After nearly two years of feeling unimportant, the World Championships have reminded me why darts is the greatest sport in the world. Also, some updates on my writing plans and my degree progress.
Since reactivating my website after the completion of Dancing With Disorder and my house purchase, I’ve struggled to get back into the same routine of writing. Part of the reason is that it has been Christmas and New Year, and after such an intense 2021 I decided to ease up on myself and let myself enjoy the festivities. I think part of it, though, is that last year it all felt like it was building towards something – namely, the release of my novel. Now it’s done, it’s time to set new goals, especially with the FPL Nightmare trilogy also coming to an end in a few months’ time.
Obviously, writing will be a huge part of whatever is to come. I’m still weighing up where to go with my next novel. I think the fantasy saga needs to wait for now, so I can build up more experience in world-building and structuring epic story arcs and I can read more fantasy as well. With that ruled out, it comes down to the choice of romance writing or mystery thrillers, and I’m still not sure. I think, whichever I decide to do first (and I fully intend to do both), I will tie it back to the world of Dancing With Disorder somehow, because I love those characters and look forward to seeing where they go next.
In an ideal world, I’d be rich enough to quit my job and focus on both, but I’m a long way off being able to sustain myself through writing. Early sales from Dancing With Disorder have been positive, and I must express my gratitude towards those who have taken the time to write reviews, or even just give it a rating. Those two things help writers far more than you can imagine, and it means the world to me that people have given up their time to not only read my novel, but to express their thoughts and recommend it to others. Thank you so much.
The unexpected, or perhaps very expected, side-effect of completing the novel is that I have lost all interest in my degree. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to complete it, to prove to myself that I can as much as anything. It’s just, where once assignments filled me with horror and stressed me to the eyeballs, now I just want them out of the way so I can write real stuff. Amplifying that feeling was scoring just 75 in my first real assignment of module four. Now, don’t get me wrong, this is a good score, but it is a bit of a reality check following a year of predominantly 90+ scores in module three, and I need to up my game going forward.
In addition to my passion wavering, there are other factors behind my drop in score. The first is that the assignment was to produce a poster arguing two viewpoints, and I only had 500 words to work with. Anyone who follows these blogs knows brevity is not a strength of mine, and it’s interesting to note that my worst score in module three was 78, and that involved producing a slideshow with a vastly-reduced word count. So, at the very least, I have learnt that non-essay assignments are my biggest weakness. Hopefully I won’t have to do any more.
The second is that we are working so much with statistics this year, and half of the workload each week is to sit through a series of slow and highly-tedious tutorials on how to operate the programme that calculates all of those statistics, and then how to write the algebraic formulae explaining the findings. By Odin’s beard, it’s as dull as it sounds, to the point where I’ve stopped doing the tutorials at all. At school, I loved maths until algebra got involved, and this feels like a similar situation. I understand the relevance of the statistics, I just don’t care about the process of getting to them. I want to focus on the philosophy and the psychology, not the numbers and figures. The next assignment involves using this statistics programme (it’s called SPSS) and I imagine that’s where my usual hyper-stress around assignments will really kick in. My plan is to figure out which particular statistical analysis is required for the experiment and then to follow that one tutorial to get the answers I need. It’s a risk, but if I can get through this assignment, I’m confident I will secure the 2:1 I’m targeting without too much stress.
So, with that writing and university update out of the way, let’s talk about something far more important: the PDC Darts World Championship.
The PDC Darts World Championships have taken place over the last few weeks, and it’s been a fantastic tournament. One of the biggest downers of the pandemic for me has been how much it has affected the darts, with major tournaments reduced to essentially floor events with the absence of fans. I absolutely love darts, yet there have been whole major events go by without me watching a leg because it’s felt like watching practice matches a lot of the time. With the crowds back, this felt like the return of real darts, and after nearly two years, I was more than ready for it.
I thought it was a special tournament. Three nine-darters, some epic last-leg deciders and some exquisite comebacks, from the first match to the last. There will be arguments for months about the best match, with Gerwyn Price versus Kim Huybrechts, Michael Smith versus Johnny Clayton, Gerwyn Price versus Michael Smith and the final itself, Michael Smith versus Peter Wright, featuring in many people’s lists of clash of the tournament. For me, though, the best match was the first-round tie between William Borland and Bradley Brooks. Two young guns, both making their debuts, went backwards and forwards for five sets, with the lead changing hands several times and some exquisite darts on display. It was a match performed at a level beyond anything that could be expected of two young lads on their first appearance, and when it went to the last-leg decider, we knew that, whatever happened, we had seen a classic.
