Column #197 The World Series of Darts is ON!

October 24, 2005
Column 197
The World Series of Darts is ON!

Hurricane Wilma is banging her way through Florida as I write this and if you read some sort of sexual innuendo into that you’re probably just a beer-swilling darts player.

Which is GOOD NEWS…

…because the rumors are TRUE!

Yes darts fans, you may soon have the chance to pocket some serious spending cash when the first ever World Series of Darts gets underway – on ESPN!

Yes, folks, it’s absolutely true.

According to the New York Times, England’s Michael Davies – the bloke who brought Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and Wife Swap to the American small screen – has just closed a deal with ESPN to air eight hour-long World Series of Darts episodes. The competition will be held sometime in the spring of 2006 at a casino on the East Coast. It will be broadcast over the summer in a format similar to the World Series of Poker.

According to the Times, the tournament will be an invitational, “…to include the 16 top-ranked players in the world… and 32 Americans, who will be chosen through a series of regional qualifying tournaments. The top prize will be $100,000.”

UNLESS…

And here I quote Davies verbatim… “UNLESS an American wins it. Then we’ll add a zero. If an American wins, the prize will be ONE MILLION DOLLARS.”

Holy GUACAMOLE!

Lest there be any doubt that this is not the real deal, take note that Mark Shapiro, ESPN’s just-departed executive vice-president of programming, was also quoted in the Times, confirming that all systems were go for the tournament and telecast.

Lest there still be any doubt, let me quote another ESPN bigwig, Bob Chesterman, who heads up the World Series of Poker production team: “…televised poker was definitely lightening in a bottle… darts has the potential to touch some of those same viewers… the everyman appeal is the same… you could see yourself at that poker table… throwing those darts… for something to catch on, it has to have characters, stories and real competition, man against man… for our audience, that’s the perfect equation… and darts has all of that.”

AMAZING!

Without question – without compare – this is the most exciting, most meaningful for the future, news to hit the sport of darts in America, and perhaps the world, ever.

If the World Series of Darts takes off at even a fraction the rate of acceleration of the World Series of Poker, little boys and girls across this land will be nailing dartboards to the backs of their bedroom doors faster than Chris Moneymaker can calculate his Texas Hold ‘Em odds.

And that will change the face and the future of the sport. Period. Case closed.

In the months ahead there will surely be endless discussion, debate, and probably controversy about how the participants are chosen.

Will the top 16 in the world be determined by the PDC alone?

Will the top 32 in America be determined by only the ADO? What about the ADA?

Will there be wild cards?

Will there be women included?

If “characters and stories” – color and PIZZAZ – are what sells television and if television is the medium that can take darts to a level almost unimaginable only yesterday, then I submit that the players must be selected, by a mix of qualifying rounds (and not just the usual) and calculated wild card invitations.

A tournament such as this without a John Lowe or an Eric Bristow will be a tournament short of history. A tournament such as this without a Bobby George or Andy Fordham will be a tournament without full color. A tournament such as this without Raymond van Barneveld would be unfair.

A tournament such as this without Jerry Umberger, Paul Lim, Larry Butler, Tony Payne, Roger Carter – and perhaps even a Conrad Daniels or a Ray Fischer – would be missing the personalities and pacesetters who led the sport to where it is currently in America. A tournament that does not pull from the ranks of the soft-tip scene, including names such Wisconsin’s Scott Kirchner, would be terribly short-sited.

A tournament such as this without a Trina Gulliver and a Stacy Bromberg (at least) would be a sham – because both women and others are as competitive as many of the current top-ranked men in America and the world.

And a tournament such as this that does not create the legitimate means for a Rocky Balboa to emerge from somewhere, is a tournament missing the greatest opportunity of all.

Much like Chris Moneymaker, such darters are out there. They don’t leave their local bars. They don’t shoot their local tournaments. They don’t compete on the circuit. But make no mistake – the talent exists. So there should be some sort of in-the-pub knockout included, from which unknown talent might emerge.

In my years of darts – and in my years of writing about darts – never have the stars lined up for the future of the sport as they have today. Never have they even come close.

So, THANK YOU I say to Michael Davies, ESPN, and everyone all else behind this deal.

Let me know if you need a color commentator. I’ll be available if Wife Swap doesn’t air in the same slot.

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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