The PDC world No. 1 speaks with Boardroom about the 2022 US Darts Masters in New York and the inimitable passion of darts fans around the world.
Sporting a giant blond mohawk and a rainbow-colored outfit louder than the traffic outside on 7th Avenue, Peter Wright held court Wednesday afternoon inside the lobby in front of Madison Square Garden. The 52-year-old Scot happens to be the world’s top-ranked darts player, winner of the 2020 and 2022 PDC World Darts Championship with more than 200,000 Twitter followers.
He was at MSG to promote the Bet365 US Darts Masters and Bet365 North American Championship, at which he’s competing Friday and Saturday at the Hulu Theater. Boardroom was there to get up close and personal with the sport from the Scottish star man who goes by the nickname “Snakebite”
The sport of darts is wildly popular in the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Netherlands, and elsewhere in Europe, where rowdy fans in outlandish outfits chant and scream for and against their favorite dartists in packed venues. Wright’s walkup song is Pitbull’s “Don’t Stop The Party,” which will be played as he competes with 15 other men and women for the £20,000 (about $25,000) prize. He chatted with Boardroom about the sport, being its top player, and how it can forge Formula 1’s path to growing its popularity in the US and around the world.
SHLOMO SPRUNG: The live crowd experience is obviously huge in darts. What sets these crowds apart from other sports?
PETER WRIGHT: They chant and everything while you’re throwing. With other sports like golf or tennis, everyone’s gotta be quiet. It’s different that way. You have a lot of people shouting out miss and booing you while you’re throwing.
SS: What crowd atmosphere are you expecting here in New York and in the States?
PW: Well hopefully it’s going to be amazing. Hopefully, they’ll have proper dart patterns, they’re going to come dressed up and have a good time. They’re going to cheer their favorite players. They’ll get behind Fallon [Sherrock] because she’s the lady in the top eight. She’ll have a lot of fans.
SS: What do they dress up in?
PW: Sometimes I’ve seen people in T-Rex costumes just walking around, elves. It can be anything.
SS: For people not initiated in the sport, how big is it in the UK and Ireland?
PW: It’s massive. And in Europe, it’s huge. You could change your life by becoming a professional darts player. You could be here where we are now just for picking up a dartboard, getting some darts, practicing lots, and believing in yourself. Then you could be here.
SS: How has your life changed?
PW: It’s changed immensely. I’m in New York playing at Madison Square Garden. It’s special. It’s a dream.
SS: What are the physical routines and preparations you have to go through in order to be at peak performance?
PW: It’s just hours and hours and weeks and weeks of practice. You can practice from an hour a day up to 12 hours a day. It’s up to you. Before my match, I try and do three-and-a-half hours, so that hopefully gets me over the line.
You’ve also gotta try and keep fit as well. I’ll work out in the room with push-ups, sit-ups to keep your arms tight.
SS: What’s the biggest misconception you find for fans who don’t know enough about darts or anything about darts, really?
PW: Like I said earlier, some of the fans boo while the players are throwing, which is not very nice, or whistling. Those are things as darts players that we don’t like. It wouldn’t be very nice if you were doing your job and someone started putting you off when you were doing something really important. Obviously, you wouldn’t like it. It’s just one of the things that’s going around at the moment, and hopefully here they won’t do that and be nice and support all players.
SS: How has sports betting played a role in the sport’s success? Obviously bet365 is a major sponsor.
PW: I would say it’s a bit different in the UK because they might be bringing their rules in over the next couple years that you’re not allowed any betting companies to sponsor the sport.
SS: Do you think that has helped the popularity of the sport?
PW: I don’t know; I don’t bet. And such people if they bet should bet responsibly and not get out of hand.
SS: What’s the significance of not having separate men’s and women’s divisions in the sport?
PW: It’s open to everyone. Everyone’s got three darts. It all just depends how good you are.
SS: We’ve seen Formula 1 take off here in the States. What do you think it would take to get darts on the rise like F1?
PW: Obviously we’ve got characters like myself, Michael van Gerwen, Gerwyn Price, and the best players in the world competing against the best in North America here in New York. Growing as a sport is about showing the best of what we’ve got and giving the people a chance to say, “maybe I want to do that. Maybe I want to go and start practicing.”
A player named Robert Cross has done that before. One year, he was working and then he went for a tour card, and within two years, he’s a world champion. He was an electrician, and now all he does is play darts now. He’s top 10 in the world. It just goes to show you it can change your life. Just come play darts.