Two years on, what to make of the PDC’s monster?

Two years ago I wrote an article on why I considered the Professional Darts Corporation’s decision to sell its events as a party rather than a sport was a gamble. Safe to say, the piece attracted a lot of attention – around 10,000 reads, about 70 percent of the total views this blog has garnered in two and a half years.

The response was mixed, although it was more positive than not, and as it’s still applicable, the post continues to receive comments today – especially at World Championship time. With a lot of water under the bridge, now is the appropriate time to revisit it. Much I continue to believe, although a few comments were admittedly slightly naïve.

In suggesting the PDC has become slaves to a monster, I dare say the past 24 months have vindicated that. Crowds have worsened, so much so that we now hear as many football chants as darts ones, while it sometimes feels as if few would notice if the players just packed up and walked off, given the backdrop behind the players is often a sea of backs instead of faces.

There’s nothing that can be done about this now. Indeed, referees seem to realise the once customary “thank you” is as useful as a Kevin Painter lesson in bottle. That’s the route they’ve gone down and it’s fair to say we’re not near the tipping point yet. A night at the darts remains mighty appealing, even if a night watching the darts doesn’t. With more – albeit anecdotal – evidence that I’ve had from people who say they no longer attend PDC events because of the crowd situation, it’s inevitable that things will keep moving in this direction.

Sadly the PDC revels in drunken tomfoolery. During Wednesday afternoon’s second-round session, the corporation’s official Twitter page shared a GIF of somebody taking a “PINT TO THE FACE!!!” – along with that god-awful crying with laughter emoji –before later deleting it after copious criticism. I cannot think of any other sport that not only allows its spectators to behave like idiots, but actively endorses it.

Any attempts to exercise crowd control are fruitless – they will do what they like when they like and make a lot of noise while doing it. And, as far as the PDC’s finances are concerned, that’s fine for now. But there are undeniably sustainability questions – surrounding having a darts crowd that isn’t there to watch darts – that will become pertinent eventually, although it’s hard to say when. What could change things is a serious kick-off at a UK event that makes headlines outside darts – the likelihood of that seems about as improbable but not impossible as it has ever been.

All of this gloom isn’t to say darts hasn’t made some huge strides, and my comment that the World Championships should have stayed at the Circus Tavern was a mistake borne out of pernicious nostalgia. It was a special place (sort of) and it’s a shame it’s not used for anything, but looking back, moving was the correct decision.

Purfleet’s finest was never the Crucible or a second Lakeside. Ultimately, the Circus was merely a venue that happened to stage darts’ most iconic match as its last World Championship salvo. With darts bidding for the big time, it wasn’t worth saving. The deteriorating atmosphere over the past decade hasn’t been caused by the change in arena, but by the PDC’s refusal to firmly stamp out the nonsense behaviour when it started.

Painting the PDC a “bleak long-term future” was clumsy. There’s plenty of reason to believe, with the growing European market at least, that further expansion is likely and forthcoming. Shipping a big major, ideally the World Grand Prix over to the Netherlands or Germany seems a logical step with the Citywest Hotel in Dublin having the most trouble filling the hall up of late.

That pretty much falls in line with what I said at the time, although it’s slightly bizarre that aside from now hosting a Premier League night, the Dutch are still being ignored. Encouragingly, folk out there and across the continent – while in for a good time – appear to care about what’s happening on the board too.

I still reckon the PDC will have long-term problems keeping its product fresh in the UK, but with other countries chomping at the bit, the organisation should stay in rude health providing it harnesses that potential. Finding a marketable replacement for Phil Taylor will be the bigger challenge.

Nobody has the lure of the Power, not even Michael van Gerwen. Taylor’s world finals against van Gerwen and Anderson in 2013 and 2015 respectively brought in around 1.2 million viewers apiece. Contrast that to the 668,000 who tuned in for van Gerwen versus Peter Wright in 2014, and the 908,000 who switched on for Gary Anderson’s title retention against Adrian Lewis last year. If nothing else, it’s a warning signal, as was the PDC’s foray onto the BBC back in September – despite getting the showpiece Taylor-van Gerwen final, fewer than one million watched it.

