Europe’s attention is currently focused on snowboarding, figure skating, and other Olympic events. Typically the continent’s sports fervor, and airwaves, are devoted to some much goofier competitions.
Bowling and golf are plenty of fun to play, but can be pretty dull to watch, and yet both are still broadcast on network TV in the United States. But neither are nearly as boring as one of continental Europe’s second-most-watched professional “sport”: darts. It’s especially popular in the Netherlands and the U.K. Sky Sports and the BBC, in each country respectively, regularly broadcast matches and championships in the major darts “league,” the Professional Darts Corporation. They also air commercials that attempt to make the game seem thrilling. Sky Sports’ ads depict people so pumped to watch other people play a bar game that they can’t help but dance in the street.
Still, there’s no getting around the fact that professional dart throwers tend to be heavyset, middle-aged guys that share little in common with the physically fit American athletes like Peyton Manning or LeBron James.
This complicated billiards variation has become increasingly popular across Europe in recent years. Professional matches, which can drag on for upwards of four hours, attract millions of viewers. As with darts, snooker players are hardly muscle-bound studs, although many of them retire by the time they hit 40. The game has also drawn lots of interesting characters over the years. The late great William ‘Big Bill’ Werbeniuk, a Canadian, once claimed beer as a tax-deductible expense and consumed dozens of pints during professional matches. In the ‘80s, the U.K.’s Alex “Hurricane” Higgins was known for his super quick reflexes…in addition to violent outbursts that included headbutting officials and threatening to kill other players. Today’s contenders aren’t quite as wild but fans of the game, although commercials for professional snooker can also be a little…intense.