Dartoid – The World’s Most Traveled Darter

(from Darts Player Magazine — December, 1999)  by Rebecca Fishkin

Almost every time Paul Seigel ‑‑ or any other player, for that matter ‑‑ walks into a room to throw darts, the scene is familiar.

In a smoky room with dim lighting, Paul sets his beer on a sticky table and shakes his darts from a custom‑made “Bones” Hanson, ebony case, decorated with silver inlay.

Over the sounds of televised sportscasters and the knocking of billiard balls, Paul exchanges pleasantries with his opponents.

That’s the moment when the scene becomes foreign to most other darters. As Paul offers a greeting in English his opponents say hello, or the equivalent, in Spanish, or Swahili or Chinese.

trav7 And, actually, the smoke filled pub isn’t the only setting familiar to Paul when it comes to darts. He’s just as likely to throw in a pub as he is with prison guards inside a jail in South Africa, or with a beautiful Jamaican girl on a beach in Negril. He has thrown on dartboards from Australia to Russia, from Venezuela to Thailand, and if he can’t find a board on a wall, he just might pull one from his backpack and hang it on a tree, as he once did by a river in the Congo rainforest.

Such is the life of Paul Seigel, a.k.a. Dartoid, a.k.a. the World’s Most Traveled Darter.

Paul has thrown darts on six continents. If he stopped to count he could name 50 or 60 countries where he has picked up a game, be it friendly pub competition or stiff tournament play. And anyone who has read his self‑syndicated column, Dartoid’s World, could probably remind him of a few places he may have forgotten.

He travels the world for his day job in the non‑profit world. But everywhere he goes darts are on his mind as much as business. When the work is done ‑‑ or anytime he can get a break ‑‑ Paul heads into the streets in search of a dartboard. He combs the Internet before he departs, hoping to find a person to question or a place to go to find a game. If that fails, he turns to a taxi driver, a child on the street, a concierge, anyone who can point him in the right direction.

trav6 He’ll admit that he’s a bit obsessed with finding a decent board and that he’s a bit depressed when he doesn’t. The game of darts, after all, has more meaning to Paul than just a beer and a wager. To him, throwing darts on his travels is a way to really meet, to really connect, with the locals. Dart players, he has found, have a great deal in common, no matter where they call home.

“Time and again, I am reminded of how international the sport of darts really is,” wrote Paul in an early edition of Dartoid’s World. “The ability of shooters from extraordinarily different cultures (who, under normal circumstances, couldn’t give each other directions to McDonald’s) to compete, share in the humor and the tension of a game, and even debate the finer points of play is almost uncanny. I suppose this is all because of the ‘language of darts’, that special connection ‑‑ that unique ability to communicate ‑‑ that simply exists between people who share a love for the sport and a basic understanding of the rules.”

The job that first allowed Paul to explore the international realm of darts was as director of development for the Cape Cod, Massachusetts‑based International Fund for Animal Welfare. From 1988‑1997 Paul traveled the world on behalf of animals, raising funds and support, then directing campaign activities.

One might not think that circling the globe to protect African elephants and Chinese bears would allow much time for darts. Yet anywhere that Paul traveled on behalf of animals in trouble ‑‑ even to shores battered by Hurricane Andrew and seas damaged by Exxon Valdez ‑‑ he managed to find a game.

In March of 1998, Paul and his wife, a writer named Marylou, and their golden retriever, Colby, moved to Chesapeake, Virginia for Paul’s next post in non‑profits. Paul is now the vice‑president of development and marketing for Operation Smile, the Norfolk, Virginia‑based volunteer medical services organization that provides free reconstructive facial surgery to children in developing countries and the United States. Paul’s job requires extensive travel to Operation Smile’s 24 US chapters as well as its 16 mission countries.

trav4 Before joining the non‑profit world Paul was a political fundraiser. He served as the director of fund raising for the Ohio Republican Party and the Missouri Republican Party. He directed fund raising campaigns for former Ohio governor James A. Rhodes and Canadian prime minister candidate, Patrick Boyer. He once worked as a field representative for the Republican National Committee. Paul attended the United States Military Academy at West Point and was graduated from Western Michigan University where he earned a master of arts while competing on the swimming team and writing for the campus newspaper.

Paul discovered darts way before college and long before he began his world travels. He recalls spending hours in his room during his early teen years in Flint, Michigan, throwing dart after dart after dart against a board in his room. He didn’t keep score, he didn’t play games ‑‑ he didn’t really know there were games to play with darts. He did know then that the motion of throwing a dart intrigued and soothed him.

“There is nothing that I have ever been involved with that provides the kind of release from the pressures of everyday life than when I step up to that line,” he said. “When I was younger, the pressures were different ‑‑ a girlfriend, school, my parents ‑‑ I didn’t have a clue how important the simple act of stroking a dart would be to me later in life.”