So, all in all, I’d like to think I’ve largely been proven right, despite being a tad heavy-handed in certain areas. The PDC has certainly created a monster, but for now, it’s a stable one, and they should be able to keep it so for a while yet. For real fans, who enjoyed going to the darts to watch the darts – such a novel concept – the long-term future is indeed bleak. Darts sold itself to reach new heights, and Barry Hearn concluded neglecting his core, dedicated audience in favour of a wild, carefree gang was for the greater good. Time will tell whether he’s right.

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A list of everybody who absolutely destroyed Donald Trump in 2016

​Donald J. Trump really has been the gift that’s kept on giving over the past 18 months. His presidential bid was literally hilarious and provided all of the highly-respected late-night liberal TV hosts a never-ending wealth of material that could be condensed – either daily or weekly –  into YouTube clips and shared across social media.

Trump’s brash, triggering style, which earned him widespread condemnation from our favourite Hollywood stars and paved the way for Hillary Clinton’s storming victory in the popular vote.

Here’s a list of everybody who absolutely destroyed Donald Trump in 2016:

The end.

Donald Trump’s route to 270 is fiendish, but he only needs 269 – and here’s how he could do it

It’s no secret that Donald Trump’s path to 270 electoral votes is much tougher than Hillary Clinton’s. Simply nailing down Pennsylvania and one of Florida, North Carolina or Ohio would effectively block Trump’s route to the White House.

However, there’s one caveat hardly anyone seems to be considering, and it could just be pivotal. Trump doesn’t need a path to 270, just to 269 – and there’s a realistic set of states that can get him there.

A 269-269 tie would result in an electoral college deadlock, at which point the House of Representatives would pick the next president, while the Senate would choose the next vice president.

Let’s make two assumptions: one, that the House will still belong to the GOP after the election (a near certainty), and that two, that GOP House would make Trump president should they get the opportunity (yes, I know it’s 2016, but surely, surely they would).

Anyway, enough wonky politics and what-ifs, and into the mathematics.

Since Clinton’s route is so easy, it’s much more revealing to focus solely on how Trump could defeat her – well, tie it up. Providing nothing bizarre happens and The Donald keeps Texas, Georgia and Arizona (a state that’s in true toss-up territory but would likely go Trump’s way should he win the other states needed for this avenue) in the red column, he would have 191 electoral votes.

Iowa, the Hawkeye State, will perhaps be Trump’s easiest state to win that Romney failed to. Polls have consistently shown the GOP nominee leading and, although he has slipped, the slight movement back toward him late on should be enough to win here. That’s 197.

Head eastwards to the Buckeye State of Ohio and Trump has 18 electoral votes that have trended his way, narrowly, for a while. Despite not securing the support of the state’s Republican governor, John Kasich, he has eked out a small edge of around one or two points over Clinton. Flipping this Obama-won state seems more likely than not. That’s 215.

Down to the Panhandle and the Sunshine State of Florida. The prize? A mighty 29 electoral votes in the increasingly diverse state. A notorious election-decider, Florida has swayed back and forth intriguingly during this election cycle.

Both Trump and Clinton secured thumping wins in their respective primaries, and are now neck-and-neck in the polls seven days out. A recent New York Times/Siena College poll gave Trump a four-point lead, while an NBC/WSJ/Marist poll put Clinton one point up. If the FBI bombshell does indeed harm Clinton, Trump may reap the rewards. That’s 244.

North Carolina was won by Romney in 2012 by two percent, but it’s a state that Trump is having significant difficulty with. The early voting has given off blurry signals but the polling has hinted at a Clinton win (as of November 1, she has a 3.3-point advantage according to RealClearPolitics.

A big turnout for Trump on Election Day, and the Tar Heel State has a large number of independents which will likely determine it, and he, like Romney, could tip the Cinton-leaning scales post-early voting. Humour me and make this assumption, and that’s 259.

These scoops would still put Trump 10 short of the tie, taking his quest to Colorado, the 420 blaz… Centennial State, where nine more votes are up for grabs. The Clinton camp thought Colorado was in the bag months back and pulled advertising, allowing Trump to drastically close the gap.

