A dart players character and persona is vital in the modern game. Nicknames, walk ons and style have become as important as the actual darts in winning over fans. Some players are just themselves on stage, while others work hard, really hard. I am of course referring to the style icon that is Peter Snakebite Wright.
Every match, a different outfit. He has more colour variety than a Dulux paint chart. His career had been almost non-existent before he created his current persona. He played in the BDO world championship in 1995 but then gave up his professional ambitions. There’s no doubt that the persona he has created for himself has aided his game. Last years runner up in the World Championship, a place in the Premier League and reaching 5th ranked in the world, are all achievements that count as evidence for this. His persona is not solely created by his look. He walks on to Pitbull blasting out and plays up to the crowd with tasty sidestep. The peak of his performance is when he turns to the crowd with his last dart in hand with a double needed. This not only gets the crowd on his side but also pisses off opponents, which is even better to watch. He knows how to please fans and is great for the image of darts. He shows the world that darts players can be cool.
It’s not just Wright that has changed his persona, other players also make an effort. The impetus for new characters can be attributed somewhat to the Premier League. Those players who are (I don’t want t use this word I’m going to) boring, are given a persona. Dramatic graphics to introduce the player helps, but they always feel a little forced. Hamilton, Newton, Webster, Chisnall and more have been made to entertain the crowd with ridiculous props and dressed up walk on girls. It doesn’t always work and must feel awkward for those players who just want to entertain by playing darts. It’s not for everyone.
One persona that has been made popular by a certain Dutchman called Michael van Gerwen, is the aggressive character. Most players have followed MVG’s example. Some in moderation, with the odd fist pump, but others have gone a little bit further including van Gerwen himself. Huybrechts is one such player. When he first appeared on our TV screens he didn’t seem to show great deal of emotion. Now however, he acts like a hyperactive child fuelled on blue Smarties. You could say it’s adrenaline, but with Huybrechts I suspect that it’s more of an act. MVG on the other hand, I reckon that’s just him. He plays on adrenaline and that makes him great to watch. Some players don’t approve of the gung ho celebrations and neither do some fans. MVG is definitely a marmite player. In this clip he only wins one set.
There’s one breed of darts player that I can’t forget, the villains. The one that springs to mind is the devilish Ted Hankey, the other being Paul Nicholson, but he has mellowed in recent years as his game has declined. Hankey is the classic love to hate character. He gets booed and gives it the crowd back with extra expletives. He puts on a great show, but I always feel sorry for the guy playing him. His reaction towards the end of this video is class.
The first showman who really made an effort to play up to the crowd was good old Wayne Mardle. He was the one who kicked off all the showmanship. At least you did sumat good, hey Wayne. Not every player tries hard to develop a persona. Our game is filled with different characters. It’s fantastic and makes darts so lovable. Other sports seem to be losing their great characters but not darts. The fact that darts is an individual sport with the cameras constantly focussing on the players means that personalities are allowed to shine through.