For me, the only televised sporting events worth watching are the darts and World's Strongest Man once a year at Christmas. Perhaps I have a latent attraction to bulging guts and red-faced men who throw things or pick up rocks professionally, but I think it's more to do with the fact that there's something hypnotically ordinary about both of these spectacles.
Darts, for instance, is about as visually arresting as watching someone pick up litter, except in this scenario there are thousands of pissed up punters cheering that person on. I wanted to experience this buzz of watching a man hurl a bit of metal at a bit of cork in the flesh, so – like Chas, of "Dave" fame – I " Got My Ticket for the Darts" and headed to Nottingham to meet some loyal fans of the sport.
Unfortunately, because the event is on live TV, we weren't allowed into the building with an SLR camera, so had to dump it in a locker and shoot the whole thing on a phone. Which is why some of these pictures look like this (blurry and slightly out of focus):
Growing up in a small Yorkshire market town that had more pubs than just about anything else, I grew accustomed to what constituted a "typical: darts player: swollen bellies, sovereign rings on every finger, thick (fake) gold chains hanging around the open neck of cheap black polyester shirts, multiple forearm tattoos, a pack of Lambert and Butler tucked into their top pocket and a voice that sounded like they'd been smoking fags since they could say, "Twenty L and B, please."
Basically all exactly like Bobby George, the Mr T of darts. However, my night was less of the sour-faced old blokes I remembered, and more SU lads stepping off the banter bus in fancy dress.
One of these was Tom here, who came dressed as a blue crayon.
VICE: Hi Tom. How long have you been into darts?
Tom: For the last eight years. My dad's got a pub and I started chucking – just got into it that way.
Is the night out a big part of the whole thing for you?
Yeah, it's just a big piss up, isn't it?
What's the history of darts and dressing up?
You tell me! The dafter you look, the better.
What are you expecting from tonight?
Mate, it's the big night. It's the premier league – Phil Taylor and Van Gerwan. It's proper tonight, mate, proper.
Do you think darts should be an Olympic sport?
No. Do you get pissed up watching the swimming? It ain't an Olympic sport; it's a pub game. It is a pub game – that's the be all and end all.
We headed into the arena to watch a little of the action. There's been a noticeable Simon Cowellification of darts in recent years – flashing lights, players standing off head-to-head in the intro videos like they're Lennox Lewis and Hasim Rahman squaring up to beat the shit out of each other. These intro videos are a real highlight, in fact; James "The Machine" Wade is portrayed as a terminator-like character, but you definitely get the sense he's more vending machine repair man than deadly cyborg.
The whole place smells a bit like a changing room and the chants are rowdy, with "Stand up if you love the darts!" seemingly a favourite. The sound of the darts hitting the board echoes through the arena with sonorous thumps, like an amplified knock every five seconds or so. Imagine overhearing your roommate having the most monotonous and precise sex through your bedroom wall and you're about there.
We headed back out to meet some more fans.
Are you both big Darts fans?
Left Leanne: Deffo, yeah. [Phil "The Power"] Taylor!
That's who you're here for?
Is that his signature you have on your chest, Leanne?
Right Leanne: Yeah, it's fake, though. She drew it on for me.
What got you into darts?
I got into it about eight years ago through my partner.
L Leanne: Jesus Christ. I got into it about 14 or 15 years ago. I love watching them all, but Taylor is the one that gets me wound up and... [makes a sort of sex noise].
So you're a fan of him as more than just a darts player?
I'm a fan of Phil Taylor anyway – he's down to earth and what have you. But it's just the way he plays, he keeps them hanging on, like, "Yeah, I'm going to let you win a few, but then I'm going to batter the hell out of you. I'm going to finish you off."
After talking to Leanne and Leanne I ran into these guys. "I'm not being silly – I've got hiccups, just do it," said one, his friend left visibly confused.
"What, slap you?"
"No, pour that down my fucking neck," he replied, pointing to a pint of lager and trying to turn himself upside down.
Are you guys local?
Dan: Not at all, no. He lives in Dubai.
Talk me through the outfits.
He lives in Dubai, so he could get hold of them.
Jamie: These are original, from Karama. It's our mate's stag do tomorrow.
What's the plan for the stag do?
Dan: Get leathered and embarrass the stag.
The queue for the bar was never anything less than a fucking nightmare, and – unsurprisingly – the more people drank, the more raucous everything got: the students and stag-dos joined forces, locking arms in giant circles and pogoing while slurring along to the guitar riff to "Seven Nation Army".
Completely unannounced, this man, dressed as an old woman (a very popular choice that night), started pulling his testicles out from under his granny pants, tearing at the skin like he was feeding steak through a mincer.
Why did you just show us your testicles?
Jack: I'm in the Navy, it's what we do.
Who are you here with this evening?
I'm here with military friends – a few RAF.
What's your plan for the evening?
To get fucked.
More times we've gone out and spoken to fans: