Stephen Bunting was a big part of the reasoning behind this blog being set up. I like him a lot as a player and have no reason to dislike him as a person. I like how he seems to come from a different England, an England of “Strike it Lucky” and “You Bet!” and when “Stars In Their Eyes” contestants still blacked up. An England where pork scratching were still sold on cardboard placards of Page 3 models.
And this would have been a good time to write about Bunting. Last weekend, three one-day elimination tournaments were played to help determine qualifiers for the UK Open. On day two, only his second day of completive darts since leaving the BDO, Bunting won the tournament. An impressive display, which included clear victories over the likes of Wayne Jones, Terry Jenkins, Paul Nicholson and Steve Beaton. None of those guys are A-listers, but they’re exactly the kind of opponents you need to be dispatching week in, week out to prove you deserve a seat at the top table.
So that’s what I wanted to write about. I wanted to write about Stephen Bunting about how what he lacks in strength of chin he certainly makes up for in quantity. Opened the Word document, went over to the home of darts news, the @skysportsdarts Twitter account and…. Nothing. Nothing about Stephen Bunting. Nothing about how he won a trophy at the weekend. Nothing about how the third day saw the first match between reigning PDC and BDO champions in three years (Van Gerwen won). Not even a “jeez Lois, this is worse than that time I left the BDO to go and play some dick who dresses up as CM Punk at weekends” gag from the guys.
No, instead, at time of writing, of the 18 tweets posted by @SkySportsDarts since the end of play last Thursday, 17 of them were about the 16-time champion OFFFFF THHEEEE WWWWORRRRRLLLDDDDD and convicted sex offender Phil “The Power” Taylor. 94% of all tweets. Robert John Bardo was less pathologically obsessed with his idol than @SkySportsDarts is.
Phil Taylor was not a reason behind the forming of this blog. I find it hard to write about him. The fact that he is an unpleasant character, that he is a malign influence over both the sport and its major governing body, and the fact that he is responsible for the image of darts as a competitive sport still being stuck somewhere circa 1993, make it impossible to write about him other than as the centerpiece of a “J’Accuse” reboot.
“Michael van Gerwen 7 (seven) vs Phil Taylor 0 (zero)” is something to talk about though. The amount of effort I’m prepared to put into looking through Pheel’s DartsDatabase H2H record shows that he has never been whitewashed in a legs format before. One or two whitewashes in sets format (to such legends of the game as Andy Callaby and Adrian Gray), but no defeat of this caliber in darts at its purest form.
Sky’s coverage of Van Gerwen’s victory was strange. It took Van Gerwen completely out of the story. Even when Phil Taylor has had his skirt lifted, the story has to be all about him. He changed his darts, he was out of practice, he lost weight too quickly… nothing about the world #1 who beat him.
Of course, Taylor didn’t really play that much worse than he does when he usually slips off the bridle. At the weekend, he was the winner of one of the day’s tournaments (being eliminated in the other two by his usual bet noires of ‘players who are under the age of 30 and haven’t been pocketed by him yet’). The level Taylor was playing at last week will be enough to beat your Wes Newtons and your Simon Whitlocks and to see Raymond van Barneveld purse his lips like a fleshlight and start shaking his head in slow motion. As we said last week, darts inevitably ends with a Taylor comeback, you just need to hope that your stamina for every tournament is exhausted before he rallies.
But ignoring Taylor, the person in question here is whoever runs the @SkySportsDarts account. It’s an odd account. Sky is a multibillion dollar empire. Presumably Sky Sports and the PDC aren’t exactly short of a few bob either. And yet, instead of hiring out professional social media workers to run their Twitter feed, or at least sending the internet to David Schneider’s “learn how to tweet” masterclass for £249, they’ve got some guy from the post room in to handle it instead.
It’s odd. It’s just weird how unprofessional it is, from two companies who are known for their Orwellian control of the message, just to let some random handle matters.
Here’s some sample tweets from the past week:
It’s odd. This isn’t a “sneer at the poor spelling” deal at all, it’s just… again, the PDC is a company that controls its message 24/7/365. Sky is meant to be part of the most oppressive media regime in the west. And this is how they put their face on for the world.
Which is the whole point really, no matter how much darts tries to market itself as laddish entertainment or family-friendly or as the new snooker/wrestling/tennis, it’s always going to be tied to the past. It’s always going to have a hint of the Challenge TV repeats about it. And that’s why Stephen Bunting is the man it needs right now. Watching Stephen Bunting in action is like seeing a shop frontage where they still haven’t added the “1”after the “0” in the dialling code.