THIS week, we have witnessed sport at its most pure. Two men, going head to head for a world title. Two men, with nowhere to hide, parading their skills in front of a baying public. The essence of gladiatorial combat re-packaged for the 21st century.

Not that I'm talking about last weekend's boxing of course. The sight of the seven-foot-two-inch Nikolai Valuev outscoring the washed-up John Ruiz in Berlin merely besmirched that sport's once-proud reputation even further.

No, this sporting treat has nothing to do with the heavyweight crown, although, invariably, there tends to be plenty of weight on display.

Plenty of hair too and, when it comes to the real stars, also a surfeit of jewellery. Don't think Beckhamesque bling though - think more Elizabeth Duke at Argos.

That's right. If it's December in the sporting world, it can only mean one thing. Darts. There are those who will scoff, but it's time to succumb to the temptations of tungsten.

In March, Sport England finally bowed to the inevitable and recognised darts as a sport. Chief executive Roger Draper declared: "The sport is played by many millions of people across the country in locations ranging from schools to village halls, social clubs and sports centres. There are very real skills and social and community values associated with darts."

Dr Peter Gregory, of the Sports Medicine Department of the University of Nottingham, went even further, claiming that the average player at the World Championships took 33,310 steps up and down the oche during a game.

All impressive stuff, but the reason why darts should undoubtedly be seen as a sport is that it fulfils all of the criteria that really matter.

Firstly, the players all have good nicknames. Cast your mind back to the halcyon days of football. We had "Jinky" Jimmy Johnstone, Supermac, Peter "The Cat" Bonetti - is it any wonder the game has lost some of its allure now that we have to make do with Lamps, Becks and Stevie G?

Well, in the world of darts, it is still the 1970s. We've got Phil "The Power" Taylor, Wayne "Hawaii 501" Mardle, Peter "One Dart" Manley and Bob "The Limestone Cowboy" Anderson. A few sports could learn a thing or two from that roll call.

In addition, the players are all real people. While Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen are hidden behind a plethora of advisors and agents, former world darts champion Andy Fordham still runs a pub in London.

When Ray Stubbs asked him what his hobbies were in the build-up to last year's championships, he replied "fishing and drinking". Now I know sportsmen are meant to be role models, and we don't want a generation of budding Jack Charltons on our hands. But, come on, fishing and drinking - that's what sportsmen should be about.

Dressing up is what sports fans should be about and, when it comes to darts, the outfits get more and more ridiculous - and that's just the players.

It is no coincidence that cricket widened its appeal when it became compulsory for groups of drunk men to dress as Superman, Elvis and the Seven Dwarves. A night at the darts is like the aftermath of some hellish disaster at a dressing-up shop.

Ultimately, though, darts' claim to sporting status rests on one thing and one thing alone - the players' wives.

Just as it has become compulsory for television coverage of the Ryder Cup to show at least ten pictures an hour of the American wives, so it is set in stone that darts players' wives must appear at the end of every leg.

If possible, they should have a blonde perm, sport big, dangling, hooped ear-rings, and be called something like "Shirley" or "Tracy". "Just look at Shirley's face - LOOK AT SHIRLEY'S FACE" (you have to shout when you're talking about Shirley).

Never mind the next series of Footballers' Wives, schedule a season of Darts Players' Wives and you're on to a sure-fire winner.

"Join us for this week's edition of Darts Players' Wives as Shirley takes her doberman to the vets, does karaoke at The Crown and kicks Victoria Beckham's head in at the Sports Personality of the Year awards." Like the darts itself, it's television gold.

So the renewal of Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger's feud was all down to a Christmas card. Mourinho sent one and apologised for calling Wenger a "voyeur" and the Frenchman failed to respond.

Well, let's be honest, we've all been there. You get a Christmas card from someone you don't expect, you haven't sent them one in return, and suddenly you look like the modern-day equivalent of Scrooge.

As someone who has gained a reputation for meticulousness, Wenger should have had a couple of blank cards up his sleeve just in case.

He could have filled one out while sitting on the bench during last weekend's defeat at Highbury. After all, as Chelsea hammered the final nail into Arsenal's coffin, he didn't seem to be doing much else of importance.

Apparently, Sir Alex Ferguson thinks the press keep printing lies about Manchester United. Okay, here's another one. Ferguson's side remain an integral part of Europe's elite, are on schedule for yet another league title and are managed by a man whose job is not under threat. Let's see how that goes down.