As it turned out, Paul had accomplished something in his room. He had developed the hand‑eye coordination and the concentration needed to succeed in the sport of darts.

It was in a Cape Cod restaurant called Village Pizza that he began throwing seriously ‑‑ and by the rules. He and a friend’s wife beat another couple in an impromptu game while waiting to be seated for dinner. The bartender later asked Paul if he wanted to join a league that got together every Wednesday. Paul said he may stop in sometime, but it took a few months before he actually did. He ended up playing with the team, the Village Idiots, and with the owner of the restaurant, Chris James ‑‑ who became his partner ‑‑ for years.

Since then Paul has played with teams where ever he has lived, including Crowborough in East Sussex, England. He is now a member of the Blind Monkeys which throws out of the Jolly Frog in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Paul has thrown with many of the big name pros, such as John Lowe and Cliff Lazerenko, Jerry Umberger and Roger Carter. But he has also thrown against less recognizable pros such as Fanta Lillian in Kampala, Uganda; Ravi Sandarin in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and Saint Ledger Hunt in Harare, Zimbabwe, among many others. The competition has been thrilling, but it’s the encounters that have been special.

trav5 “I’ve read about these guys for years, but now when I walk into a room they all know me!” Paul said, somewhat amazed. “Even the pros can relate to Dartoid’s World because they are intimately familiar with the fundamentals of our sport. The sights, the sounds, the actions ‑‑ it’s all the same, regardless of one’s level of proficiency.”

Dartoid’s World sprang from that very observation ‑‑ the shared feeling darters have for their sport, no mater where they’re from or what they’ve achieved. Since his first column, which he wrote after a trip to Beijing, China, Paul has explored the humor and idiosyncrasies of local life on almost all of his travels. Dartoid’s World is published in darts magazines around the world, in darts league newsletter and in general magazines and newspapers in some 25 countries.

Paul hopes Dartoid will evolve even further, from a character in a column to an icon.

“The way I see it, if Joe Camel can sell cigarettes and Mickey Mouse can sell toys, then Dartoid can sell darts,” Paul said. “If I can make that happen, it’s goodbye day job.”

Jak Severson, a long‑time friend and darting buddy, has had first‑hand experience with Paul’s darts obsession. He has seen Paul’s enthusiasm for the sport of darts ‑‑ and his love for Dartoid’s World ‑‑ up close.

“Paul’s travels seemed to parallel his dart game. As we traveled farther and went to more exotic locations over the years, he seemed to become more and more competitive, taking on bar girls in Korea and little old men in Bangkok with a fervor we had never quite seen before, often leaving his opponents in the dust very early on in the first set,” Jak said. “I don’t play darts with Paul for this very reason. He’s dangerous, and he knows it. Occasionally, he’ll con me into thinking he’s off his game, by throwing a few errant shots. I have to admit that’s cost me a beer or two.”

With his competency at the sport, and his eagerness to stand at the oche with just about anyone, Paul’s challenge certainly isn’t getting into the game ‑‑ it’s getting to the game. A good game of arts can be hard to find in places like Soweto, South Africa, or Bombay, India. That game in the prison in South Africa is one Paul will never forget. Having combed the country once before without finding a board, Paul took precautions before his next trip: he spoke with the general secretary of the Southern Transvaal Darts Association. Paul expected to find a decent game. He just didn’t expect it to be in Diepkloof Prison, home to some 20,000 killers, rapists and other violent criminals. The purity of the sport prevailed, even with prison guards. Paul thoroughly enjoyed a night of competition on one of the eight dartboards hanging in the well‑lit prison recreational center.

Bombay was a different story. A young boy named Johnny took Paul under his wing with a promise of a good game of darts. Johnny, Paul discovered, was homeless, a beggar who, along with his sisters, had to ask strangers for money for milk. On the way to find that dart game, Paul and Johnny went to the Bombay Zoo and toured the sites of the city.

As the hours passed and Paul forgot about his darts in concern for the boy, Johnny fulfilled his promise. He introduced Paul to a game of arts, Indian style ‑‑ that is: a tree stump, four men in a back alley and knives.

Prisons and knives aside, there are true hazards to darting around the globe. Dartoid’s World readers may remember the Cosmos Club in the Patpong district of Bangkok, Thailand, where a simple game of Mickey Mouse (a long‑form of cricket) won Paul more than he bargained for, literally. He threw a 78 game shot, looking forward to the bottle of Budweiser sure to be served by a scantily clad waitress. Instead, he won the waitress, a prize he wisely traded for the Bud and marital peace.

