WITH the Scottish Premiership placed on hiatus, the 1872 Cup postponed and many sporting events hibernating for the winter, the PDC Darts World Championships have been pretty much the only show in town lately.

Dominating Sky Sports’ primetime slots over the last fortnight, many punters with only a passing interest in the sport will have found themselves glued to their screens as they searched for a way to scratch their sporting itch.

I know this because I am that punter. I don’t really mind darts but it would be a serious stretch to label myself as a fan. As a result, my gaze was often drawn away from the matches themselves and pulled towards the rowdy crowd in the background.

The locals down at Alexandra Palace have been making quite an impression on social media this week. You may have heard that ‘Scotland get battered everywhere they go’ has become a rather popular ditty at the darts, particularly when someone from our nation is competing.

The reaction has been predictable. Some took offence, lambasting the Ally Pally crowd for their insulting chant. Others pointed out that this hasn’t exactly been a banner year for English sport as they debated the merits of the claim.

The Herald:

As a proud Scot, I didn’t particularly like hearing it. To me, at least, there’s an arrogance about the whole thing; an air of entitled triumphalism tinged throughout the chant that speaks to a wider tendency amongst some English sports fans and particular corners of the media down south to be dismissive of our nation’s sporting teams. But it’s all part of the game.

Allow me to back up. First off, it’s important to recognise a couple of home truths. Sport is a zero-sum game: if you’re winning, your opponents are losing. Every setback for them is a victory for you and vice-versa. Schadenfreude is part of the very fabric of it, and what makes the whole spectacle so compelling. Secondly, for obvious reasons, sport is partisan. It would be pointless if it weren’t.

There is nothing wrong with disliking your rivals and although there is an admittedly sizeable slice of the population that will contend the English are our sporting allies and not rivals, the reality is the opposite. Many fans south of the border revel in Scotland’s failures, while the ‘Anyone But England’ brigade here in our country cannot be brushed aside dismissively.

I like it. I enjoyed poking fun at England as they fell agonisingly short of winning Euro 2020 on home soil as the Italians triumphed via a shoot-out at Wembley. I find Steve McLaren’s live reaction to England getting knocked out of Euro 2016 by Iceland funny. When Harry Kane scored that last-gasp equaliser at Hampden back in 2017 following Leigh Griffiths’ superb free-kicks, it was one of the most heart-wrenching and deflating moments I can remember as a football supporter. And believe me, as someone whose two great loves are Partick Thistle and the Scotland national team, I have a fair few to choose from.

This is because rivalry makes things more meaningful and ‘banter’ between opposing fanbases is a huge part of the attraction. There will be those that call me small-minded or petty – heck, they may even be right – but I view it as a bit of harmless fun.

Did I bristle as I heard the crowd at the darts chant ‘Scotland get battered everywhere they go’? You bet. Did it annoy me? Yes, that was the purpose of the exercise (and to distract the Scots playing, of course). Was it disrespectful? Absolutely. But that’s not always such a bad thing.

I think of my favourite football celebration of all time: when Emmanuel Adebayor sprinted the length of the pitch at the Etihad Stadium, solely to wind up Arsenal’s away support tucked away in the far corner. The Togolese striker had been the subject of a controversial move from the London club to City and had been branded as something of a mercenary by Gunners fans. They insulted Adebayor, gave him pelters and when the opportunity arose, the centre-forward returned the favour in kind by provoking a furious reaction as he gleefully slid on his knees towards the chorus of boos.

There wasn’t a hint of respect in the whole incident, but I found the whole thing extremely amusing. Now, the reaction of some was way too far – a few fans were spotted ripping up their plastic seats as they searched for something to hurl at Adebayor – but the vast majority responded in an appropriate, albeit irate, manner. The striker’s sense of redemption was palpable, while there are few football supporters who won’t be able to sympathise somewhat with the apoplectic rage of the betrayed Arsenal fans.

Don’t get me wrong – when disrespect spills over into hate and people then act abusively, that is an obvious case of matters being taken too far. But a reasonable amount of disrespect isn’t only healthy for sport; it’s vital. There are no shortage of tales to be told of a person’s fervent fandom driving them to do horrible things to their fellow citizens but the overwhelming majority are able to view a wee bit of needle for what it is meant to be: harmless fun.

We do it here in Scotland. There’s something strangely heart-warming about seeing a member of the local young team flicking the Vs at a rival goalscorer inside our stadia. I’d certainly rather that was a more regular occurrence than what we see in the sanitised Premier League, where Manchester United supporters whip out their cameras to capture Mohammed Salah – their ostensible rivals’ greatest player – wheeling off to celebrate a hat-trick at Old Trafford for posterity.

The spectators at Alexandra Palace are entitled to mock Scotland if they want, just as we Scots are entitled to have a go back. On which note, I’d like to finish by pointing out that ‘Snakebite’ Peter Wright (born in Livingston) had the last laugh as he sealed his second world championship title, leaving his English opponent weeping on stage. When our national rugby team travelled to Twickenham for the Six Nations, they left with the Calcutta Cup in tow. When much of the English media confidently predicted that Gareth Southgate’s side would brush Steve Clarke’s football team aside at Wembley at the Euros, the contest ended in a goalless stalemate. And earlier this week, the English cricket team suffered one of the most devastating capitulations in its recent history as they gave up any hope of the Ashes after three Tests.

I’m sure there’s a word for that. ‘Battered’, maybe?