It is probably the case that once you get any way familiar with a given sporting activity or author or journalist or whatever the case may be, you will develop one favourite exponent thereof who will be admired and enjoyed perhaps a bit more than all others. Though brilliant the rest may be.
Apply that criteria regarding darts and the occupant of this seat and the answer you come up with is Gary Anderson. Yes one adores watching MVG as was the case with Raymond Van Barneveld before him, but there’s just something about Anderson. The nearest I can get to putting a handle on it is to say he comes across as a very ordinary, self-depreciating fella who is no stranger to having to overcome adversity.
He has unquestionably been impinged by a long-standing back injury while in more recent times his right knee has restricted his movement around the oche and indeed his playing schedule. Not a noted devotee of the practice board and, by his own admission, not a fan of the Home Tour which many of the players have partaken in, it certainly didn’t preclude him from looking as dangerous as ever on the stage that matters most.
Another favourite of mine who made a very welcome return to the form which saw him make a seamless transition when he joined the PDC a few years ago was Stephen Bunting. There are three reasons in particular I’m a fan of ‘The Bullet’. His nickname, the manner and regularity with which he essays maximums onto his scorecard. Mostly though, due to the uncanny resemblance he bears to one of my favourite television characters. In darts, players are often as famous for their walkon music as anything the fire at the board.
Remember Phil Taylor customising Fanfare For The Common Man or RVB doing likewise with Eye Of The Tiger. Then there are the tunes which weren’t changed at all but get a rebirth of popularity due to the players with whom they are associated. Such as Tom Hark with Jamie Caven or, the case in point in this instance, Stephen Bunting and Surfin Bird.
To be honest I’d never watched an episode of Family Guy before I met Susie but the moment I saw it, it became crystal clear why Surfin’ Bird was Bunting’s entrance hymn because he is the nearest there is ever likely to be to Peter Griffin in real life!
Though it’s probably a safe enough bet that he’s considerablly more productive at the dart board than the great fictional American Kerryman is in the bowling alley!
There are a cohort of players numbering as many as you like, exceptionally good though they are, who will never, you feel, reach the top rung of the ladder as their form tends to be too erratic.
Some of whom are admired because of their playing style, others in spite of their MO and a few who, it wouldn’t matter if they were throwing saucers at the board they’d be watched as contently as a field of barley being harvested.
Which brings me nicely to Ricky Evans. If there is one thing I’d change about darts I’d put a shot clock on players as they have in basketball as slow play is the one element of the action that is off-putting. Mind you, there are no such cocerns with Rapid Ricky who dispatches his missiles faster than I down a curry.
Yet, there are occasions when exceptions can and must be made to every stipulation. In the darting world, that means being accepting of Mensur Suljovic’s slow-paced methodical preamble because even watching the big Austrian on the television might even cheer The Grinch up! (No, not Peter Wright, the other one!)
The only problem now is, one of my favourites is going to be gone after the next round with Mensur being drawn against Gary. Stating the obvious, but, at least one of them will be left in, so it surely won’t be boring!