Ah... the ancient practice of throwing pointy things. Humanity has engaged in the practice of throwing pointy objects for pretty much its entire existence; but, how did hunting tools and weapons of war turn into one of the most beloved sports on TV today? Let's have a look at why darts is such a wonderful live sport on TV!
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From Spears to Arrows to Darts
Both javelins and archery have been considered as possible precursors for the sports of darts, with archery being considered the likelier forefather of darts due to the similar construction of dartboards and archery targets, and the fact that darts is also known as arrows.
Some time in the 19th century, France started manufacturing and exporting wooden darts with metal points (which became known as French darts) to England, to meet the demands of fairground showmen who introduced an early version of the game at the fairs they were hosting.
Darts later became popular amongst pubs. Its popularity proved immense, as by 1925 the National Darts Association was established in London in an attempt to formalise the rules of the game. 2 years later, came the first of many tournaments: The News of the World Championship.
During World War II, darts proved extremely popular. However, after the war, darts seemed to have lost its former significance, and it wasn't until 1973, with the establishment of the British Darts Organisation, that darts exploded on the global scene, where it enjoys its current popularity.
About the Dartboard
The earliest dartboards were made from soft woods like elm and poplar, which were easy to penetrate with the darts. It's said that the concentric rings of the tree trunk from which the dartboard was cut and the cracks of the wood suggested the eventual design of the dartboard.
The dartboard started out as a miniature version of the archery target, but this proved too easy and players started hitting bull's-eyes like it was nobody's business. Eventually, a demand for more complicated dartboards was felt, and skilled wireworkers attempted to meet it.
The true inventor of the current format of the dartboard is unknown; however, a certain Thomas Buckle, a wireworker from Leeds, is believed to have invented the format in around 1912. Then, the final step in the evolution of dartboards was in 1932.
It was in that year that London-based company Nodor patented a new design for dartboards to replace the obsolescent wooden dartboards. Instead, they would be made of compressed sisal fibres which proved superior, but unpopular until the 1970s.
Rules of the Game
There are many forms of darts, but the commonest one is between 2 players who throw 3 darts each. Players have a fixed score (generally 501 or 301) which they must reduce to 0, also known as checking out. The final dart must land either on the bull's-eye or a double segment. Otherwise, players 'go bust' and must try checking out again.
Scoring, Skills Necessary and Tournaments
Dartboards are divided into 20 numbered sections, from 1 to 20, by wires, which in turn subdivide the sections further into single, double and triple sections. The sections reduce players' scores according to their numbers and whether darts land in double or triple sections.
The fastest way to win a game of 501 is through a nine dart finish, which can be accomplished through several ways, and is generally considered a feat of incredible skill. Darts is in essence a game of accuracy, which depends on many factors which players strive to perfect.
There are many darts tournaments to mention, but the most important ones are definitely the WDF World Cup, the BDO World Darts Championship, and the PDC World Darts Championship. These are the most prestigious and significant darts events around, making for some excellent live sport on TV!
The Best Dart Throwers
There are many fantastic players within the sport worthy of mention, but as it's impossible to mention them all, here are our choices: we definitely have to mention Phil Taylor, who won 216 professional tournaments, including 16 World Championships, 8 of which were won consecutively from 1995 to 2002!
Then there is the recent force-to-be-reckoned-with Michael van Gerwen, who was the youngest player to win the PDC World Championship! He's currently ranked as the world's topmost player, especially for winning a total of 43 tournaments in 2015 and 2016.
Best TV moments
One of the most extraordinary moments in darts is the match between Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis in the 2013 Gram Slam of Darts semi-finals. The match has become legendary as it holds the record for the match with highest average combined score in PDC history!
Then we must definitely name the moment van Gerwen almost scored 2 back-to-back nine-dart finishes at the 2013 PDC World Championship! van Gerwen landed 17 perfect darts and only barely missed the final dart needed for the second nine-dart finish!
Darts is a simple, but elegant and magnificent game of marksmanship that takes years of practice to master. With so many talented players and important tournaments about, it's impossible not to see why darts is such an exhilarating live sport on TV today!