As anybody who knows me in any way will know, I’m a huge fan of the darts. Thursday nights, without fail, find me glued to a screen watching the Premier League, with Michael van Gerwen pounding in 180 after 180, and Russ “The Voice” Bray’s strained tones bursting with delight out of my speakers.
It’s been a long-held dream of mine to go and see the darts live, and I came close a few years ago when I was unfortunately not able to attend the Leeds fixtures. My girlfriend, the lovely Ffion, surprised me with tickets this year for the Manchester night, and I couldn’t have been happier. I was finally getting to see the darts. Little did I know what lay in wait for us, however.
We got there in plenty of time and were one of the first to go in through the doors, grab a couple of drinks and head off to our seats. The arena looked great, though it was largely empty, and we waited in anticipation for the crowd to roll in in earnest, and the noise level to rise. Our seats seemed to be in a great position as well. Essentially halfway up the middle block of the arena seating. Prime for viewing the action, observing the often bizarre fancy dress (a dartboard poncho/sombrero combination being a particular highlight), and joining in with a few strains of “Stand up if you love the darts”.
As the crowd began to pour in, we discovered that many of them were already at a level of drunkenness that I would have expected of them, maybe, after the final game of the night.
But everybody eventually seemed to find their seats (and in some cases they resolved to sit in literally any seat that was free, regardless of ownership) and the atmosphere built and built, with M.C. John McDonald riling up the crowd as a precursor to the first game of the night. It transpired that we were actually sat beside the main chant instigators, who seemed intent on literally shouting for the whole 3 1/2 hours of action. Contrary to what they thought, this was actually extremely irritating and, after a few goes through the songbook, began to detract a bit from the action that we were there to see.
After the second game, everything seemed to go downhill fast. Anybody who was already drunk on arrival was now overly-so, and the atmosphere turned decidedly nasty for the next 3 games, especially for a couple who had literally just gone for the chance to watch some live darts action. It made me almost ashamed to be a darts fan, as I realised I was lumped in with the likes of these people in the public eye. It became clear that there were those there who wanted to watch the darts (a small minority it seemed, and mostly on the table seats), and those who were treating it purely as an excuse to drink as much as they could and shout a lot, apparently from the viewpoint that they were untouchable morally.
I had gone expecting the crowd to be loud and perhaps expecting to get a splash or two of beer on me from over-excited fellow spectators. However, this went well beyond the realms of banter as some lascivious, fat, old men sitting behind us began to chant Burnley football chants and “jump” up and down, t-shirts rising over their beer-laden bellies, and any spare beer sloshing over the sides of their “pint pots” and down on to Ffion and me.
One young guy in front of us, part of a group of 10 who, according to their loud and repetitive conversation, had spent a few hours pre-darts in Waxy O’Connor’s, had himself pulled by the scruff of the neck over the seatback in front of him. His shirt rose up his back, allowing the perfect opportunity for his mate to pour a full pint down his pants. I could hardly believe my eyes. I was actually completely bamboozled by what I’d just seen.
One lad was thrown out by security for throwing half-empty pints of beer randomly into the crowd. The sort of thing that “Lad” culture deems acceptable, but is actually just absolutely moronic. He was only one of about 10 pints that I saw thrown in various parts of the crowd. It was at once laughably ridiculous, depressing, and annoying. I couldn’t believe that this sort of thing really went on, constantly, during the play. Surely somebody apart from Ffion and myself was there to watch the action too, not just be overly rowdy. Apparently not though. The thoroughly unsavoury crowd have rather soured me towards the idea of going back to see it live, but I think if we were to go again, it would have to be on a table seat or private box, because the Colosseum was just too horrible to be part of again.
Big shout out to this guy though, who, around the end of the 4th match, managed, somehow, to fall sound asleep. He actually seemed to be one of the few who was there for the darts themselves. He was also the man who got the pint-thrower dismissed from the arena.
It was a shame that the crowd was quite that rowdy. The action itself was incredible. MvG beat Wade in the first game with an unorthodox 120 finish (T20, D20, D10). MvG also set the record for most consecutive televised wins (44) and then had his streak ended by Barney in the last match. And we almost saw 2 9-dart finishes. Excellent viewing for a darts fan, despite spending much of the time on the edge of your seat because you never knew where the next beer could be flying from.