Sunday, 15 January 2012

Nom de nick

Tonight is the BDO World Darts Championship final and a good time to reflect on how, outside of sports traditionally associated with British pubs, or the large scale wearing of Spandex, there's a bit of a dearth of nicknames. In darts, the nickname is everything. There are few sadder sights than the darts player without a preposterous moniker emblazened on the back of his frankly massive polyester shirt. It looks like he's got no friends. They may as well give him a bell. Maybe they do. But even then he could have used it to his advantage. Step up to the oche, Trevor "The Leper" Jones!

They're useful for the commentators, too, who as I have mentioned before here generally tend to struggle to find much insightful to talk about in watching two overweight middle-aged men throwing darts. In between moments of tension they tend to comment on the man in the crowd dressed as Elvis carrying 22 pints of lager back to a table entirely draped in Dutch flags. But when those moments of tension arise, the nickname is the first thing they reach for, and the first thing to be stretched and tortured to the kind of extent you'd normally associate with the Spanish Inquisition.

THEM: OH! He's just missed... Wolfie will be HOWLING about that!
ME: He's not a real wolf.
THEM: And now the crowd are getting behind his opponent, have they all left the PACK?
ME: He's not a real wolf... (continues for eight days)

For all of the crimes against language and sanity they cause, though, I just adore darts players' nicknames. Most of them are descriptive, some of them are even witty and some go over and above that, achieving a kind of perfection of synergy between object and signifier that would have even Noam Chomsky nodding his approval.

So let's celebrate the darts player and their nicknames! Here are my pick of this year's BDO championship draw, plus a tip of the hat to the greatest sporting nickname ever bestowed on a human being.

MARTIN "WOLFIE" ADAMS
Much can be made of Adams' love of wolves, or films with wolves in them, or Wolverhampton Wanderers, or whatever it is. But the simple fact is, this name stuck because that beard gives him a slightly lycanthropic air.

TED "THE COUNT" HANKEY
Ted Hankey loves his gothic films and vampires. Dressing up as a big fat Count Dracula and flinging rubber bats to pounding techno beats as he wanders up to the stage is the natural step to take. And, I might add, one still preferable to the Twilight saga.

ALAN "CHUCK" NORRIS
Alan Norris has the same surname as martial arts lunatic Chuck Norris, you see. Although as he himself sagely points out, you also chuck a dart.

MARTIN "THE ASSASSIN" ATKINS
Occupational nicknames are always a favourite in a sport where semi-professionalism is still fairly common. Whether or not advertising the fact that you are an assassin for your day job is a wise idea is another question entirely. Although it may actually be a hollow boast regarding his accuracy, who knows?

TONY "THE SILVERBACK" O'SHEA
Anthropomorphic nicknames are very popular in darts. Although it's infrequent that ones like "The Gazelle" or "The Cheetah" come out.

GARRY "THE COUGAR" THOMPSON
He's only fooling himself

PAUL "JENNO" JENNINGS
If in doubt, stick an O on the end of your name, British public school style. Which brings us to:

DEAN "O" WINSTANLEY
Surely he could have tried harder than that?

and now to the two heroes of the hour:

CO "THE MATCHSTICK" STOMPE
The Netherlands' Stompe was never the match of his great contemporary Raymond "Barney" van Barneveld at the oche but he had the edge in the nickname stakes, taking advantage of the fact he was the only man ever to play the sport at World level to be thinner than his darts. However, even the noble Stompe can't hold a candle to the ultimately nicknamed sportsman, so please step forward...

LES "McDANGER" WALLACE
This is beautiful beyond all words. The 1997 World Champion was Scottish, which explains the kilt and also the Mc. But McDanger! As if that were a thing! McDanger! I could analyse this forever but I'd only get tangled up and besides, it's the sort of thing you're better off pondering by yourself. Let your mind wander. McDanger.

McDanger!

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