Monday, September 20, 2021

Larger Than Life Characters In Darts

Darts is one of our most popular and beloved sports.

Part of the reason for this is that it just doesn’t take itself too seriously.

We know it has come along way from its smoke-filled pub origins, very far in fact, but it is still a sport that puts fun and silliness at the forefront of its priorities.

Perhaps that is why darts has thrown up so many great characters over the years.

We all have our favourite darting heroes and fan favourites but who might claim to be the craziest guys to ever step up to the oche?

Let’s take a look.

Peter ‘Snakebite’ Wright

Which other sport in the world would see the reigning world champion walk out to defend his title dressed as Dr Seuss’ The Grinch?

That’s how 2020 PDC World Darts Champion walked out at the Ally Pally 12 months after the best night of his career.

The biggest shame was that there were no crowds at the 2021 Worlds, so the usual boozy darts fans missed out on this bizarre sight.

But they wouldn’t have been surprised.

Over the years, Peter Wright has established his Snakebite character (named after his love of snakes and not his “favourite” drink) into one of the most recognisable in British sport.

A true fan favourite, Snakey is one of the most popular guys on the PDC tour and its his signature look – Mohawk haircut plus snake motive, plus loud uniform, all of which changes colour every week and is very often themed – coupled with a unique walk-on dance to Pitbull’s Don’t Stop The Party, that has allowed him to achieve that.

In fact, we could write a whole page on the many looks of Peter Wright, whose wife Jo does his hair before each match, taking two hours each time.

But it’s more than just the look.

Wright has been a solid member of the PDC’s top guys for more than a decade now and has racked up the 2017 UK Open, 2020 Darts Masters and the 2020 World Championships over that time.

Bobby ‘King of Bling’ George

When people think of Bobby George, the first thing that usually comes to mind is the jewellery.

But that was only part of the character of one of darts’ oldest and most original icons.

In his playing days, Bobby was much loved for his character, sense of humour, personality and, of course, the bling.

Heck, he even had his house designed and built to resemble a darts flight.

Still making television appearances today, notably improving moods in the BBC’s Real Marigold Hotel, Bobby’s flair and huge smile always shines through.

At the oche, George embodied the previous generation of darts, that included the legendary likes of Sid Lowe and Eric Bristow, while also ushering in the era of the modern darters that owe so much to his celebrity.

Even his walk-ons were a thing of legend and almost everything that followed can be traced back to Bobby George. Think Ted ‘The Count’ Hankey, who could easily have made this list, dressed in a cape and throwing bats to the crowd, or Steve ‘The Muffin Man’ Hine.

That simply would not have happened without the King of Bling.

Gerwyn ‘The Iceman’ Price

Roaring darter The Iceman may not play to up to the crowds in the same way as others on this list, but he cannot go unmentioned.

The Welsh star has at times revelled in his pantomime villain status, like a latter day Peter Manley, using the boos as fuel and screaming down the camera lens after each finish.

But then 2020 came and the crowds were locked out. Many wondered what that would mean for The Iceman.

Well, he answered that emphatically and posted the best season of his career and finished it as world champion, beating Gary Anderson in the final.

After his win at the Ally Pally, former rugby star Price admitted that he misses his former sport – Price represented Wales at under-21 level before playing for Welsh Premiership sides Cross Keys and Neath – but now enjoys playing darts.

Personally, we’re glad he made the switch because he has become solid gold darting box office.

Unusually for a darter, the Iceman is in good physical shape.

Ironically, the Welshman credits a lack of celebratory discipline during his rugby days with ruining his chances of picking up a full cap for Wales.

Perhaps darts, where he is clearly the most athletic on the circuit, provides the best medium then.

Think the exact opposite of the legendary popular Andy ‘The Viking’ Fordham and you get the picture.

It’s not a career trajectory that many make. He is of course the first darts player that started out packing down in the front row of a scrum.

The fact that he is also the first Welsh world champion as well means he makes the list.

Jocky Wilson

John Thomas Wilson, from Kirkcaldy, Scotland, was known the world over as “Jocky”, and was one of the game’s foremost personalities in his heyday and a huge favourite among darts crowds.

Jocky was, very much by design, a pure pub player and it showed.

An icon of darts’ Smokey, boozy roots, Wilson was not an advocate of healthy living and was a chain smoking heavy drinker at a time when that was OK.

On numerous occasions, the popular Scotsman fell off the stage drunk.

By the age of 28, Wilson had lost his entire God-given teeth, givng birth to the nickname “Gumsy”.

On one occasion, live on TV, the dentures the darter bought to replace his lost gnashers were burp blasted out of his mouth and sent flying across the oche. It’s hard to imaging Michael van Gerwen doing that.

Never one to miss an opportunity, Wilson would later employ the itchy footed mouth piece as a ball marker in his pool games with Eric Bristow.

Even a sad demise where he ultimately died alone and broke in a Scottish council flat cannot take away from of the brightest stars of a bygone era.

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