Happy New Year. I hope you all had an enjoyable festive season. I must apologise that I have been unable to blog in recent weeks. As everyone knows the festive season is always manic and this year was no exception with numerous visits from friends and family making the month of December especially bus
I have been putting a great deal of thought into what would be my first blog post of 2012. In recent days, I have been reading a number of blogs from friends discussing their favourite moments of 2011 and their hopes for the New Year. While doing something similar crossed my mind, I thought I would do something a little bit more light-hearted and discuss something that I greatly enjoyed over the Christmas period.
While the Christmas and New Year period is a great opportunity to re-charge the batteries with friends andfamily it is also a time when people spend a great deal of time relaxing at home. While this is great for a couple of days it soon loses its sparkle as conversation dries up and you have to turn your attention to the television to keep you occupied.
It would be fair to say that this year’s television schedule did not set the imagination alight. With the usual collection of soaps, uninspiring films and endless repeats of Only Fools and Horses, I was desperately seeking out the remote control to find something entertaining to watch.
Fortunately, my television viewing was saved by the undeniable brilliance of the PDC World Championship Darts coverage on Sky Sports.
I have been a darts fan for many years. What first drew me to the game was the incredible ability of 15 times world champion, Phil Taylor. Not only could he produce shots on the dartboard that defied belief, but he always did it with great style and panache. This coupled with the electric atmosphere generated by the crowd makes it one of my favourite events to watch each year.
This year’s world championship when it began in the middle of December was one I was eagerly anticipating.
While Phil Taylor remains the world’s number one darts player he was coming to the Alexandra Palace desperately trying to regain the world championship that had been won the previous year by young pretender, Adrian Lewis. While there was intrigue as to how Taylor would fare, it was clear that the tournament could be the most competitive in years.
As well as Adrian Lewis trying to retain his title, there were also genuine contenders in James Wade, Gary Anderson, Simon Whitlock and a rejuvenated Kevin Painter who had won the previous ranking tournament.
What would follow is 16 days of the highest quality darts that have ever been seen. The tournament would ignite from the first day with former five time champion Raymond Van Barneveld being eliminated while other high profile players including Lewis and Anderson would survive some major scares.
Though, the real shock would take place after the Christmas break as the favourite and greatest player of all time Phil Taylor would be defeated by Dave ‘Chizee Rascall’ Chisnell. There was concern that the elimination of Taylor would greatly affect the quality of the tournament. However, rather than the quality decreasing, it would improve as the remaining 16 players would all raise their game as they realised that they had a genuine chance to win the trophy.
It is very difficult to express just how much happened in this tournament and I do not intend to describe each event in the competition blow by blow. Though, highlights included Australian Simon Whitlock reaching the semi-final despite having a broken ankle and losing a classic match to Andy Hamilton.
It was also fantastic to see a return to form for one of my favourite players, John Part. He would lose one of the greatest matches ever to James Wade in the quarter final. We would also see a darts match delayed due to a gust of wind blowing across the stage, a player stung by a bee and the bad boy of darts, Paul Nicholson blaming a defeat not on his lack of ability, but on being distracted by the attractiveness of his opponents girlfriend.
All of this meant that I have spent the last fortnight glued to the television, while perched on the edge of my seat. I must give enormous credit to Sky Sports as their coverage of the darts was flawless.
The coverage is presented by Dave Clarke who obviously has a real love for the game and is incredibly passionate. He is accompanied by the quiet and articulate Rod Harrington, the always charismatic, Wayne Mardle and of course the Crafty Cockney, Eric Bristow who is never afraid to give an opinion.
The only sad aspect was the absence of Sid Waddell who over the last few years has rightly earned the reputation as the voice of darts. Sid is currently recovering from cancer and I hope he gets well soon and can make a return to the commentary box.
The quality of the entertainment on show at the Alexandra Palace each day certainly towered over anything that Eastenders, Downtown Abbey or Doctor Who could manage. As we face difficult times there is no greater escape than tuning into the darts where there is lights, music and an enthusiastic crowd watching players who are not only talented, but are real characters. I am officially a darts addict and cannot wait for the next tournament, which starts in a few weeks time.
I must give my congratulations to Adrian Lewis who ended a wonderful tournament by defeating Andy Hamilton to retain the world title last night.