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Pandemonium

The greatest sports moment of 2023 already happened, and it was in darts

January 04, 2023

Unless you follow me on Twitter and are barraged by my semi-regular cries for you to start watching professional darts, there is a good chance you missed the finals of the world championships yesterday at the Alexandra Palace in London. It's not like you could stumble across it on TV—if you're in the US, you needed DAZN, a specific darts subscription, or an illegal stream from a site with a name like SportzBlokez.chechnya which fills your computer with Soviet-era malware. In other words, you can be forgiven for missing it.

Except, frankly, no, you cannot be forgiven. What happened yesterday at the Ally Pally will go down as the greatest moment in darts history, and probably the best thing you'll see in all of 2023, even though we have 362 days to go. Before I post the video, let me sprinkle in some light context: Michael Smith, the "Bully Boy," is an English former choker with an insane amount of talent who recently buffed up his mental game and finally won a major, and he was taking on Michael Van Gerwen, a Dutch legend who is both one of the best to ever play the sport and a stone-cold killer. Van Gerwen was heavily favored, and indeed took the early lead by breaking Smith's throw to win the first set. The other thing you have to know is that a "9-darter" is the best thing you can accomplish in a leg of 501 darts, the game they were playing—it's the minimum number of darts you need to win a leg, and it's extremely rare. At the world championships, for instance, it's only been done 14 times ever, and nobody had done it at all this year, from the round of 96 all the way up to yesterday's finals.

And then came yesterday's second set, where Smith, down 1-0 and a break in a race to seven and already looking despondent, needed something wild to jumpstart his game. Problem was, MVG has something wild of his own in store. Watch this duel and marvel:

We all know announcers are prone to immediate hyperbole, but in this case they are 100% right: Considering the rarity of a 9-darter, considering the stakes, and considering the stage, even a darts dolt like me can guess that it pretty much had to be the greatest leg ever. Bully Boy went on to win the match 7-4 for his first world title, and you have to wonder just how different things would be today if MVG had made his throw for double 12.

After watching the clip roughly one million times in the past 16 hours, my favorite part is the announcer Wayne Mardle yelling "I can't spake! I can't spake!" There's an irony here in the fact that soon after, this became true—Mardle's voice was so fried that they had to sub him out of the announcer's booth. This was the leg that legitimately murdered his voice box. Here's a clip with footage of the announcer's booth, where you can see how it sends him into paroxysms:

"I have never seen the like!"

I can't get enough of this. If you can't either, here's one more shot from among the drunken British mobs:

For me? Just end sports right now. It's not going to get any better than this, and I don't need to see any more. I have already told my bosses at Golf Digest I refuse to write about anything but this specific leg until at least 2028, and I urge the PGA Tour and all other athletic governing bodies to cease operations immediately. We've reached the absolute peak, our own metaphorical 9-darter, and it simply cannot get any better.