Booze And Bull’s-Eyes – Life On The Professional Darts Circuit
As appearing in the Planet Darts Website
Niall Edworthy, who has an impressive pedigree as a quality investigative, observational journalist and author, effectively turns his skills to an examination of the professional darts circuit in Planet Darts (Headline Books, £12.99).
Most dart players would rather pick up a set of darts than pick up a book, but Planet Darts is one I recommend you all to spend some time with.
Apart from being the first book on darts to be published in the UK for over a decade (and thus worth reading for that reason alone), Planet Darts serves as a guide book – a revelation in some places – for anyone interested in the current state of the professional game.
It is also a textbook for those wanting to know more about the pro circuit before committing themselves to pursuing the dream of being the one darter to measure up to ‘The Power’
Ostensibly a book about the up and coming Essex-based darts player, Colin Lloyd, Planet Darts is much, much more than that; although the progress or otherwise of Lloyd, provides the all-important thread that holds this fascinating tale together.
In this thoroughly enjoyable book, Niall takes us on a roller-coaster ride that chronicles a year on the circuit – ‘the parallel universe of darts’ – from the euphoria of success and a good pay day to ‘the brutal reality of professional darts’, first round exits and hardly enough prize money to cover expenses.
We are taken to all the major darts events of the circuit, from Blackpool and Vegas to Ireland and the World Grand Prix. We get an insight into the VIP lounges where the stars reveal fascinating insights into their lives, their superstitions and their drinking capacities.
What is striking about Edworthy’s encounters with the sport’s top names is the uncontrollable honesty of most of them. I was also impressed by the classic, honest, homespun darts philosophy, punctuated by four-letter expletives, which provides most of the more light-hearted moments in the book. However, this work also comes as close to anything I’ve ever read on the subject to ‘darts with the lid off.’
A first round exit in the 2000 Skol World Championships shows Colin Lloyd contemplating giving up darts for good – being beaten by ‘a local nobody’ in Great Yarmouth didn’t help either.
In one particularly tragic-comic moment, Lloydie, having been beaten in the first round of the World Matchplay, is turned away by the ‘cocky custodian’ of a darts game-stall on Blackpool’s pier for failing to hit a high enough score to win a giant toy frog!
Edworthy follows Lloyd around ‘like a dog’ but through the generosity of this ‘aspiring talent’ is given leave to become a welcome part of a close knit circle of players that includes Rod Harrington and Alan Warriner.
Planet Darts effectively captures the solidarity between many of the circuit players that sees them pledging to club together winnings in the Open tournaments, as well as the inevitable personality clashes that come with competing at the highest level.
Lloyd comes across as a worthy if flawed hero and the book leaves us with Colin back on the road and battling hard having struggled in the PDC premier events.
Of course, those of us who watched Sky Sports coverage of this year’s Skol World Championships will know that Lloyd was one of the stars of the show, reaching the semifinals.
It appears that he may have heeded the words of his close circle of friends – advice so often it seems ignored throughout the book and that in itself provides a neat retrospective on what can be achieved by the up-and-coming of the game.
Planet Darts is a revealing behavioral study of darts professionals fighting their way for the few major riches available since the sport fell out of favour with the majority of media moguls. The sport now awaits its next – and undoubted – renaissance.
© 2007 Patrick Chaplin