Walking towards our away venue for the evening, the Boat Inn pub of Dunkirk, we didn’t know what to expect from the lads who proudly represent the Notts Uni darts scene. We’ve all seen the pictures of braying, drunken 30-somethings at the World Darts Championship bellowing their rainbow of emotions at the likes of Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld.
The preconception (and prejudiced one at that) was that darts, as a sport, provides nothing other than the perfect backdrop for having a skinful at either a backstreet pub that you would usually swerve, or sporting arenas acting as glorified beer halls. When speaking to the team as they practised painstakingly at The Den, they assured us that although the evening’s match would assume a quieter tone; the stereotypical darts revelry was to be found firmly embedded in the madness of Varsity Darts.
“an away trip with the darts team doesn’t require pricy tickets or any big commitment”
However, upon departing the Boat Inn on a most sedate of Tuesday evenings, it felt as if a nostalgic, if not a little bizarre gem had been retained amidst a whirlwind of Ocean, Crisis and organised fun. The hosting pub was by no means a boozer in the traditional, grubby sense. It had a warm and devilishly inviting atmosphere, with a few locals huddled around the one small bar, silently enjoying each other’s company. The interior was beautifully decorated around a predictably nautical theme, and the taps boasted a fine selection of ales; the perfect accompaniment to kicking back and savouring a slow yet increasingly tense game of darts.
In this situation, many would expect pub darts to involve teams of rotund, balding and intimidating middle-aged men, eager to dominate and humiliate their fresh-faced undergraduate opponents and send them packing with their favourite Chomsky book between their legs. Again, stereotypes were dashed as the home team consisted of a few friendly blokes all of varying ages. Similarly, our boys were approachable, cool-headed and clearly united by their love of having a good round of darts. As such, even though they fell to a crippling defeat, they were highly sporting throughout and remained in good spirits, although the role of the attractive post-match feast cannot be underestimated in this regard.
“the evening’s match would assume a quieter tone; the stereotypical darts revelry was to be found firmly embedded in the madness of Varsity Darts”
The game itself was played out in a small area on the opposite side of the pub, right next to the toilets. This meant having to awkwardly shuffle in front of everyone to relieve yourself, and at one point the sound of a gurgling urinal could be heard as a hush fell on the oche (the ‘throw line’).
One of the lads spoke before the game and said both they and their opposition had failed to win their opening two games, turning Tuesday’s fixture into something of a six-pointer. The concentration was visibly etched on each of the players’ faces, although one of the opponents seemed just as engrossed with the fruit machine as the game at hand. Yet the result needed to kick-start their season was not to be, as UoN were consigned to another bout of ‘what ifs’.
“the experience reaffirmed my faith in the local watering hole as a bedrock of light-hearted community fun”
Going to see the darts was something completely out of the ordinary, but the experience reaffirmed my faith in the local watering hole as a bedrock of light-hearted community fun. You don’t just go there to watch the darts and leave. From discussing the downfall of right-wing America while ordering your pint to being fleeced out of 50p for a Football League team ‘lucky dip’, an away trip with the darts team doesn’t require pricy tickets or any big commitment. Arrive, soak up the homely pub atmosphere, appreciate some good beer, watch some darts and have a proper chat with your mates.
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