Robin Scott-Elliot: Verbal jousting gives darts edge in duel with the pool

View From The Sofa: Duel in the Pool/World Darts Championship, BBC3/Sky Sports

The sight of empty lanes, while a plus on the motorway at this time of year, is not designed to instil a sense of occasion into a swimming match. It makes the event resemble a December PE lesson where any sensible pupil has engineered a note to keep them in the semi-warmth of the changing room and out of the reach of Miss Davies' questioning gaze.

These gaps, said Adrian Moorhouse, should have been filled by European "bombers to create some waves" so as not to allow the Americans in the neighbouring lane a smooth ride; which conjures immediate images of Peter Kay shoehorned into one of those nipple-crushing go-faster suits leaping into the pool shouting "waahey" while Michael Phelps looks in vain to the lifeguard to bring some order.

When you are sitting shivering on the festive sofa, swimming does not make for ideal television and it was an attitude that seemed to have spread to the competitors. "It is a bit cold," one chisel-jawed all-American admitted to Sharron Davies. The organisers tried to whip up a bit of pizzazz over the whole occasion but the Americans by and large shuffled reluctantly poolside swaddled in dressing gowns (before proceeding to win almost every race). The contrast with Ally Palace in "HHHHHLondon", as MC John McDonald has it, could not have been greater.

Darts players would, of course, be perfect for Moorhouse's bombing role, but what makes their world championships such a merry watch is the sense of fun, and lager, that imbues the entire spectacle. It is not sport, it's entertainment. Most of it meant.

The World Championships kicked off at the same time as Duel in the Pool, it was six packs v a six pack, a couple of Bacardi chasers, a multipack of cheese and onion crisps and don't forget the pork scratchings. The Palace was a different planet; one populated by chubby men and women wearing less than Rebecca Adlington in her work gear. It was a sporting version of Life on Mars.

Each competitor was accompanied to the oche by a woman who often had to cope with having smaller breasts than the player she was, one must presume, supposed to be accessorising. The exception was Christian Perez, a slender farmer from the Philippines where darts has, we were informed, become popularised by Manny Pacquiao's love of the sport.

Perez beat a Dane nicknamed Peachy. The nickname is important in darts, which is where Perez – "he's a clever man. He has a degree in plant pathology. Whatever that is" – fell down. His nickname is Ian. "From Christian?" wondered commentator John Gwynne.

It's the commentators who pop the cherry on the top, as they attempt to outdo each other in hype, simile and historical cross-reference. The hyperbole is turned up to 11 from the off, as was the television, as Sid Waddell had apparently decided to become Whispering Sid. "Murmur, mumble... baffled the boffins," said Sid as Phil Taylor began the defence of the trophy he's won 59 times in a row. "Mumble, murmur... stubby barrels... murmur, kerfuffle...knitting needles... phhrrrrr... lovely platform... perfection."

The problem was solved in time to hear that "Monkey" Colin Monk (see where they're going there?) had a "ragged habit". Waddell's co-commentator, Dave Lanning, upped the ante. "Monk is the greatest thing to come out of Basingstoke since the M3, but if he beats Taylor he'll become the most talked about monk since Rasputin."

Back in Manchester Moorhouse admitted that he "was a tad embarrassed" at what had become a damp squib in the pool. Embarrassment is nowhere to be found anywhere at the Palace, and that's its greatest strength. Chutzpah, as they say in nearby Stamford Hill, is one word for it, but no doubt Waddell and Co will find many, many more over the next couple of weeks.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Home Care / Support Workers

£7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Day In a Page

Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate