It's probably a bit misleading to say that Michael Van Gerwen dominated professional darts for the last seven or eight years. After all, the Dutchman did not deliver the same level of dominance as, for example, Phil Taylor down the years. A case in point is the PDC World Championship, where MVG has won three titles in 14 appearances - good, great even. But not utterly dominant.
And yet, there is no doubt about it that MVG has been the best player in the world for the last decade (really since 2013). He held onto the world number one spot for a very long time, and he won everything there is to win in the game - setting some ridiculous records in the process.
But if you follow darts, you will be well aware that the last 12 months have not been great for Van Gerwen. He has slipped down to number three in the world rankings, and he has yet to win a tournament in 2021 (it's early days, of course). It begs the question - is darts more exciting with a less dominant MVG?
This is not an easy question to answer. We might compare it to golf, where the same question was posed during the 2010s as Tiger Woods began his decline. Moreover, you have to ask whether MVG has declined in his performances or if those around him have improved? Most fans would say it is a bit of both.
MVG's odds for a tournament win are higher these days
But there are elements where MVG's declining influence do matter. For instance, betting on darts. Pre-tournament down the years, MVG would always be a short-price for the win, particularly at the PDC World Championship. The odds are usually much more generous now.
Even if you don't bet, you can appreciate the open nature to each tournament - anyone can win. Back in 2016, when MVG was arguably at the height of his powers, there was an inevitability to his major tournament wins - all nine of them. The only final he did not make that year was the PDC World Championship, where he lost to Raymond Van Barneveld in the third round.
Overall though, there is a more equitable feeling around darts. It's not just one or two players picking off chinks in MVG's armour - but several. Moreover, we have seen with the rise of players like Jose de Sousa and Dimitri van den Bergh that darts is growing beyond the UK and the Netherlands, the two countries that have traditionally dominated the game.
New European stars emerging as darts interest grows
Darts' expansion to new countries doesn't come from MVG's declining dominance - these things take years to bear fruit. But we can argue that it is fortuitous that both have come along around the same time. You can see how Jose de Sousa winning titles and beating players like MVG in finals can help grow the game in his native Portugal, which was hardly seen as a hotbed for darts talent in the past.
In the end, MVG might come storming back to the top - few would bet against him reclaiming the number one spot. Indeed, it's not as if his performances have been all bad according to the stats, and he can even be considered to be unlucky in some matches he has gone on to lose. But fans should be excited to see a new era no longer dominated by one player. MVG didn't win every tournament in the past, but he was expected to win. That's no longer the case - and darts is all the better for it.