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Sports Desk

by Aidan Elder |  Published: Jan 01, 2010

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Alexandra Palace
PDC World Championships
The array of rotund bellies on the athletes and the rowdy pub-like atmosphere don’t do darts a huge favour in terms of establishing its credentials as anything other than a pastime that goes hand in hand with drinking. The fact that it actually takes place in a pub a lot of the time compounds the problem, but the reality is they are highly skilled competitors and although the physical aspect makes it easy to belittle, the talents these men possess are truly exceptional. The PDC World Darts Championship is the pinnacle of the calendar and for the dedicated fans, a bigger part of Christmas than turkey, ham, and Only Fools and Horses re-runs.

In Phil Taylor we are witnessing a legend-in-the-making. That is to say the legend has already been established and anything he achieves in the future merely enhances his legacy. Unfortunately when the brilliance is so evident, translating that into profit is difficult. Such has been his dominance in 2009, the fact that “The Power” will win his thirteenth World Championship is almost beyond doubt. As certain as his triumph seems, the odds are vastly prohibitive. Taylor is around 1/2 to win. Those odds imply he has a sixty-six percent chance of winning, and between them the others (there will be sixty-three other players lining up in the first round) have around a thirty-three chance of claiming the title.

It’s truly remarkable to see any sporting event with such a volume of the world’s top players so lopsided in the favour of just one man. If you’re looking to make money at that price, your heart will have to endure more damage than caused by two weeks of alcohol and sugary snacks. It’s probably best to watch this genius in action and ignore the betting. If a bet is a must, then maybe look at laying Taylor in the early rounds when he’s a very short price in his matches against the low ranked players. It’s a way of getting involved without carrying the stomach-churning liabilities and on the off-chance The Power suffers a glitch, you’ll make a big profit. That’s not to say he’s likely to suffer a shock, but it is the time of the year for miracles. Spade Suit
New England Patriot's Gillette Stadium
National Football League
American football players won’t be overdoing on the Christmas cuisine during the festive season. Well, the twenty five stone tacklers might and those who won’t be involved in the Playoffs can feel free to indulge, but for the remainder, it’s the business end of the season and January is devoted to thinning the ranks until we’re left with two teams to contest Super Bowl XLIV. Recent seasons have highlighted the fact that although regular season form catches the eye, it counts for little in the sudden death stages. The Tennessee Titans had little to show for carrying the best record into post-season, and prior to that, the New England Patriots were denied a perfect season by a New York Giants team that looked like potential Super Bowl winners for precisely one game of their season. Once a place in the playoffs has been secured, what went before is almost a footnote. From then on, players need to align talent with steely determination and the capability to handle extreme pressure.

It’s interesting to note that in the history of the Super Bowl, teams seem to have “clusters” of reaching the deciding game. Several teams have followed up winning the Vince Lombardi Trophy with either a successful defense of the title, an immediate return to the decider, or subsequent trips to the championship game. The message seems to be that once you’ve assembled a team with the skills required to reach the Super Bowl, the mental block no longer exists and multiple triumphs are a possibility. Although these teams may drop a few games in the regular season, they have a confidence in their own ability that comes from the experience of being there and having done that. That’s why the reigning champions, the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots are always value propositions. They may not roar into the playoffs in the way other teams might, but once there, they know exactly what to do. Even though other teams might impress more during the season, the Super Bowl may feature at least one of the regulars. Spade Suit