Column #317 Return the MMDL to Greatness!

May 1, 2008
Column 317
Return the MMDL to Greatness!

The heat is ON again in Boston!

A couple of years ago I wrote a controversial series about goings-on inside the Minute Man Dart League (MMDL) of Massachusetts. A lot has happened since then. There’s been an IRS investigation. Two long-standing board members have resigned, including (unfortunately) the Executive Director Thomas Sammarco and (fortunately) four-time President Dick Brolin. A new president, Nicole Watson has come aboard and, in the estimation of most, is doing an admirable job trying to return the organization to greatness.

But there are still major issues to be resolved. With all the positive developments around the world of darts, not the least of which are rumors that Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) officials have Boston on their short list for a future tournament location, the issues need to be resolved soon.

Three of the old-time board members who have strangled the organization’s progress for years continue to stand as roadblocks in the path of the organization’s revival. Treasurer Bob Cedrone, Vice President (and the MMDL’s exclusive printer) Mark Ingoldsby and former Boston Area Director and now Business Administrator Donald Garnett have steadfastly chosen to stonewall progress and repudiate calls to relinquish their positions.

At the heart of the controversy were financial issues, allegations of misspending and worse. I won’t recount the gory details here. If you’re interested in the full background see Dartoid’s World columns #270 and #271.

In the face of the many questions raised at the time, and for years prior and since, the reaction – the arrogance – of two of those still hanging on like anchors stuck in the muck of Boston Harbor was, and is, mind-boggling.

First is Cedrone. When asked to produce copies of IRS Form 990 (a form all charities must complete annually and which by law they are required to make public) he shot off the following e-mail: I’ll be brief and to the point. These are the people that the Minute Man Dart League discusses financial matters with: the IRS, our accountants, our attorneys, board members, and maybe sponsors.

Ingoldsby, who was being pressed hard for an explanation as to the details and circumstances of his sweetheart no-bid contract deal to supply exclusive printing services to the MMDL was, to his credit, quite forthcoming (and I still believe that he received a less-than-fair rap during the heat of the controversy). Many though, myself included, continue to take issue with his assertion that: …it’s not a conflict to be on the Board and receive payment for services rendered.

Then there is Garnett. It was Garnett along with Cedrone who reacted to the tough questions flying at them by swiftly banning one of the most ardent question askers – David Walsh. When others tried to intercede, dispute the unfairness of the unilateral decision and argue on Walsh’s behalf, one of them – Walsh’s wife – was told by Garnett to: Fuck off! It has been widely rumored that Walsh was just one of several darters targeted by Garnett and Cedrone to be blackballed.

When I wrote about all this in 2006 I recalled the history of the area and did my best to equate it with current happenings. Perhaps that analogy was silly but, I anyway, didn’t think so at the time and upon a rereading feel the same today …

“It does not require a majority to prevail… but rather an irate, tireless minority…” wrote Samuel Adams after leading the Boston Tea Party. “Noise! You’ll have more noise than this before long. The regulars are coming!” exclaimed Paul Revere when asked by a sentry to be quiet during his famous ride.

Clarion calls they were – and they changed the world.

From Boston, a city of people who have always demanded control over their own affairs, the cries for change reverberated throughout the original thirteen colonies. “The notion that leadership is not bestowed and people have the right to govern themselves was imagined here first, whispered and then spoken. It grew into a movement, a conflict, and finally a Revolution.”

“It’s time for the MMDL to become great again!” is today’s Clarion call. Insignificant as it may be in comparison to days gone by, considering the history of revolt in this proud city and the circumstances of the current situation, today’s cries should come as no surprise.

I also recalled a bit of the history of the once great MMDL…

Established by Dan Gorman, Gerry Lyons, Phil Jackson, Jack McGee, Steve Millar, Eddie Doyle and Don Skane in 1972 as the Ballentine League (named after its sponsor at the time, Ballentine Ale), the league was renamed Minute Man in 1974 (at which time those generally thought of as among the original founders – Paul Hong, Bill Batty and Harvey Sankey – joined the group). The MMDL was incorporated as a non-profit corporation in 1977.

A charter member of the American Darts Organization (ADO) and built from ground zero by the names above, the MMDL once boasted a membership of nearly 10,000. Since 1992 however, and under the watch of those at the epicenter of today’s controversies, the MMDL membership has nose-dived to a number less than half, and possibly closer to a quarter, than that of its heyday and every single tournament of consequence has bit the dust. The last Witch City Open was in 2002. The MMDL Open, Clipper City and the Firecracker were ditched the year before. It’s been two years since any significant Minute Man-sanctioned tournament was held and that tournament, the Challenge on the River, was scrapped after 2004.

In corporate America, any part of the paragraph above would be enough to earn a CEO his hiking papers. Not so (or more accurately, not possible) in the MMDL. Years ago the founders crafted By-laws that made no provision for their removal from office. Like Supreme Court justices they could serve for life and appoint, also for life, whomever they wanted to join them. But they didn’t, not these pioneers of organized darts in America.

Driven by a genuine love for the sport and recognizing that new blood and new ideas prevent stagnation and are essential to progress, they rotated positions and exited honorably in due course.

But not Cedrone and Garnett, or Ingoldsby.

They carry on and the MMDL, despite the determined efforts of its new president, continues to shadowbox with its past.

So it’s not surprising that while the controversy died down for a while (particularly during the IRS investigation – which if nothing else educated Cedrone on how to do his job and brought transparency to the MMDL’s Form 990) – and while some of those who worked so hard to press for change got worn down by the stonewalling, today there are new, and in some ways, more creative calls for change.

The targets remain the same: Ingoldsby, Cedrone and Garnett – but not in that order, although all have lost their credibility.

The new movement is against the most poisonous of the three: Garnett.

The plan is to use the MMDL’s own rules to force the long overdue changes so necessary to clear the path forward.

The new blood – the darters now leading the charge for change – are organizing to force a formal Special Meeting of the Board, strictly under terms provided in the MMDL By-laws, to put squarely on the table for a vote a league-wide call for the resignation of Garnett.

No doubt, if successful, organized calls for the resignations of Cedrone and Ingoldsby will closely follow.

I have studied the MMDL By-laws and it is crystal clear that this plan has potential, serious potential.

What is required to force the Special Meeting, which must be held within twenty days of the filing of a proper petition request, is for 300 signatures to be gathered – from MMDL members in good standing.

I can’t possibly encourage you strongly enough, if you qualify, to sign it as soon as possible and get your get your teammates to sign it. Just contact Derek Ewell, who is leading the drive, at under72par@aol.com to make arrangements to get an official copy.

Just as I wrote two years ago, I write again today: the Clarion Call has sounded in Boston.

A new “irate, tireless minority” has emerged.

“Rumors,” say the Board, “nothing but a “witch hunt.” Just “noise”…

“NOISE!” is the reply. “You’ll have more noise than this before long. The regulars are coming!”

The question is whether the minority who are pressing the Board for accountability and change will battle on or tire as some of those did before? Will the “regulars” – that majority of darts players who just want to play darts – follow? Will the bar owners who depend on the players for income join the tireless minority?

Can the MMDL become great again? Can the founders’ dream live on?

There’s a chance. Two of them actually. And they are real.

First, the remaining stalwarts on the current MMDL Board can find it within themselves to do the right thing, the long overdue thing, and step aside. Suffice it to say this appears unlikely.

Or second, YOU can sign the petition and begin to force them to do what they are unwilling to do.

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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