Column #173 We’re Called the Little Willies. We’re BAD. We lie.

November 1, 2004
Column 173
We’re Called the Little Willies. We’re BAD. We lie.

I joined a new darts league recently. It’s called the BAD League. I’m not sure what it was called before I showed up.

I’m also not sure why my other league threw me out.

And I sure as hell have no idea why my new league made me a team captain. Possibly someone thought they could get their name into Bull’s Eye News…

The Bay Area Darts League (BAD) is an in-house steel-tip organization that shoots on Wednesday nights at a bar called Down the Hatch (8010 49th Street, North) in Pinellas Park, Florida. It’s just up the road from the Pinellas County jail, sandwiched along a several-mile section of bail bonds businesses, adult novelty stores, and strip clubs. It’s in a safe, ritzy area of multi-million dollar homes. You should bring your kids for a visit.

Owned since 1989 by Sandy Rizzo, the Hatch, with sixteen boards — ten bristle and six electronic — is probably the most popular venue in the Tampa Bay area for darters of either genre. The soft-tip league throws on Monday nights. I don’t participate in this however, because, well… how do I put this delicately? Soft-tip darts suck the big jack-dookey.

There’s a steel-tip Luck of the Draw on Friday’s, run by old-timer, and damn fine shooter, Gene Alexander, that draws thirty to forty players and currently offers chances at three separate $150 Super Out pots. What this means (for those of you who haven’t put it together already) is that, if you’re any sort of a shot, you can win, stop at a strip joint on the way home, do a bad thing, and still have enough cash in your pocket for the bail bondsman.

Like her namesake, played by Stockard Channing in the movie Grease, Rizzo is a tough-as-nails creampuff. You have to be to have survived in the bar business for fifteen years. She runs a tight ship but she runs it in a nice way.

Here’s an example. Rizzo will not let you spit on the floor. I know this sounds unusual but, honest, she just won’t let you do it. I know this because I asked her if I could spit on the floor the first night I stepped into the bar. Politely, and as she eased a set of numchucks from her purse, she suggested this “wouldn’t be a good idea.” Go figure.

So, when she’s not looking, I spit on the soft-tip machines.

Let me give you another example. If in league play you peg a 110 or better, Rizzo will punch you in the brain.

No. No. I lied, again. This is actually the creampuff part…

What Rizzo will do is give you something called a Hatch Buck, which is a kind of magnetic refrigerator magnet thing that can be exchanged for a dollar off a drink at the bar. So, before Happy Hour ends, with a Hatch Buck to trade, you can get a BEER FOR A BUCK. I’m hoping to win one of these before my team wins a match or before the Buccaneers win another football game, whichever comes first. I have lots of time.

So, for the first time in two decades I am the captain of a darts team. I was ambushed.

I was drivin’ down the road one day, mindin’ my own business. My cell phone rang. It was Keith Cook who is the BAD League czar or something and who, I think, cuts his hair with an electric razor. He wanted me to come to a captain’s meeting. I agreed. I thought he wanted me to tell jokes.

Much to the disappointment of the team I chose — Jesse Nobles, Rob McCanney, and Pauline Johnston — I am now their leader. I mismanage the lineup. I give bad advice on strategy and out-shots. We’re in the cellar at 0-4 after four weeks, so they hate me. They also hate me because I selected our team name.

We’re called the Little Willies. We’re BAD. We lie.

Of course, I’m not the only captain, just the worst. Lionel Eubanks is a captain; he’s ranked 16th in the state by the Florida Dart Association (FDA). There’s Pat Charniak, ranked 23rd. There’s the always mild-mannered Ronnie Lott (with hair to rival Sonny Flohr’s in Miami), ranked 25th. There’s Steve Glass, currently ranked 118th, but perennially ranked in the top dozen or so, along with the likes of Don Carrico, Mike Sansoucie, and the youthful Brian Dougherty. So BAD is actually quite good.

And BAD has depth. There’s also Garrett Stamper, “Speedy” DeWayne Henderson, John Comiskey, Joe and Jennifer “Pinky” Virden, Sue McCormick, Leonard Rowe, Robert “Ragman” Dowman, Ray Breton, Rick Boulanger, Chris Kiss, Joanne McCanney (my teammate, Rob’s, wife), Russ Wyzinski, Anna and Mike Stocum, Tim Johnston (my teammate, Pauline’s husband), Don Behrens, Joey Darnley, Robbie Ondriezek, Bill Warm (who — like the Johnstons and Comiskey — hails from Laurett Meddis’ neck of the woods, a jail somewhere in north Jersey), John Toske, and Ron Taylor.

There are others, for example, my new practice partner, Jason Morton, who keeps fleecing me for dollar bills playing some sort of darts card game. What you do is draw cards from a special Tuff Darts deck and then, basically, throw at doubles until you’ve pegged all of the cards in your hand. It’s a stupid-ass game.

Like many so-called Floridians and many of the other BAD League members, Morton’s a transplant. He moved to Tampa a half-dozen years ago after throwing for years for “bulldog” Darren Parzow’s league, WADA (the Washington Area Darts Association), which is somewhere up north near Tuscaloosa.

Finally, there is Rizzo herself. She does more than own the bar, run the bar, hand out Hatch Bucks, and lay down the law when someone does something stupid like jump on a table and pull down their pants. She throws darts!

It’s ironic too, because when Rizzo took over the bar she didn’t know a thing about the sport. But she fell in love with it. Fifteen years and whole lot of practice later, she’s established herself as one of the more competitive members of the female persuasion among a metropolitan population of almost three million.

Best of all, she has found a way to “enjoy the sport (she) loves to play” while also supporting a business that “pretty much” depends on it.

Yep, Sandy Rizzo’s created the best of all world’s for herself and her patrons.

So, if you find yourself in the area, Down the Hatch is a stop you must make. Stop in any Friday night for the Luck of the Draw. Buy a few tickets for the Super Out. Win or lose, you are guaranteed a good time and a chance to hock a lugie at a soft-tip machine.

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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