It’s true. When you suddenly get turned on to something, you want the whole world to know how damn fabulous it is. Well, I’m a bit like that with darts at the moment. I started playing about three months ago and my God, it truly is the beautiful game! It is more than just chucking small pointy sticks at a board (which, to be fair, rather neatly sums up my playing style) – you’ve got to think about what you’re doing and it’s a superb mental arithmetic workout. Given than I haven’t done maths in any serious way since my last GCSE exam in 1996, I am still somewhat creaky in this area. More than anything though it’s just tremendously good fun. I play in a ladies team – McNasty’s Darts Tarts since you were asking – and the banter is just superb. We come from all walks of life and all ages, unified by our love of darts. We don’t take ourselves too seriously – a large amount of my first practise session was devoted to coming up with my darts nicknames. In the end we settled for ‘The Bangor Bullet’, partly with a nod and wink to my homeland and partly in recognition of my somewhat ‘forceful’ throwing style. However, we aren’t there just to take the piss either. We had a friendly against the men’s team a few weeks back which saw all of us (including the non-smokers) crowded outside, sharing cigarettes and generally freaking out. Though we were beaten hands down , they were all close run things and we were rather proud of our performance. Last Tuesday saw the first official game of the new season (Bon Accord Ladies Darts Association, Division Three) and to say we were triumphant is putting it mildly. An 8-4 victory speaks for itself I think.
Anyway, I suppose the point of this post is to set out the general rules of darts, so when I next start gibbering away about it you will know what I’m on about. In a standard game you are starting with 501 points on the board, aiming to get down to zero. Sounds simple, but the cunning part is that you must finish on a double. This doubles are the narrow strips of green and red on the outside of a standard board, so if I was left with 14 points, I would need to finish on double 7. Or if I scored 4, then I’d need double 5 to win. Like I say, sounds simple in theory, can be incredibly tricky in practise. I am filled with admiration for the really good darts players who can practically get doubles on demand, because I now know how much practise has gone into that. Getting doubles is tough, even more so when you know it’s all that stands between you and a win, team pride and precious league points. My success rate is about 50/50 and often it’s as much about luck as it is precision. The end of a game is when the nerves kick in for me, in the middle I enjoy it more, because I can rack up the points without going bust (getting far more than you need) My personal high score is 134, though there was a large amount of fluke went into that one. Typically a darts team will have at least 8 members, with a match consisting of 8 singles and 4 doubles. Most teams will have more than 8 regular members, allowing the captain to mix and match the pairings and take account of those occasions when real life gets in the way. If you’re the home team, then there’s the added pressure of marking and checking. The checker will stand behind the players and call out the score, the marker records everything. This is where the mental arithmetic needs to be spot on! My hands were shaking by the time I finished my first game last week, but marking was 100 times more stressful. None of that will be an issue tomorrow though, as we are on the road, against a team who are likely to make mincemeat of us, but it’s a long season ahead and there are many points to be won!