Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Greatest?

For those of you ingratiated with British ‘sport’ and in particular that of the armchair variety, the name Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor will be associated with greatness, longevity and unprecedented success. It is a name also associated with beer, singing, beer, public houses and more beer – and therein lies the problem for the Worlds’greatest ever darts player.

For those of you who not aware of one Philip Douglas Taylor born 13th August 1960, he is a darts phenomenon who has won the World Championship a truly unbelievable fifteen times over a twenty year period. It is a domination of a sporting profession that is unprecedented unless comparing to someone like Ed Moses and the four hundred metre hurdles. The problem for Taylor is the gagging and choking reflexive reaction you just experienced at reading such a comparison. Ed Moses is one of the finest athletic specimens ever, whereas Phil Taylor - well he’s a fifty year old fat bloke from Stoke on Trent.

The prompting for this latest blog was the BBC’s decision - after nearly twenty years – to finally recognize Taylor as a legitimate sportsman by putting his name forward as a candidate for ‘BBC Sports Personality of the Year’. Within the shores of the UK at least, it is a highly prestigious and most coveted award with recent winners such as Andrew Flintoff, David Beckham and Sir Steve Redgrave whilst other legends down the years include Sir Ian Botham, Daley Thompson, Virginia Wade and Sir Jackie Stewart. It is basically the UK’s sporting icons, the greatest athletes the Island has every produced, you walk amongst giants.

And there is the rub, is Phil Taylor legitimately qualified to be compared to such sporting deities as those listed above? On one hand, you have the ‘no’ camp which up until this point must have included the BBC top brass (the rest of this years’ list is pretty poor fare in my opinion hence he gets a shout). Surely darts is nothing more than a pub game, the average player is probably a minimum of three stone overweight and before Sky Sports intervened, the players regularly smoked & drank whilst participating in what can hardly be considered ‘sport’ in it’s truest form.

There is however an incredibly strong ‘yes’ brigade (including myself) who have been pushing for Taylors’ inclusion for many years now. After all, Steve Davis (snooker royalty for those unfamiliar) is a past winner of the BBC title. Snooker halls hardly conjure up images of rippling muscles and Bill Werbenuik (a previous snooker ‘giant’) was rumoured to regularly consume Ireland’s sovereign debt worth in pints of ale before commencing play many moons ago. On a side note, it is amazing to report that such a sedate pursuit as snooker was one of the first sports to be truly tainted by a drugs scandal with the use of Beta Blockers (a prescription heart drug) to calm players’ nerves and steady their hands. Not in anyway ironic that these ‘sports’ benefit from the use of downers rather than stimulants.

So how do you truly compare supreme competitors with supreme atheletes? It is almost impossible, especially as in many instances you are also transcending eras. In addition to all his titles, Taylor has achieved the ‘perfect leg’ - a nine dart finish on no less than than eight occasions under the TV lights. It is a staggering achievement but how do you place that against Usaian Bolt running sub 9.6 seconds, the simple answer is you cannot and you would be chortled at for trying to do so. The very definition of this award however is that of personality. Ryan Giggs won recently yet no one could seriously tell me that at his age he is remotely the best footballer in Britain, but there were other factors to consider such as his services to housewives all over the country.

My own view on the BBC is that Taylor has been made to suffer because of the split in professional darts. (The recognized championship is promoted by Sky whereas the BBC shows an infinitely inferior product in an almost embarrassingly poorer event). Bearing in mind that Steve Davis was celebrated as a past BBC winner, what is their rationale for excluding such a National Idol as Taylor for any reasons that are not without suspicion of prejudice? It is clearly not about pure athleticism.

I am not entirely sure what the answer is regarding darts and to its’ place in the sporting pantheon and whether it should be truly recognized as a legitimate athletic discipline. As far as I am aware however, archery is an Olympic sport and I wouldn’t see a whole lot of difference there other than it used to be popular with the
Royal Court
and was generally practiced outside and by the landed gentry. If rhythmic gymnastics is acceptable then maybe we should also include disco dancing as a sport (the house music brigade would probably fail the drugs test however). Just because Philip Douglas Taylor is a short fat bloke should not exclude him from being remembered as a sporting great, just ask one Terrence Butcher about the stout midget that ran rings around him in Mexico in the Summer of 1986, a certain Diego Maradona. He didn’t mind a pint and a bit of a giggle and I don’t remember anyone being better than he was. Take all of these facts and then consider we have not even talked about the opinions of the finest commentator of all time, one Geordie microphone wizard called Sidney Waddell and the arguments for ‘The Power’s’ inclusion are unquestionable.

The Greatest? Possibly, but no one will ever be able to prove it.