A calamitous early-to-mid October arrested Democrat concerns but the state isn’t a guarantee, with a CBS/YouGov poll putting Clinton just three points up in the sparsely-polled state. Recent Remington Research findings have her one point ahead, although this pollster is Republican aligned. Meanwhile, a Quinnipiac poll conducted more than a fortnight ago had Clinton’s lead at eight. In short, the polling is a mess, but points toward a small to medium HRC win, yet with limited confidence.

Ballots are already being mailed in and Trump has also been pressing hard recently there. Colorado is a tough task, but it looks far more viable than the Pennsylvania and Wisconsin paths being touted by talking heads. If he does complete the heist then that’s 268. One short.

They do things differently up in the Pine Tree State of Maine (and Nebraska too, for that matter). While two electoral votes are available for a statewide win, one additional vote is given to the winner of the state’s 1st and 2nd congressional districts. The limited polling indicates Trump is a good bet for the latter. Things have been volatile and his prospects are nowhere near as bright as in September, where he enjoyed double-digit leads, but it definitely looks doable. And if he does, that’s 269 and likely the presidency.

Fail that, and Nevada’s six electoral votes could nudge him north of 270.

trump-269

It’s a thin, treacherous tightrope and one Trump has a greater chance of falling off than walking across, but it offers a glimmer of hope that the proposed Rust Belt strategy doesn’t seem to. Barring a big polling error, foreseeable in these Brexit times of course, in Pennsylvania or Michigan (which missed Bernie Sanders’ primary win by 20 points), that route looks blocked for Trump.

Anyway, back to the original premise: the idea that 269 being enough for Trump could make all the difference. It’d be bizarre, wacky, unprecedented and bonkers. But has there been a more bizarre, wacky, unprecedented and bonkers election than 2016?

 

Donald Trump is politically bombproof but politically incompetent

Donald Trump is staggeringly unpopular in the United Kingdom, with most miffed about how a campaign such as his could gain the astonishing traction it has. The majority of those then conclude that racism isn’t dead across the pond and that demagogues can win because, hey, look what happened in the 1930s.

These are unsurprising assumptions from those who dip in and out of the race and need constant reminders of how the electoral college works. They aren’t wholly wrong, but they can’t truly understand what’s going on as they aren’t immersed in the madcap reality Americans currently are.

Trump has gone after Mexico, China and goodness knows where else, but his most persistent and successful attacks have been levelled at an enemy much closer to home: the mainstream media.

Trump laid the groundwork for this when he kicked off his campaign, and has continued to build on it throughout. Barely a rally goes by without a fierce probe on the ‘dishonest press’ for not panning the crowd or reporting accurately – or at least Trump’s version of accurately. Cringe-inducing tweets about a “dopey” journalist or how much of a disaster former promoter Morning Joe is come morning, noon and night too.

This war on the media has proven mightily effective, so much so that he can easily spout a plethora of lies and half-truths before dodging the splashback. Harsh criticism of Trump from the media, whether it’s warranted or not, screams of, “Well they would say that, wouldn’t they?” to his fervent followers, many of whom then visit their chosen online right-wing source for the “real” news, if only for confirmation bias.

Americans’ trust in the mass media is at a historical low, with just 32 percent saying they have either a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust, according to a recent Gallup poll – an 8-percent decline from a year ago. Much of that can be attributed to Trump, who has simply exploited the omnipresent scepticism of mainstream media. Moreover, a CNN poll discovered that 50 percent deem Trump trustworthy. That’s a whopping 18 percent higher than the media’s trust ratings, and 15 percent greater than Hillary Clinton’s, his presidential adversary.

It’s what makes fact-checking a waste of time too, even from those doing it diligently with noble intentions.

Trump’s lies are pretty obvious – like when he called Clinton the co-founder of Islamic State who, as we all know, was in cahoots with President Barack Obama. Or when he said that Clinton would “abolish the Second Amendment”. But if a voter isn’t picking up on his brazen lies from the off, they aren’t about to do so from a smarmy know-it-all whose reputation Trump has directly or indirectly chipped away at.

Independent fact-checkers are a bit better, but once into the muddier waters of half-lies and half-truths, the implicit bias of the author will inevitably slip in, no matter how much they strive to be impartial.

