Sports Personality – A Contradiction in Terms, Not in Darts

Billy McCall



Whatever you think of Roy Keane and his behaviour on and off the park it
makes for a refreshing change from the crippling, claustrophobic media
literacy that sports personalities display when onscreen. The likes of
Lineker, Beckham, Owen, Steven Hendry from snooker, Tiger Woods, Colin
Montgomerie, the Williams sisters, all seem to have been coached for the
media as part of their daily training programme. Do you ever feel cheated
listening to those post match interviews. You think we might get some juicy
gut reaction, anything instead of the same dull answers that are there to
conceal the fact that there aren’t any answers that they want to give. While
some Alistair Campbell wannabe sits in the wings chuffed that another no
score draw ground out with the media keeps him in a job. (Having said that
Alan Shearer turns this into hearty contempt for the unimaginative

However, check out the late evening slot after the new year on BBC2. This is
when the Embassy World Darts Championship takes place. One of the most
beautiful and dramatic tournaments you are ever likely to see anywhere. It’s
here that we have some of the most colourful, vibrant characters, on TV never
mind sport. Even the refs are magic. More like a cross between a bingo caller
and a warm up comedian, these guys whip up the crowd before a match and keep
the tension going by announcing each score in a manner that puts any MC to

Here are some of the stars; Wayne Mardle ‘Hawaii 501’ – a Hawaii shirted
Randy Quaid on ecstasy, Bobby George queen of the oche, complete with
candlabra, rings (gold of course) and robe is more like James Brown and
Liberace’s love child. John ‘Boy’ Walton I can only think of as Plug from
the Beano, and Co Stompe, the popular reserved Dutchman, looks like one of
Plug’s sidekicks from the Bash Street Kids. Then you have last years winner
Aussie Tony David who was on invalidity benefit for a blood disorder. Ronnie
‘the Rocket’ Baxter who is an understudy for Ron from Brookside and Les
‘McDanger’ Wallace, the kilted warrior with an English accent who won the
tournament in 1997.

However top guy is Ted ‘the Count’ Hankey, winner of the tournament in 2000
with a stunning 6-0 victory and a record breaking 48 180’s throughout the
tournament. Not only is Ted a brilliant darts player but he comes on to the
stage dressed all in black, complete with robe and gothic tattoo on his
forearm, chucking rubber bats into the crowd with the demeanour of a five
meat pies a day man - slovenly. Ozzy Osbourne may have been the first,
satanic, showman on stage, but then you expect something, some kind of
gimmick from a rock singer. But Ted has his own style. Never letting the
gimmick get in the way of the arrows. Pasty faced, going bald, kind of a fat
guy, Ted’s darts can be stunning. In the final in 2000 he finished off his
opponent Ronnie Baxter, who is no slouch, with a 170. The highest finish you
can get, hitting the bull to complete a 6-0 rout of the much fancied Baxter.
This was one of the shortest finals ever (46 mins) and breathtaking to watch.
So after the blockbuster films and the fancy grub of the festivities has
finished don’t bother phoning to wish me a happy new year – I have an
appointment with the Lakeside at Frimley Green on BBC2.