I got the Power

The failure of British sport this summer led me to think about one area where British sportsmen have regularly triumphed (aside from John Part, Tony David, Raymond van Barneveld). 

For me one of the televisual highlights of the year is the BDO Embassy World Professional Darts Championship of the World (now renamed since the smoking ban ended) from the Lakeside Country Club Frimley Green. Sadly, this takes place in January and TV tends to be downhill all the way thereafter. The ridiculous double act of Ray Stubbs and Bobby (“rattle rattle, jewellery, jewellery”) George, the poor commentary of Tony (“I used to be the scorer on Bullseye, you know”) Green whose regular references to “lovely ladies” in the crowd make one pine for the awareness, expertise and sensitivity of Alan Partridge. The entertainment value comes from the players although there are very few of the current BDO players that have the star quality that made darts in its eighties heyday such essential viewing. The big stars, of course, fled to Sky some years ago. There was a cracking “Blood on the carpet” documentary on BBC 2 last year discussing the WDC/PDC/BDO competing world championships split. The programme “Poisoned Arrows” was hilarious, yet – for someone that loves watching darts and wants to see the best play the best – rather sad.

For the viewer without Sky the best of the players are no longer seen on the small screen. They are found in the PDC world championship and other tournaments throughout the year. King of the darts players is Phil “the power” Taylor, twelve times world champion. Last year I was given a copy of his autobiography (written with the greatest of all sports commentators, Sid Waddell – see earlier post for Sid on fashion). The autobigraphy is called simply “The Power” (available at all good book shops). Taylor, the greatest British sportsman of the modern era, has dominated his sport in a manner comparable to the great Ed Moses’ achievements in the 400 m hurdles. He is never a man to underestimate the physical challenge of playing top quality darts – see pp 249 – 252 for a welcome discussion of darts players as athletes which includes the passages,

“I reckon darts demans more physical effort than archery, shooting or golf. … [Leighton] Rees was the holder of the Embassy world title, but for about 10 days over Christmas and New Year had not used his right arm for anything more strenuous than pint lifting. After three hours of hurling tungsten the great man was almost in tears with the pain in this throwing arm.”

Point proved, I think.

The section goes on to compares the darts player’s preparation with that of boxers. As Phil notes,

“The more I talk to my boxing friend Ricky Hatton, the more I am convinced that future darts champions will have to train like boxers”

The strict training, practice, and no alcohol regime Taylor follows (aside from “the odd brandy-and-port three hours before I play, because I eat nothing more than breakfast on a match day”) indicates his dedication. Taylor loves his sport, is committed to improving its image, and he has come as near to perfecting his sport as any sportsman has in recent years. As Sid Waddell himself said, “If we’d had Phil Taylor at Hastings against the Normans, they’d have gone home.” (More Waddell quotes here for anyone interested).

The book is an entertaining read, never being more challenging than the usual sports biography. However, within its pages it has one entry nearly rivalling Taylor’s darting prowess. I refer to the index. Some years ago JG Ballard published a short story called “The Index” in which the book has gone missing and only the index remains. The result is hilarious. While not in Ballard’s league, for non-darts fans a perusal of the index for “The Power” is highly recommended. As well as references to Jim Bowen, Sebastian Coe, Steve Davis, Roy Keane, and Nick Faldo we have

“Anderson, Bob 35, 43, 103

cowboy walk-on 102-103″

the entry for “George, Bobby” contains references to “glitter cape 320 ; police impersonation incident 243-245; poor quality TV commentary 170”; but the entry for Jocky WIlson includes the following,

“Wilson, Jocky

dentures 108
drinking 47, 108-109, 111-112

finely tuned athlete 199

picketing Embassy tournament 85
playing style 256

Top of the Pops incident 108-9

waxworks incident 98″

Wilson is of course one of the great Scottish sports stars. I doubt if in years to come anyone would be able to refer to Andy Murray in a biography making reference to his picketing, dentures, drinking, the waxworks incident, and the Top of the Pops incident. The latter is one of the great TV moments and the finest moment in Top of the Pops history. Sadly, the autobiography repeats the erroneous version that Dexy’s Midnight Runners singing “Jackie Wilson Said” in front of a large picture of the great Jocky was a researcher’s error. The truth – that Kevin Rowland suggested it – doesn’t make as good a story.

If all of this doesn’t entice you to buy Taylor’s book I don’t know what will.  It is still available at all good book shops, and remember Phil “the Power” Taylor is one of those that can be voted for in this year’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year.  Aside from our elephant polo team and some boxers he is 2006’s British sporting success.

About loveandgarbage

I watch the telly and read when not doing law stuff and plugging my decade and a half old unwatched Edinburgh fringe show.
This entry was posted in biography, darts, dentures, literature, phil taylor, sid waddell, sport, top of the pops incident, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to I got the Power

  1. Spiffing. I am reminded of the desperate Keith Talent and the sublike Kim Twemlow in Martin Amis’ London Fields.

    • I was going to reread London Fields. Just the impetus I need. For the avoidance of doubt Keith Talent is not based on Keith Deller, former boy wonder darts world champion(“not just the underdog he’s the underpuppy” as Sid memorably put it) 😉
      This article in The Observer Sports Monthly brought back many fond memories
      and has some of the Amis interview excerpted.

  2. Bugger. I didn’t know Leighton Rees was dead – he was the first darts player to make it big really — on the legendary Indoor League hosted by none other than F S “Ah’ll sithee” Trueman.
    Cliff Lazarenko was always my darting hero. Solid.

    • Anonymous says:

      I dunno about failure, we would have won that last Test match if Andrew Strauss had a spine.

    • Sad to know about Leighton Rees. When the Beeb used to show the nations cup of darts I remember Rees and Allan Evans throwing for Wales.
      As for Indoor League – that brings us back once again to the mighty Sid Waddell, who developed the format and produced.
      I lived in the Border TV area growing up and don’t recall it being shown there (but it may have been too late for me).

  3. Anonymous says:

    I believe the answer you would obtain is on the lines of “because”
    – perhaps we should contact Notes and Queries?

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