Englishman Luke Woodhouse enjoyed a perfect nine-throw darts game on Saturday — something which his next opponent, Austrian Rowby-John Rodriguez, heard while he was on the toilet. Rodriguez needed to ask his neighbors in Vienna for permission to play in the championship.
This is the exciting and bizarre world of stay-at-home darts championship.
While you obviously can’t play a tennis or basketball competition from your own home, some activities can still go on. Take darts, for instance.
Sure, there’s nothing like a crowded bar atmosphere and overpriced beer, but playing darts can still be done from your home. Dart’s secret weapon is that you don’t really need to be in the same room as your opponent, and over the course of the pandemic, it’s paying off in spades.
Recently, the world of darts has been tuning in to the PDC Home Tour — a tournament where top players compete from their homes. You set up a phone on a tripod, you have a playing setup, and you’re good to go.
This approach was widely supported by the community.
“Everyone just wants to carry on playing darts. I definitely do because everyone’s noticing darts at the moment, so you just want to keep it going,” said Fallon Sherrock, one of the few female darts competitors, in an interview with Radio 1 Newsbeat.
Sherrock, who has recently called for more support for women in darts, has signed up for an online tournament called MODUS Icons of Darts. She streams live for nine hours a day and says it’s only technical difficulties that limit the play of online darts.
“I’ve been rushing to get my internet sorted in time,” she laughs.
“I’ve been asked by top players to play against them online, people like world number three Gerwyn Price, but I’ve just been sorting my internet out so I can play.”
It started with smaller tournaments, but now, the world of darts is enjoying a true major competition, where participants play from their homes. The PDC Home Tour features 32 players playing on 32 consecutive nights — oh, and it’s all free to watch online.
“It beats watching the news and all the horrible things going on around the world – so we’re going to have a bit of fun with darts,” current PDC World Champion Peter ‘Snakebite’ Wright tells Newsbeat.
Wright, who is probably the most sparkling personality in the darts tour, typically sports a brightly-colored mohawk. For his debut in the Home Tour, he also sported NHS themed hair, in support of the National Health Service in the UK.
Moving everything online wasn’t easy. Unfortunately, one participant had to withdraw from the competition because his home WiFi was too slow. For many other participants, building the setup for the event proved challenging.
Wright, who has no problems working up the crowd, is a stranger to Skype, he told the BBC.
“I don’t really do electronics so it’s all going to be a bit strange for me. Chatting to you is only the second time I’ve used Skype.”
Rodriguez, as mentioned above, needed to overcome a different hurdle: he needed to ask his neighbors in Vienna for permission to make noise after 8 PM.
It’s not just the technical side of it that’s challenging: recreating darts’ famous atmosphere will be instrumental in deciding the success of this tour. The shouting, the cheering, the flowing beer, and mounting psychological pressure will all be very different. If it manages to recreate a part of this environment — or who knows, creates a new type of captivating environment — the community stands to win a lot from this.
“We’re going to take it seriously. Hopefully those people out there who haven’t watched darts before will enjoy it and maybe get themselves a board and start playing,” Wright added for BBC.
Darts isn’t the most popular competition by any means. But it’s done an admirable job at making the best out of a bad situation. The world of darts played on its strengths and created the perfect situation for people to continue enjoying and playing this sport.