Not to mention, those with the time and desire to traipse through a fact-checking sheet are likely to be well aware of the happenings of the election and the world to have worked out the “pants on fire” stuff for themselves. Fact-checking is a tool made by political junkies for political junkies, so trapped in their echo chamber that they think everyone cares about the new CNN poll for Pennsylvania and the subtleties of the crosstabs.

Trump is nigh on politically bombproof to media criticism; it’s his penchant for a personal dogfight which has harmed him – borne out of his thin skin and political inexperience. A sweeping generalisation on illegal Mexican immigrants being rapists is forgotten because it’s political, a singular attack from an oafish Trump on an undeserving target isn’t since it’s personal – a big guy going after a little guy doesn’t play well, unless that little guy is Marco Rubio.

Had Trump buried the Obama birther debate years ago, left Judge Gonzalo Curiel alone and responded respectfully with an olive branch to the Gold Star Khan family, he would probably be on his way to victory, simply because despite all of this it’s still a very tight race, largely because – on a personal level at least – Clinton is also an appalling candidate whose image has plummeted.

But, of course, that’s not in his nature, and Democrats are ever-grateful it isn’t, for it has given them plenty of juicy ad material and nice bait for Trump to hook himself with, as Clinton demonstrated in the first debate.

It comes from Trump’s belief that “all publicity is good publicity” and that as a counter-puncher, if someone, anyone, hits him – or he perceives them to have – then he must whack back twice as hard. That may work in business, but on the political battlefield, it’s about knowing when to pick or avoid fights.

If Trump loses by a big margin on November 8, something looking increasingly unlikely, he and his ideas would have been firmly rejected. A narrow defeat, however, it would be because the electorate deemed the orator of those ideas too inarticulate and lacking the political savvy to be a safe pair of hands in the White House.

But if Trump wins, it won’t be because of policy, for he has few. Nor will it solely be down to his brash outsider status. No, the main reason will be because he took on the media, discredited them further and, in doing so, made himself immune – even when he had no right to be.

How Donald Trump conned conservatives

The reality of a con doesn’t truly set in until you know you’ve been had with no chance of an exit – a Trexit, if you will. At this point, solely to save face, you’ll scramble to convince others and most importantly yourself that it isn’t that bad and pretty much what you wanted in the first place.

This is the predicament many of Donald Trump’s fiercest supporters find themselves in after his most stunning flip-flop yet. Newsflash: the original vote-garnering plan to deport 11 million illegal immigrants is not going to happen.

Instead, the attempted new and kinder politics (has he been taking tips from Jeremy Corbyn?) from The Donald has offered up some thoughts that it’s “tough” to deport those who’ve been here for a long time and if they pay back taxes then all will be fine and dandy. I know, it doesn’t sound like him either.

No one has been left smarting more than Ann Coulter, the renowned author so strongly supportive of the real estate magnate since he announced his candidacy last June.

She has already stated that the tour for her new book In Trump We Trust could be the “shortest book-tour ever” if he comes up empty on immigration. But, true to the form of somebody too far invested to get out at this late stage, Coulter herself now seems to be softening on the issue.

“Perhaps it is in our interest to let some of them stay,” she mused, buyer’s remorse on full display. After all, the wall’s still going up, for now, and shipping 11 million out was never going to work anyway, was it? And some of them, I suppose, are good people – aren’t they? Correct, Ann.

It’s a far cry from the chatter that had Coulter and co stumping for Trump as he battled off RINOs and Lyin’ Ted prior to and during the primaries. While Trump himself may never have been committed, Coulter and the likes of Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Al) – who is reluctantly contemplating concessions – were then and are now.

But they are in such a hole, with trusted conservative Cruz long gone and Trump confirmed as the nominee, that they have little choice but to stay on the train. After all, what happens if conservatives back out on Trump now? They get Hillary Clinton. And whatever the fallout of the GOP cart crashing and burning in November, it still wouldn’t be as bad as aiding a Clinton victory. The doors are locked and they’re in it to win it, at whatever cost to their principles – except for Cruz, who now looks ripe for a second coming should Trump fall short.