That wasn’t enough for Big Willie Borland. With composure and quality beyond his years, the young man stepped up to the oche and smashed home a nine-darter to win the match. To perform at the level he did was outstanding. To win in a last-leg decider was exceptional. To do it while achieving sporting perfection under the most pressure he had ever experienced was truly, truly special. It’s a moment and a match that will be replayed on Sky for years to come, and I felt very lucky to be watching it. With that nine-darter, Borland didn’t just ignite the world championships. He awoke darts from the slumber it has operated in over the last two years, and he reminded us all just what a special sport it is. It was truly magical.
That’s not to say the tournament was perfect, with the two biggest downers being the withdrawals of Vincent van der Voort, Dave Chisnall and three-time champion Michael van Gerwen through failed covid tests, and the attitudes of some in the crowds, who seemed more intent on hurling abuse than supporting their favourites, behaviour which saw several people ejected from the arena throughout the tournament. The most notable to suffer was, inevitably, the abrasive Gerwyn Price, who suffered a torrent of abuse throughout his campaign. It ended with the defending champion directing security to remove someone right before he threw a crucial dart at the defining point of his quarter-final clash with Michael Smith, and though he followed the interruption by hitting the treble-twenty, he went on to be defeated by the eventual runner-up. It’s a tough one with Price, because a lot of the time, he courts the negative reactions he receives and claims they drive him on, often engaging in tomfoolery with his immediate critics after he hits big scores, and he only ever seems to complain about it when he loses. Still, while a bit of pantomime can be fun for both player and crowd, nobody deserves to suffer the level of abuse he received this year, and I hope it’s something that is drilled out of the audience in double-quick fashion. That Price failed to cope with it, though, will add fuel to the fire of those who claim he would never have been the world champion had crowds been present, and that’s a claim he will only be able to disprove by becoming a two-time champion.
In the end, the tournament was won by the man who was the best player throughout, someone who has faced his own criticisms in the past and who has now disproved them all by becoming a two-time world champion in his own right. Peter ‘Snakebite’ Wright may not be as explosive in his scoring as the likes of Michael van Gerwyn, Michael Smith and Gary Anderson, and he may clart on with his darts far, far too much, but what he has in his arsenal is an unparalleled mental strength in the pressure situations. For years now, whenever he is left with a three-dart finish that requires one treble, I’ve always expected him to get that treble. This year, he did it almost every single time. His clutch finishing under the highest pressure is something that nobody else on the circuit can rival, and has absolute refusal to accept he is beaten is so, so impressive. He demonstrated both on his path to glory, coming back from being 5-4 down in sets and 2-0 down in legs to win nine out of the next ten legs and claim the trophy, a streak where he averaged 113.93 every three darts and where Smith never had a chance to win a leg in more than twelve darts. When the going got tough, Peter Wright got going, and nobody in the world was going to stop him. He has now won the two biggest tournaments this year, as well as the last world championship to be competed in front of a crowd, proving himself the best in the world and the man to beat. Whether you are a fan or not, he is deserving of the utmost respect, and the argument over who is the greatest Scottish darts player of all time has become a little more interesting.
The darts is back, and it’s about time. It’s the greatest sport in the world, and it gave us a tournament for the ages.
I think I’ll end this entry here. I was going to write something about Kieran Trippier signing for Newcastle, but it hasn’t actually been completed yet, and I’ve already written 1800 words, so we’ll save that for another day. Let’s face it, if I start writing about Newcastle, it’s going to be at least another thousand words, and most likely far more. I’m glad to be back writing, and it’s nice to have something to look forward to writing in the next few days.
Also, one unexpected side-effect of the darts was a fantastic video of Ted Hankey going around Twitter. It really is must-see stuff, and I’ll link it below. It was also great to hear commentator Wayne Mardle reference it during the darts final. Ted Hankey is one of the great villains in sport, and this video will show you why.
I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and New Year, and I hope 2022 is treating you well. Thank you for your ongoing support.
Video of the Chapter:
‘Who’s in Charge?’ by Ted Hankey
Quote of the Chapter:
“Sometimes getting beaten isn’t such a bad thing. It gives me the chance to look at myself in a new way.”
"One of the most insightful works I've read on mental health problems in men ... very well-written and a real page-turner. I would recommend it to anyone.
Dancing With Disorder
"It communicates a deep understanding of troubled individuals who suffer from the challenges of mental disorders ... Courageous, wise, humorous and thought-provoking ... an easy-to-read, surprising and subtly moving chronicle.
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