Luckily for Paul, his wife understands ‑‑ and encourages ‑‑ his passion for darts. Perhaps, said Paul, if she realized the true extent of his “hobby”, she might have thought twice before marrying him.

trav2 “She said she thought, ‘Darts? Okay, how much could that cost? How much time could that take?’ Well …” Paul said. Today, Marylou often accompanies Paul to the bars where he throws, cheering him on when he thumps his opponents.

It helps to have a supportive wife and a job that brings Paul to new places to write about in Dartoid’s World. And, certainly, his skill at the sport helps Paul earn a place at the oche on his travels. But the real trick to a successful international darting experience, Paul has discovered, is being able to shake off the jet lag, stay focused and stick to his game.

Sticking to his game wasn’t easy in Venezuela, either. There, darts translated to “cerbatana” ‑ blow darts. Paul was near Angel Falls, about 16 hours south of Caracas, surveying for mercury runoff caused by gold and diamond mining concessions near the Amazon River, when he met a Pemon Indian named Carlos. The pair played a wild game of cerbatana, aiming not at a dartboard, but at birds in the trees.

This type of international dart play poses a different sort of adventure for a man who has whitewater rafted the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe, has bicycle 2,000 miles from Dublin to Moscow, and plans to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Kenya and swim the English Channel. But it is the adventure of darts that thrills Paul the most.

Part of the adventure is the people Paul meets along the way. At the Roadhouse Inn on old Route 66 outside Amarillo, Texas, he threw with a man, who had thrown with another man he later recognize as an accused murder featured on America’s Most Wanted. In Kathmandu, Nepal, he met a man whose bar business ‑‑ the only place in town that sported a dartboard, and a sorry one at that, hung to a soggy wall with tape ‑‑ had been ruined, extorted into near bankruptcy, by terrorists from the warring Indian states of Kashmir and Jammu.

Though their stories may not always be of cheer, the people ‑‑ dart players or not ‑‑ are the highlight of Paul’s travels. He enjoys discovering the variations in their games, the differences in their slang and the experiences of their lives. Their ability to overcome their cultural differences to include Paul in their lives and games is what fascinates him. It is the contact with the local characters that has become the focus of Dartoid’s World.

“The column’s about camaraderie. There are certain things that only a darter knows ‑‑ how to get crayon off some scoreboards with cigarette ash, how you can turn your back and hear the difference between the ‘thunk’ of a pie shot and the ‘thud’ of a bull,” Paul said. “There are lots of people who write about the pros, practice routines and technique. But most darters are just like the kind I meet in my travels. They love the sport. The challenge. The release. Dartoid’s World is different. It brings those characters to life.”

One of those characters is Paul’s long‑time friend Tom Moliterno ‑‑ Tommy Molina to Dartoid’s World fans, who may recall tales of a bachelor party in the mountains of New Hampshire.

“I remember once when we were traveling together in Zimbabwe. Can you imagine what it was like to be in a country where we didn’t speak the language, didn’t understand the currency, and certainly didn’t know our way to the nearest darts bar ‑‑ or even if there was one? Tom said. “I think he actually ended up throwing with the Zimbabwe national team on that trip.

“It was always like that with Paul. He seems to be able to sense what bars will have a board. If he lost the scent, he would ask a cab driver ‑‑ they never spoke English, and he would have to do this crazy pantomime to explain what he was looking for. But he always found the bar. And when he did, the fact that he didn’t speak the language didn’t stop him. He would just walk into the place, light a cigarette, ask ‑‑ in English ‑‑ for a Budweiser and a hot dog, settle for some strange local beer and soggy popcorn, and start throwing.

“No doubt about it, Paul’s hooked. I almost feel sorry for him, really, because the world’s a small place and Dartoid’s already been just about everywhere,” said Jak Severson. “You know, they have a term for people like Paul in Uganda. I can’t even begin to pronounce it, forget about spelling it, but loosely translated, it means ‘man with a point to make’. I think that’s Paul, and Dartoid, in a nutshell. You can be sure that if he hasn’t been there, he’s going.”

That’s the plan. Paul will continue to travel for work and for darts. As this was written, he was throwing in the Accudart/Winmau North American Open in Las Vegas, Nevada, and planning a trip to Bolivia. If he doesn’t speak the language, he’ll tip his beer and mime a toss, then write about it on the plane ride home for Dartoid’s World. Where he goes, no matter how unfamiliar the surroundings, the spirit of the sport will always be with him.

Paul Seigel’s dart expeditions are far from over ‑‑ he has one more continent to go. And then the whole of outer space.

trav3

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Dartoid
Author of the column that since 1995 has been featured by Bull’s Eye News, the American Darts Organization’s (ADO) Double Eagle and numerous other darts publications and websites around the globe.