The Grandfather Of All Drinking Games

From the era of the gladiator to that of the avid dart player, the need for entertainment has catalyzed some fairly interesting inventions. Although much less morbid than publicized killing spectacles, the game of darts is one such invention that has a rich and interesting history.

The theory behind the origin of darts is slightly controversial because of gaps in the written record of history. Most historians and dart experts agree, however, that the game was the result of some kind of military exercise among British soldiers. Before the time of the British Empire, or in between conflicts, soldiers often grew restless and sought sources of entertainment. In their glorious militant machismo, they decided to challenge each other to a contest of sorts in the area of spear throwing. The soldiers would shorten their spears or arrows and throw them at the bottom of an empty wine barrel. Eventually, the barrel evolved into the cross section of a tree, the rings of which worked ideally for scorekeeping purposes. Bored British soldiers would retire from their daily duties, fashion targets from wood or barrel, and head to the pubs to challenge their comrades. Often times, pub owners would give discounts to those who would bring targets or help maintain them, as the boards were often difficult to keep up when they were made of wood.

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At one point, the game of darts was under legal fire, as English law during the time of the game's inception prohibited "games of chance," or gambling. When this was taken to the courts, the particular pub owner who was being prosecuted showcased his skill by hitting the same number three times in a row, proving that the game of darts is indeed a game of precision and concentration. Many fans are unaware of this act of valor in the preservation of the wonderful game of darts.

The establishment and maintenance of the British Empire had no adverse effect on the game that was developing at that time. In fact, it contributed to the game's popularity. In true sporting fashion, the Brits shared their game with conquered peoples, effectively spreading it throughout the massive empire that they created. To give a little context as to the sheer breadth of this empire, it was said that the sun could never set on it. Regarding the origins of the game in America, the pilgrims that travelled on the Mayflower were avid players themselves. After they settled, the game flourished in America just as it did in England. The widespread popularity of this game eventually led to the establishment of official rules, regulations, and even tournaments.

The official rules dictate that one should stand anywhere from 7 to 8 feet from the board, behind the "throwing line," before throwing any darts. The most typical dartboard that people are familiar with today, although hardcore traditionalists may still prefer wine barrels, is referred to as the "clock" board because of it's design. Although the rules of play are also subject to slight variation, most people agree on the general format: two teams of players alternate turns, throwing three darts per team in an attempt to rack up the most points. These rules can be very hazily defined in situations where the players may be intoxicated, which actually allows for many creative developments within the sport.

Darts can be taken lightly as a game or seriously as a sport. Regardless of the demographic, as the game allows for participants of any physical fitness level, learning the history of darts and how the game evolved can add substance to the experience of "throwing a few" at the bar.

Copyright Barry Grimes 2010 All Rights Reserved