While it’s true that Trump’s bid is not entirely fuelled by his immigration stance (during the primaries, many Republican voters cited the economy as their biggest concern, particularly further north), his positions in this field have dominated his campaign’s narrative.

Hence, flip-flops in other areas were forgivable, with Trump voters consoling themselves that whatever happens in other areas, the immigration package is being sold as promised.

Conservatives are now lumped with a candidate espousing similar views to Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and John Kasich, without the much-needed caveats of electoral advantage and smooth delivery. At least with those weak, low-energy choices, the chances of getting into the most obscene and unnecessary spats is negligible. Even in the unlikelihood these incidents haven’t done Trump damage, they certainly haven’t helped and have prevented him from going all-out on (Crooked) Hillary.

We now have a scenario where the new, admittedly 70-year-old kid on the political block is forcing some give out of even the most hardened immigration voices. Perhaps he is the ultimate negotiator after all.

Eurovision Song Contest 2016: Politics, comedy and a man in a hamster wheel

Sod the haters. The 2016 Eurovision Song Contest was actually pretty good. The Swedes were, as ever, superb hosts, there was passable comedy throughout, and the new voting system made for a genuinely exciting climax – even if the final outcome did leave a bad taste.

After three and a half relatively short hours, it was revealed – with a new voting system that split the jury and public votes – that Ukraine had pipped Australia to the post, overturning a huge deficit thanks to the popular vote – not that it didn’t go without controversy.

No politics we were told. “Come Together” they preached. Thus, why were Ukraine allowed a three-minute slot to deliver an obvious message to Russia? Jamala’s winning effort sung of the Soviet Union’s deportation of Crimean Tatars in ‘1944’, which was also the song’s title.

Officials allowed it since it was historical, not political. But two years after Russia’s annexing of Crimea. Come on, really?  It was heartfelt, passionate and all the rest of it, but its intentions were clear – previous songs have been denied entry for less. This was not Eurovision’s finest hour.

Russia is not liked here, but is tolerated (just about). However, one wonders whether they will be welcome in Ukraine a year from now. The nation is also desperate to win again. The bookies’ favourites relied on a catchy – albeit unoriginal – track with magnificent visual effects. It ended up third, behind Ukraine and Australia.

So, what to make of the Aussies, Eurovision’s unlikely insurgents? Dami Im’s ‘Sound of Silence’ was the jury’s pick by a mile, but came up a long way short in the popular vote. Perhaps the good folk of Europe disapprove of Australia’s involvement, or maybe the contest was always ordained to stick one to Russia. Should they come back again? I don’t see why not, but part of me was glad they didn’t win it. It might be time for them to go and start their own contest closer to home.

Scandinavia has pretty much owned the event lately, with Finland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden (twice) hosting in the past decade, with the last-mentioned proving themselves to be the doyens of Eurovision. In the legitimately funny and ever-popular PETRA MEDE, along with the affable Måns Zelmerlöw, the show had presenters who didn’t look like they’d be hung, drawn and quartered if they put a foot wrong.

The half-time act was littered with brilliance: we were whisked back to ABBA and the glory days, greeted with Eurovision darling (Cockney accent required) Lynda Woodruff and treated to a smorgasbord of the contest’s good, bad and excellent in Petra and Måns’ ultimate Eurovision mashup, ‘Love Love Peace Peace’, which executed parody perfectly. Lordi, the Russian grannies, Alexander Rybak all turned up for cameos.  Oh, and Justin Timberlake made an appearance too.

As for the United Kingdom, the less said the better. We are simply out of ideas. The jury gave us more love than we’ve become accustomed to (Malta awarded us 12!), but the televote just consolidated the known fact that Europe bloody loathes us. ‘Joe and Jake’ did what they could, but our trial with generic pop was shunned.

Now 19 years bereft of top spot, it is high time we took it really, really seriously or give up and go back to sending trash – our “proper” attempts in recent years have reflected an ungodly neediness.

But while the UK isn’t going to be staging Europe’s biggest party any time soon, Sweden showed for the second time in four Eurovisions that it’s in safe and competent hands.

