Barry Hearn is right. People suffering from bipolar disorder have no place in professional darts. James Wade should not be playing there.
Darts is a place where bipolar disorder and its symptoms are manifested as entertainment for the masses, not as a medical issue. Who better symbolises the manic phase than Peter Wright, a 3D incarceration of the “what I’m like when I’m bipolar” sketches. A cesspool of Timmy Mallett colour schemes, ill-advised fashion choices, a cheerfulness that belies an ever-present sense of panic and a cracked smile that is as rictus as FOP disease.
And as for the downswing part of the disorder? Well, anyone outside the top 32 knows that as a place too well. Look at the players who have to qualify for the World Championship via a wildcard spot, a testament to broken dreams and broken spirits. Kevin McDine, Alan Tabern, Joe Lacey. Can these people make the rent? Can they look their family members in the eye? Think about Kirk Shepherd at the UK Open last year, eyes of a vagrant, voice buckling as he says “darts is the only thing I have in my life, I’ve failed at everything else, this is all I’ve got”. Does this really matter to darts fans when we can watch Taylor backpocket Hamilton three times a year in the Premier League?
I think that’s why Wade was cut out of darts in early 2014. Not because he was critical of the PDC and Sky, not because people were seriously concerned about his health, but because he embodies darts-as-mental illness.
We’ve mentioned this before: darts has an appeal to many of us because it is the last remaining bastion of working class male culture in the UK, the last thing our fathers would have done that we can still do. And James Wade is a very specific type of mental illness, the working class male depression. Every production line or call centre from Carlisle to Torbay will have a James Wade figure in it, and most of them will not turn up to work one day and their Google history will contain lots of searches for “cheap oxygen tank” and “where to buy gas mask”.
I think that’s why Wade used to get booed. He was a reminder of what is wrong with us, an intrusion of the black dog into what was meant to be escapism, like going to see Black Lace in concert and they open with a cover of “Strange Fruit”.
And I think that’s why he can get a few cheers nowadays instead. Because we’re accepting that we’re flawed human beings. And even the most flawed of human beings can eventually start to deal with their problems, sort their medication out, take some care of themselves and get a wife with ridiculously large breasts.
Still, no excuse for that Kanye walk-on tune mate.