Column #168 Images…

July 5, 2004
Column 168
Images…

Late one morning, just outside the hall, a lone man stood.

Dressed in pressed black trousers, shined black shoes and a loose-fitting, dark collared shirt accented with licks of red and orange fire across the front, he stood apart from the milling crowd, absorbed in private thoughts that were his and his alone.

You know darts has a LONG way to go in America when ESPN chooses to air Japan’s Takeru Kobayashi stuffing 53.5 hotdogs in his face (a new world record) at Nathan’s 89th Annual gorge-fest on Coney Island instead of the finals of the Professional Darts Corporation’s (PDC) Las Vegas Desert Classic. About the same time as this was happening — and as Wayne Mardle and Phil Taylor were stepping to the line — Fox Sports Net was re-running the Kevin Painter versus Taylor finals from last January’s world championship at Purfleet. Go figure.

Not that I was watching television. I tuned into the Desert Classic finals via the Internet and, due to some sort of problem with the audio link, pretty much stared at the electronic score board on my computer screen for the entire match.

And what a match it was! And what a match the ladies final between Stacy Bromberg and Trina Gulliver turned out to be. The final score of the men’s final (Taylor won 6-4) belies what tremendous darts were thrown by both combatants. And Gulliver, after losing the first two sets to Bromberg, fought back and pulled the thing out 6-5. Just click to the PDC web site to read the play-by-play — Professional Darts Corporation.

This is the last installment (whew!) in the Dartoid’s World 10-part series on the PDC’s 3rd Annual Las Vegas Desert Classic extravaganza. Surely this will please a lot of people, but none more than yours truly. I had to be out of my mind to write TEN of these fuckers! But now it’s all over for another year.

Believe it or not, a lot else has happened in the world since the darting community descended on Sin City one week ago. The great Marlon Brando passed on. Saddam Hussein went to court and defiantly declared himself President of Iraq. Colin Powell performed the Village People’s “YMCA” on a stage in Indonesia. Disturbing as all this may be, probably the most disturbing news of the week, at least to me personally, was the announcement by Brittany Spears that she is getting married… to Tommy Cox.

When I think back over the ebb and flow of the tournament it’s not so much the great darts that come to mind. Not that fantastic darts were not thrown — oh, but they were — it’s just that the darts thrown by the Americans weren’t quite as on target as the darts thrown by the British. Still, as the highest placing American competitor, Darin Young earned his invitation to the Ladbrokes.com world championships next January. Bromberg nearly did what no darter has done here before — win back-to-back titles. I lost 16 games straight. Damn all those bastards who beat me!

No, what comes to mind are the special lasting, images that follow darters everywhere they go. It’s not so much the crucial maximums or finishes that any of us take home from a tournament as it is the memories of events that occurred in between play. The camaraderie among friends. For me, there are so many special memories from the week just ended…

I’ll never forget my roommate, Phil Fried’s frustration for the first two days as he paced the room and the casino waiting and hoping that America West would find his lost luggage in time for the first qualifier. Along with 17 tattoos and ear rings the size of small donuts, Fried’s got one of the biggest hearts you’ll ever find. Although his bags finally arrived, just in the nick of time, I doubt that he has much space left in his heart for the airline industry.

The Sunday before the first qualifier I headed into the desert with American Darters Association (ADA) president, Glenn Remick, for a cookout at one of his franchise owners’ home. I ate so much fried scallops and shrimp that I really didn’t have to eat much again for the rest of the week. So I drank instead.

At Bromberg’s Make-a-Wish charity shoot, I was surprised when the quiet and unassuming Jennifer Daggy approached to tell me that the spitting image of J. Edgar Hoover was sitting at the bar. I checked him out and, while Daggy was pretty much correct, she wasn’t entirely so. That’s because the guy wasn’t wearing a dress. He also wasn’t spitting.

I’ll remember always the ride back to the MGM from the charity shoot. I was stuffed in the back of a stretch limousine with John Part, Alan Warriner, Paul Lim, Johnny Kuczynski and a couple of girls whose names I don’t know. Presumably Kuczynski does because he farted all over both of them.

Another riotous image I will never forget is that of Lionel Sams zipping around the smoking area outside the hall on the back of Debbie Gordon’s supped-up, motorized wheelchair. As this was occurring, Justin Queens, President of the Columbus (Ohio) Darters Association, was posing for what must have been his 15,000th photograph with another of the British professionals. Lord knows what he’s going to do with all his film once it’s developed.

But through all the darts and memories of fun and friends and play there is one poignant image that is, and I am afraid always will be, branded in my mind forever…

Late one morning, just outside the hall, a lone man stood.

Dressed in pressed black trousers, shined black shoes and a loose-fitting, dark collared shirt accented with licks of red and orange fire across the front, he stood apart from the milling crowd, absorbed in private thoughts that were his and his alone.

Apprehensively at first, I approached the man.

As I drew near, our eyes met.

I’m not sure if what I saw was a sparkle or a tear.

But I knew then that it was okay.

I hugged the man.

His name was Ricky Villaneuva.

From the Field,

Dartoid

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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.
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