are an amazing sport played in hundreds of countries and in millions of homes around the world. But who are the players that cause thousands to flock to their local stadiums, dress in costumes and chant & sing like raving lunatics. In the US, we just call them Fans. These loyal attendees pay upwards of $100 for a four hour session similar to the passion of teenagers camping overnight for Beyonce' tickets.
By delving further into what drives the European fan to follow these dart players, we should note these key points. Talent, Personality, Money, Drama, Culture, Girls, Celebrities, History and Politics. My friend and darts historian Patrick Chaplin has a wonderful newsletter that goes deep into all these topics. I recommend that all my readers subscribe to Dr. Dart News fondly referred to as DDN and also pick up his new book 180! Fascinating Dart Facts. His website: www.patrickchaplin.com
Names you need to know now and why.
#1 Phil Taylor: Nicknamed "The Power" and THE greatest player ever to throw a dart, Taylor exploded onto the darts scene at the end of the 1980's and has rewritten the history books since, with his achievements headlined by an unrivalled 16 World Championship wins.
A protege of five-time World Champion Eric Bristow, he picked up his first major title at the 1990 Embassy Championship with a 6-1 thrashing of his mentor.
#2 Eric Bristow: ("The Crafty Cockney") (born 25 April 1957) is a former professional English darts player. He was ranked World No. 1 from 1980–81, 1983–85 and 1990, and won five World Championships and five World Masters titles. Bristow's skill and personality helped turn darts into a worldwide spectator sport in the 1980s.
In 1993 Bristow was one of sixteen top players who broke away from the British Darts Organisation to form their own organisation, which became the Professional Darts Corporation. He retired from competitive darts in 2007 and now works as a commentator and pundit on Sky Sports' darts coverage.
#3 Sid Waddell (10 August 1940 – 11 August 2012) was an English sports commentator and television personality. He was nicknamed 'The Voice of Darts' due to his fame as a darts commentator, and worked for Granada, Yorkshire, BBC, and Sky Sports television broadcasters. He was nominated for two prestigious awards for his work, and published several books. His colorful character coined many famous quotes such as; "It's the greatest comeback since Lazarus", “When Alexander of Macedonia was 33, he cried salt tears because there were no more worlds to conquer..... Bristow's only 27.”, "He's burning the midnight oil at both ends!", “There's only one word for that - magic darts!”, “It's like trying to pin down a kangaroo on a trampoline”, and “The atmosphere is so tense, if Elvis walked in with a portion of chips, you could hear the vinegar sizzle on them”
#4 John Lowe (born 21 July 1945 in New Tupton, Derbyshire) is a former English professional darts player who was one of the most skilled and best known darts players during the 1970s and 1980s, particularly in the United Kingdom. Lowe is one of only six players to have won the World Championship three times, having done so in 1979, 1987, and 1993. The first player to win the World Championship in three separate decades, Lowe's titles and achievements span a career of almost forty years, but he is also most well known for being the first player to hit a televised nine dart finish (in 1984).
#5 Raymond Van Barneveld (born 20 April 1967) is a Dutch professional darts player, currently playing in the Professional Darts Corporation. Nicknamed Barney, he is a five-time World Darts Champion (four-time BDO World Champion and one-time PDC World Champion), a two-time UK Open Champion and a former winner of the Las Vegas Desert Classic and the Grand Slam of Darts. He has also won the World Masters and the World Darts Trophy twice, as well as the International Darts League three times.
From January to June 2008, he was the world's number one ranked player. His victory in the 2007 PDC final, added to his four previous BDO Championships brought him level with Eric Bristow as a five-time world champion; he is one of only three players in darts history to achieve this. He is the most successful Dutch darts player to date, and has had a significant effect in raising the popularity of darts in the Netherlands. He is naturally left-handed but throws his darts right-handed.
#6 Michael Van Gerwin (born 25 April 1989 in Boxtel, Netherlands) is a Dutch professional darts player, the current PDC World Champion and world number one. He has long been described as a darts prodigy. Van Gerwen began playing darts at the age of 13 and had won the World Masters and thrown a televised nine-dart finish within four years, becoming the youngest player to do either. However, after this initial burst onto the darting scene, van Gerwen struggled for consistent form until his breakthrough year in 2012. Going from world number 38 at the start of 2012 to number 4 at the beginning of 2013, the year included his first major PDC title at the Grand Prix and a final at the 2013 World Championship. In 2014, at the age of 24, Van Gerwen became the youngest winner of the PDC World Championship.
#7 Simon Whitlock (born 3 March 1969) is an Australian professional darts player who plays in Professional Darts Corporation tournaments, having also played in the British Darts Organisation between 2004-2009. He uses the nickname The Wizard for his matches. His walk-on music is Down Under by Men At Work.
His greatest achievement to date was winning his first major title at the 2012 European Championship. Whitlock has also finished runner-up at the 2008 BDO World Darts Championship and the 2010 PDC World Darts Championship. He claimed that the prize money gained from the latter tournament which included money for the highest checkout (joint with Phil Taylor) would allow him to move over to the UK from Australia and compete on the PDC Pro Tour. His defeat also made him the first, and so far only, player to have never won a World Championship after reaching both the BDO and PDC World Championship Final.
#8 Oliver Albert "Olly" Croft, OBE (born 17 November 1929) is a former darts administrator and the founder of the British Darts Organization. He was one of the most influential protagonists in darts for almost four decades having set up and run the British Darts Organization from its inception in 1973 until he was voted off the board in August 2011.
Prior to the formation of the British Darts Organization, the major organization for county darts had been the National Darts Association of Great Britain (the NDAGB, commonly referred to as NDA) which had been formed in London on September 25, 1954. Croft began playing darts himself in 1961 for the Harringay Arms in Crouch Hill and was soon playing seven nights per week.
#9 Peter Wright (born 10 March 1970 in Livingston) is a Scottish professional darts player who plays in PDC tournaments. Wright was the runner-up in the 2014 PDC World Darts Championship. He currently resides in Mendham, England, and although he was largely raised south of the border, he chooses to represent the country of his birth.
He is known for his mohawk hairstyle which changes color each tournament and is made by his wife who is a hairdresser. His nickname is derived from the name of his favorite drink, the Snakebite.
#10 Barry Hearn (born 19 June 1948 in Dagenham, Greater London) is an English accountant, sporting events promoter, and the founder and chairman of promotions company Matchroom Sport.
Through Matchroom, Hearn is also involved in many other sports, including pool, tenpin bowling, golf (see PGA EuroPro Tour), Table Tennis and fishing. Hearn is currently the chairman of Leyton Orient F.C., the Professional Darts Corporation, and was also until July 2010 chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA).
These are the people, past and present that put darts on the world stage. In future articles I will touch on those in the US and Canada joining in the momentum.
Keep pitching the arrows, Cheers