Yes, it was cheesy, and there were plenty of “in” jokes, that would have befuddled those who don’t have the shameless tag of being a ‘Eurovision addict’. But in an era where the contest has developed a reputation for being a joke, to turn it on its head and embrace that was a stroke of genius.

Eurovision is something I usually love to hate, and that feeling will probably return in Kiev(?) next year. But credit where it’s due. Stockholm 2016 was fun, fresh and paid homage to what Eurovision has become. Can Sweden have it every year?

Eurovision Song Contest 2016: Revelling in the Farce

Watching the Eurovision Song Contest these days tends to be a masochistic experience. Lacking class, respect and even a couple of night-redeeming songs, it’s hard to believe that the graceful Katie Boyle hosted this contest in its infancy.

But on we plod – some of us have nothing better to do on a Saturday night – to another year, safe in the knowledge that even if the music’s crap, our eastern European geography will get a much-needed brush up. Nice and easy this year. Stockholm… Sweden.

So what’s to enjoy in 2016? Not that much in all honesty. The usually trusty Scandinavians took a battering in the semi-finals, leaving only Sweden to carry the flag in Saturday’s Grand Final. The trashy Europop that normally floods the show – providing multiple chances to sneer – is notable in its absence. Even the Greeks have shied away from sending over a bit of skirt, evidently not prepared to take even the slightest risk that they might have to host it.

Armenia, however, has followed the unwritten rules, and Iveta Mukuchyan’s risqué outfit should be enough to keep Europe’s red-blooded males until the 26th – yes, TWENTY-SIXTH – and final act of the evening.

To only enhance the farce, Australia, those adopted Europeans, probably have the best entry with Dami Im’s Sound of Silence. The bookies’, late to the news that other countries’ X Factor winners can actually sing, have slashed her odds from 20/1 to 4/1 since her semi-final performance on Thursday.

It has not gone unnoticed that the last few years have seen Eurovision become an LGBT celebration of sorts. Hence, that Russia – cue the boos – is the runaway favourite to swoop to victory adds an element of interest for those who just like to watch the world burn. Since the “anti-gay laws” coupled with the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Russia has been Eurovision’s bad boys. And for that reason alone, there would be plenty amusing about seeing the carnival rock up in Moscow a year from now.

But enough about the rest, what about the best? The nation that has sent the nil-point Jemini, a half-cut Bonnie Tyler and the frankly pathetic Scooch to compete since our last victory in 1997, has cobbled together “Joe and Jake” this year – no, I hadn’t a clue either. Both took part in BBC flop ‘The Voice’ last year, but they have a chance of doing better than many of our recent entries… look, I’m trying.

Once the initial tricking of results confirm the British entry has bombed yet again, the drunken debrief can begin. Trashy song? Bloc voting? Probably a combination of both. What about if we put a transvestite up? That worked for Austria, and Israel. Suggestions, suggestions. If only Adele would bite the bullet and prove once and for all that the rest of Europe just loathes us, we could stop pouring in megabucks and FUND OUR NHS INSTEAD!

However, while the music itself – you’re not actually here for that, are you? – will be instantly forgettable, in Sweden, we have a country that knows how to put a show on.

Thankfully for us in Blighty, the Swedes’ humour is not all that dissimilar to ours, so expect popular host Petra Mede to deliver a snigger-inducing innuendo-filled performance. An appearance from another Eurovision “favourite” (she is, in fairness, mildly entertaining), Lynda Woodruff, “spokesperson for the European Broadcasting Union” is expected, as she reprises her role from 2013, the previous time the contest came to Sweden.

A pre-warning: it’s scheduled to last three and a half hours, but expect it to go on even longer. Not that it will matter if you are suitably plastered, as is Eurovision tradition. So, how will I be getting into the spirit of things? A homemade curry – to celebrate the Indian diaspora in Europe, of course – is on the menu, which will be appropriately washed down with Germany’s finest weissbiers. Any excuse.

It’s a shambles, but it’s Europe’s shambles. There’s something still relatively charming about its awfulness – and anyway, what respectable Brit would pass up the opportunity to have a 210-minute moan? And, on the off chance that you still need a reason for Brexit, it won’t hurt to give this a try.

Question everything

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