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Article: On Darts

On Darts

I was destined to be one of the great atheletes of my generation - however, in granting me a physically weak and small body, with little-to-nothing in the way of gainliness, Fate provided its typically intractible foe to Destiny. This point was brought home to me as a four-year-old, where I was called upon to compete in a hundred-metres race on my school sports day. I could see the tape marking the finishing line, and thought that, just by an epic force of will, I could best my classmates and be the one to break the tape, winning the plaudits of parents, educators and children alike. Alas, it was not to be - not only did I finished an ignominuous last, I realised that the object of my goal (to break the tape) would not even have been accomplished even had I won (the tape being lifted over the head of the victor). I decided, instead, to retreat into the life of the mind I was granted, as a ^booby prize^, a copy of Spengler^s ^Decline of the West^ and the rest, as they say, is history.

As a child and teen-ager, I therefore eschewed the pleasures which the sporting life provides, and even thought it beneath me to watch sportsmen. I now concede this is something of an error. Although watching rugger or footer bring back far too many painful memories of my teen-age years, shivering like Scott of the Antarctic on some accursed playing field whilst being pummelled whenever some oik saw fit to subject me to a tackle, there are a few sports which I do genuinely enjoy. Being a Hegelian, the reader will be unsurprised to learn that an enjoyable sport is not, for me, one whereby man confronts his nature as an embodied being - they are those where man confronts his being-towards-death, and those which confirm his nature as a rational animal.

Perhaps the apotheosis of sport is bullfighting. The two conditions which I enumerate above are surely fulfilled here - the matador is undertaking an activity where he has a very risk of being killed; however, he puts the delicate ballet of man and beast - a thing of great aesthetic beauty - above any fear he has of the grave. He confronts the irresistible, sublime force of nature: the ferocity and puissance of the bull - with the human attributes of beauty: courage, skill and intelligence; the matador is, by putting his body at mortal risk, able to defeat nature in its most destructive aspects.

The English equivalent of this sport is arguably fox-hunting. Fox-hunting is, contrary to the tiresome claims of its opponents, a form of pest control - the fox being the enemy of settled people everywhere. However, rather than treating the fox as a mere pest, the hunt turns the fox into a sacrifice, into an object given its apotheosis in a bloody ritual. In both bull-fighting and fox-hunting, the essential animality of the fox or bull is respected - we do not treat them as mere pests or sources of meat, rather, we venerate their animal natures - however, we demonstrate the sovereignty of man over nature. This sovereignty, like that of kings, is founded by violence and confirmed by the war; however, it is an essentially beneign hierarchy, able to recognise and respect the condition which those in the lower orders find themselves. People often comment on how funny it is that I am a keen supporter of the hunt, and yet refuse to eat factory-reared meat - hopefully, this paragraph will put such questions at rest.

Indeed, the ritual of fox-hunting is one which brings all aspects of a village together - the lord, the vicar, the black-smith, the farmer, the equestrian - all of whom bring their particular talents to bear in pursuit of the fox. It is a cliche that the opponents of this sport are motivated by class-hatred - this analysis is, however, not quite correct. So many socialists enjoy the comforts of the aristocracy - as one socialist friend of mine commented, ^people call me a champagne socialist, but I don^t think that^s true - I mean, it has to be a good vintage^. No, what is being objected to in the hunt is precisely the harmonious working of a hierarchy, rather than its diffusion into mutually destructive interests; similarly, what is being objected to is not the killing of the fox as such, but the fact that nature can be venerated in its dominance, rather than being reduced to a tool by which the almighty State may feed the proletariat (as we can see in Stalin^s ^progressive^ agricultural policy towards Kalmykia, which, in ignoring the Kalmyk^s wisdom regarding how to tend the land, has resulted in Europe^s first desert).

I could discuss here the appeal of fisticuffs or of cricket (which is surely the perfect marriage the Olympian ideal of idleness with the English ideal of the gentleman). But the subject of my discourse here is darts. This sport may be argued to be the absolute abnegation of the equestrian or tauromachian pursuits - a point which I will concede. It is not aristocratic, but is resolutely egalitarian - anybody can afford three darts; its greatest sportsmen fall far short of the athletic ideal, sporting ^beer-bellies^ and being seldom seen without a cigarette or pint in their free hand.

We should take care not to overstate the differences here - after all, could the aristocratic age of the Greeks have rendered the towers of Ilium topless, been achieved if its soldiers were not given the courage derived from wine and hydromel? No - and, similarly, the dart-player^s performance is drastically improved after quaffing a few pints, as is the case with the more aristocratic pursuit of sharp-shooting. In the sports which I celebrated earlier in this missive, I emphasised the sportsman^s overcoming of nature; however, the darts-player has to overcome a far more implacable foe - himself. One of the joys of watching a great game of darts is to see the darts-man trying to hit the ^zone^, where his aim is true and he scores highly. One can frequently tell which sports-man is losing a leg just by his bearing and countenance - uninterestedly throwing his missiles at the board, scoring averagely. However, one of the joys of darts is the relative difficulty of checking out (one^s winning shot must hit a double). Although a difficult finish - hitting, say, a treble, a single, a double - is a joy to watch, if the dartsman who is ahead cannot hold his nerve and score a winning shot, it is perfectly possible for the laggard to hit ^the zone^, scoring highly and, in the next round, checking out. Darts, in promoting the ability to hold one^s nerve under fire, promotes one of the most important virtues a man may possess. It promotes a mental agility with numbers. One of the proofs of the superiority of the Imperial measures over the detestible Metric equivalents is the fact that using Imperial measurements demands more nimble mental arithmetic; similarly, with darts, calculating the shots one needs to finish a match provides ample training for a young mind for a career in a good investment bank, where a head for numbers is a pre-requisite.

We therefore see the glory of darts can be charaterised as proletarian, bourgoise or aristocratic. And it is for this reason that darts is a pub game. Just as, in the Christian religion, a peasant may take communion with the land-owner, finding a radical equality in Christ, so too do Englishmen of different classes find an equality in the pub (this is why I think the best name for a pub is ^The Barrowbow and Banker^, in London Bridge - although both do arduous jobs to wildly differing rewards, both will find a welcome, a pint and a pie here; for similar reasons, I castigate the ^gastro-pub^ as the work of the Devil). Under the benign eye of the landlord and the skilful service of his barmaids, the pub is a community of essential equality - it does not matter if you are a millionaire, if you are causing trouble, you will expelled as surely as if you are an urchin. The egalitarianism of darts is the perfect game to bring a pub together - a peasant has as much chance to win at the dart-board as the banker. As Homer^s hexameters provided a rhythm for his hymn to war, so too do the triple thump of the darts provide a rhythm for the pub.

I would therefore say to readers of this blog - watch darts on TV. It is an absolutely topping game.

Story By: Live Journal

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