For many Dan Dawson is seen as the funny man of darts journalism, but Dan is much more than that, he is knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the game. I recently shared some time with him, and wondered what attracted him to the game of darts.
"I've always loved sport in general, but it was mainly football and cricket when I was growing up. Darts was never a big thing in our household, but it'd occasionally make it on the TV, because my dad would happily watch sport all day on tele, if given the option. I guess the first time I remember watching it was the 2000 Lakeside World Championships, when I latched onto Co Stompe, because he looked awesome and weird at the same time.'
Anyone who follows you on social media, would be fully aware of your Co Stompe fascination, dare I say man-love. Why do you love him so much?
"He just did not look like any other sportsman, certainly not the ones down Meadow Lane and Trent Bridge that I'd regularly see (Notts County and Notts CCC). The specs, the bald head, the long sleeves, he was glorious"
From this child-hood fascination of Co Stompe to covering the top PDC events, how did this evolve?
"I was living in London and had been made redundant from my job as a sports journalist at a radio station, so was just trying to find whatever work I could. I was travelling from Cardiff to Essex to do odd days here and there, when I got offered a gig doing the radio coverage of the World Darts Championships at the Ally Pally. I was in no position to turn it down, but I told my boss that I didn't exactly have a comprehensive knowledge of the game. All he said was "Don't worry about that, after 3 days of talking about it, you'll be an expert." It takes a bit longer than that.
However, after properly immersing myself in the game, I fell in love with it. That was the 2009 World Championships (December 2008) and I've been lucky enough to steadily increase my involvement with the game since then."
So since getting involved in the darting world in December 2008, who has influenced you and who do you inspire to be like?
"I admire a lot of guys in darts, past and present, but I don't think you can ever actively try to be like someone. You have to find your own voice and develop that. Everyone talks about Sid Waddell, and we all know there won't be another Sid, but you look at the guys who do commentary/presenting now, and they've all got fantastic qualities that I want to emulate.
Stuart Pyke's preparation is second to none; Rod Studd's insight is excellent; Wayne Mardle's wit and enthusiasm are infectious, as well as being an expert on the game; Nigel Pearson and John Gwynne have both really helped me with advice and support; John Part, Chris Mason and Alan Warriner-Little...they're all brilliant. Not to mention the consumate professionals who hold everything together, Dave Clark and Matt Smith. If you can't learn from those guys, you won't learn from anyone."
You've played quite safe there and named everyone! You sure you haven't left anyone out?
"Dave Allen, the PDC Press Officer, is not only the finest Press Officer I've ever come across in any organisation, but he's also a top man, who's helped me out numerous times in the past."
How about the actual players, do you class any of them as good mates?
"I get on with a lot of players, but I don't see them regularly enough to be able to call them really good mates. However I do have an arch enemy, the dastardly Dean Winstanley - and my life's work is to foil his evil machinations."
Haha...That off the wall stuff is a huge part of your appeal, do you think there is a role for that in modern darts?
"Of course there is. Darts has always had an element of fun with it. Obviously Sid was a big part of that for decades, but the sport's blessed with a whole load of characters. It's become bigger over the last 20 years, and more professional as well, but thankfully it's not killed the fun associated with it.
I've spent a lot of time interviewing guys from football and cricket, who're often media trained within an inch of their lives from their teenage years, and you rarely get anything funny or interesting from them. It's not like that in darts, it's part of the reason why I fell in love with it as soon as I started working in the game."
From watching on TV, the players certainly give the impression that they're very approachable. They seem to have the guy next door appeal, which I think makes darts the game of the common man. Do you have any interviews which are special to you?
"One of my favourite memories is interviewing Adrian Lewis after his second World Championship title. I was a smoker at the time, and Adrian wanted to get outside for a few minutes away from all the hectic post-final treadmill of interviews and photos - so we just stood in the car park having a fag; it was surreal. After the most significant match of the year, it was just me and the World Champ having a chat over a cigarette. You wouldn't get that in most sports, particularly football.
Mind you, you wouldn't get the World Champ in many sports forgetting his trophy either. I brought it back to the hotel from the Ally Pally with Dave Allen at about 2am (when I typically finish work). Adrian was sat in the bar, and welcomed us with a shout of "I think that's mine!" and I got to present it to him for the second time that night. Again I don't care if you're Guillem Balague in football, you're unlikely to ever be presenting Lionel Messi with the Ballon D'or in the hotel bar after he's forgotten to bring it back with him from the venue."
(Laughs) Maybe that says more about Lewis's forgetfulness rather than Messi's! As an avid user of Social Media you're aware of the rivalry between the PDC and the BDO. In fact I won't call it a rivalry, more point-scoring.
"I'm not even sure it's that big a deal anymore. There's room for both of them, because they do different things. There'll be huge arguments on social media about the standard and whatever, but I don't get involved. It's now easier for the BDO guys to come over and give it a go, and they've still got that safety net of being able to return, now the BDO got rid of that idiotic rule trying to stop them. Whether you're a BDO or PDC fan, you're a fan of darts, and you can see great games in both codes. I'm unashamedly a PDC man though....I'm a sucker for the glamour."
Speaking of the glamour, how big can the PDC become? What will happen when Barry Hearn retires, is Eddie interested?
"Barry Hearn will live till he's 207, having just stepped down from his role on stage at the "Virgin Galactic Interstellar Championships" - where Phil Taylor's just beaten Terry Jenkins in the final...again.
But darts' future looks secure to me. Eddie's involved in the PDC and you only have to look at what he's been doing for British boxing lately."
To end with you, is the Dan Dawson goal to become a full time commentator? Like a modern day John Gwynne?
"I'd love to do as much as I can in darts, and certainly doing more commentary is a goal of mine. I'm realistic enough to realise that I'll never be John Gwynne though...he's one of those voices you associate with the game over decades, he's a legend, and a top man as well."
Would you be interested in hosting Bullseye if it came back on prime-time tv?
"Haha! Why not?...I've got no idea what's involved in hosting a game show, but if I get a free nest of tables, microwave oven and a speedboat at the end of the series, then I'm up for it."
Dan Dawson can be found commentating on the darts for ITV4, when allowed. He's also part (well he says star) of the excellent On the Wire for the PDC.
Link here - https://www.youtube.com/user/officialpdc
Dan's twitter is @dandartsdawson if you're a fan of cheap gags and poor photo-shopping.