Monday, 15 January, 2001, 17:43 GMT
'Darts is not a sport'
BBC Sport's Rob Bonnet says that no matter how much he enjoys darts, he refuses to consider it a sport.
My dear old dad used to say that "it's only sport if it's got a ball in it".
A narrow definition, it's fair to say, reflecting his addiction to rugby and cricket and a distaste for almost anything else, even other ball-sports.
Hockey - one of the most brutally terrifying and high-skill-level games ever invented - didn't count, according to Bonnet senior, because the players drank shorts and not pints afterwards in the bar.
Real sportsmen - he said - didn't drink gin and tonic. He was joking. I think.
So let's get our sensible heads on and get a modern definition from the Oxford English Dictionary.
"Sport: Pleasant pastime; entertainment or amusement; recreation, diversion." Bonnet senior, I suspect, is turning in his grave... and junior's unhappy too.
This is too general. Perhaps it was recently updated in those dark days when local councils went Sport for All bonkers and made a complete politically-correct nonsense of that old Corinthian ethic about how it wasn't winning that counted, but the taking part.
Presumably this definition means sightseeing, picnicking, and going to the cinema are all sports.
And how long before we hear this at the Olympics? "And now, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the first heat of the rose-pruning. In Shrubbery number one, Joyce Matthews from Cheltenham."
You never know! The IOC came pretty close to ballroom dancing, didn't it?
What, then, do we make of the world darts championship at Frimley Green this week?
I ask the question because, once again, I've been taken to task by a "Breakfast" viewer for taking a disrespectful line on an event which is hugely entertaining and competitive, demanding great efforts of concentration and skill.
But which, by any sensible definition, surely isn't sport.
I risk - of course - a right verbal pillaging from one of the event's big stars.
Andy "The Viking" Fordham would surely been first off the long-boat and up the beach with his arrows all those centuries ago if only he'd been able to break into more than a gentle amble.
Is Andy skilful? Yes. Is he competitive? No doubt. But is he athletic? Well, frankly, no.
In that case he's no more a sportsman in my view than Steve "Bronzed Adonis" Beaton is a Hollywood matinee idol.
Darts is seeking the kind of healthy credibility that might superficially give it the status of a sport.
Alcoholic refuelling on the oche is now forbidden; tournament sixth seed Kevin "Pretty Boy" Painter is amongst those claiming a new professionalism as he sips his mineral water.
Others retreat briefly behind the scenes for something more interesting. And the crowd, of course, are well and truly tanked up.
But booze or no booze, tobacco sponsorship or no tobacco sponsorship, darts is a game. Nothing wrong with games. Games are good. I like games. I like darts.
But darts won't be a sport until the players need to do more than bend their right arms and wear a path between oche and board.
That's why snooker, too, is a game, no matter what you might hear about players needing to be physically fit. They do - but only to be more mentally alert.
And that's why Steve Backley - javelin silver medallist in Sydney - is a sportsman. Because he - unlike Andy "The Viking" - is an athlete.
That's why golf is a sport. (The golf swing is an athletic movement and, in any event, remember the US PGA's continuing insistence in the Casey Martin buggy case that walking the course is part of the game?).
Speed skating is a sport. Ice dancing - like ballet - isn't (because although it's competitive, the judgements on who wins and loses are subject to artistic impression. Your winner is my loser.)
And parachuting - organised competitively - is a sport, whereas bungee-jumping isn't.
So let's re-write the dictionary."Sport: Pleasant pastime; entertainment or amusement; recreation, diversion... requiring skill, athleticism and an objectively competitive format."
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