Whilst recently rummaging through my data files I discovered an article which was originally written in 2000 for Planetdarts but somehow never found its way on to that site. Thus, five years on, it is published here for the first time in slightly revised form. However, before that, I must apologise profusely to those visiting this page from outside of the UK who may be unfamiliar with ‘Chas and Dave’, ‘John Prescott’ and ‘Michael Heseltine.’ Suffice to say here that each of them have been described here in the UK at some time or another as comedians. Hopefully, it does not detract from your enjoyment of the article in any way.
Unlike other sports which have their roots in the English public house, darts is probably the only one to retain an element of genuine humour. Here are just a few which I have extracted from my files.
Long before Chas and Dave recorded the song ‘Gercha,’ the ‘Gercha’ had become part of darts mythology in my part of the world. The story goes that some years ago a stranger turned up on a darts practice night at the White Horse, Mundon, near Maldon, Essex (England – about 40 miles NE of London). He purchased a pint of lager and stood and watched each player throwing. He scoffed at the poor shots and tut-tutted and shook his head at the ton-plusses. He talked down to the locals and it was clear that he wasn’t there to join the team. He was a hustler and from what he was telling the locals that would listen, he was unbeatable.
The oldest member of the team, Arthur aged over 80, completed a very competent game of 501 and was just walking away from the board when the stranger stepped forward and – pointing at him vigorously in a jabbing motion – shrieked, “I’ll play you! For £100, now; I play you!” Despite objections from his colleagues to the threat of the interloper, Arthur simply shrugged his shoulders, straightened the feather flights of his ancient darts and said, “All right lad.” The stranger grunted, put his beer down, took out an expensive set of tungsten darts and moved towards the oche.
“I agree to play you young man” added Arthur, “provided that you play to the rules of the house.” “What?” asked the stranger plunking his third dart into the treble twenty bed. “All I ask is that you play to our local rules” repeated Arthur. The stranger grunted again – he was good at that – threw three darts into the bull’s-eye and said, “Whatever.”
Arthur continued, “Knowing as much about darts as I’m certain you do, you will doubtless be familiar with the ‘Gercha’ in challenge matches such as these. It’s a practice common throughout the rural parts of England, but then I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that. You’re sure to have come across this before as you travel the country in search of sport.” The stranger hit three double eighteens, turned to Arthur, smiled in his face and – in blissful ignorance – agreed. The stranger really had no idea what a ‘Gercha’ was but didn’t wish to show his ignorance and, in any event, he’d played ‘local rules’ before and won on every occasion.
John, the landlord, then stepped forward and took £100 from the stranger and stomped up Arthur’s ton of notes. John then asked for quiet and began to make the formal announcement. Holding the cash aloft, John said, “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a darts challenge. The stranger on my right has challenged Arthur to a single game of 501 for £100 cash. Local rules apply and so Arthur, as the one challenged, is entitled to two ‘Gerchas.’ Our friend the stranger as the outsider making the challenge is not entitled to a single Gercha. Those are the rules of the house.” Those present uttered in unison, “So be the rules of this house.” The stranger merely mumbled, “Bothers me” and then louder, “Let’s get this over with. I need the money.”
The obnoxious visitor threw his three practice darts, mumbling something about ‘Gerchas’ and hitting a ton-forty. Arthur’s three practice darts went all over the place. Arthur plucked his darts from the board. As he returned and approached the oche, the stranger pushed the old man to one side and said, “Out of my way clown. One game of 501, straight-in, double finish – me first.” Arthur calmly nodded and walked behind the stranger.
“Game on!” shouted the landlord John as he took the chalks. A hush descended over the pub.
The stranger sniffed, shrugged his shoulders, adopted his position at the oche and threw his first dart. It hit the treble twenty dead centre. He launched his second dart which rested right next to the first. 120 scored. He slowly drew back his hand and was about to throw his third dart when Arthur grabbed the stranger between the legs from behind and squeeeeeeeeeezed and shouted “GERCHAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” The stranger fell to the floor as Arthur released his grip of the man’s privates. The third dart fell harmlessly by his side.
From that point on the game was Arthur’s.
Let’s face it, could you have played a decent game of darts waiting for that second ‘Gercha’?
FUN AT THE NEWS OF THE WORLD
In the world’s most famous individual darts championship ever – the News of the World – where we find evidence that even serious darters can see the funny side.
In the mid-1960s, when Henry Barney was playing in the Grand Finals of the News of the World he scored two treble twenties with his first two darts in one of the legs. He stepped back to consider the third shot and fell off the stage. What happened? He saw the funny side. He stood up, composed himself, turned to the board and – Yes – threw the third dart into the treble twenty.
Darts humour even invades big business. Take the time when a six-year old monkey picked more profitable investments than Sweden’s top stockbrokers by throwing darts at a list of companies pinned to a board.
“It just goes to show,” said a Swedish business news editor, “that you don’t need an expensive education to make money on the stock market.”
POLITICAL DARTS HUMOUR
Political HumourIn politics too, in the UK, there’s the occasional outburst of dart humour. Like when John Prescott MP scored a bull’s-eye in a House of Commons darts match, he is reported to have said, “I was thinking of Michael Heseltine at the time.”
[I wonder if there are any incidences of political leaders playing darts in any other part of the world.]
STOPPING A FRIDGE
Meanwhile, on the small screen, our champions are not averse to some creative humorous adlibbing. My personal favourite was when England’s Bob Anderson was beaten by (also England’s) Dave Whitcombe in the semi-final of the 1986 Embassy World Professional Darts Championship. Bob told the interviewer that “When he [Dave] is on form like that, it’s like trying to stop a refrigerator with a cricket bat.” [Picture that!]
A QUESTION OF DARTS
Occasionally darts is included in the questions asked in quiz shows on TV over here in the UK. I vividly remember two such occasions.
The first was on Fifteen to One in the late 1990s. The question master asked, “With what sport do you associate Rod Harrington, Phil Taylor and Bob Anderson?” The contestant thought for a micro-second and then said “Squash?”
Then in October 2004 on the UK version of The Weakest Link, a contestant was asked, “This year Phil Taylor beat Kevin Painter to win his eleventh title in what game?” Contestant: “Athletics?”
Then in the topical news programme in the UK, ‘Have I Got News for You’, (3rd June 2000) during a discussion on the matter of a ‘working class’ girl being refused admission to Oxford University, comedy actor Richard Wilson suggested, “Entry into Oxford is now a game of darts. 501 – Finish on a double.”
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© 2005 Patrick Chaplin
© Patrick Chaplin 2007 (Updated July 2012)