Column #381 George Silberzahn interviews Dartoid (and me)!
Monday, November 16, 2009
George Silberzahn interviews Dartoid (and me)!
I was recently interviewed by American darting legend and author (“How to Master the Sport of Darts” and “Darts: Beginning to End”), George Silberzahn. The full interview follows. It can also be found at George’s website and if you go there (“How to” Darts) you can also BUY one of his excellent books!
Take a moment and learn more about the birth and evolution of Dartoid (and me), how we got in darts, how we think, why we do what we do, and what we see for the sport in the years ahead…
From the Field,
Paul “Dartoid” Seigel
Interview by George Silberzahn
“What possessed me to let “Dartoid” into my life? It was an accident, a complete and total frickin’ accident, and right here and now I want to respectfully make my apologies to the world (and my wife!).
You have to understand that, in the beginning, there was no Dartoid. There was just me, Paul Seigel, and I threw darts.
Then one day, America Online was introduced, it was all new technology to me but a friend of mine, Tom Moliterno, had an account and was having a blast with it. He was going into the Sugar Daddy chat rooms and pretending he was a movie producer. He was going into lesbian chat rooms and pretending he was a lesbian. “You’d make a great lesbian,” he told me one day. I said, “Sign me up!”
When Tom came to the point where a screen name had to be entered he asked me “What do you want your screen name to be?” I’d never heard the term before but after Tom explained I began to throw out ideas. “Dartboy!” “Dartguy!” “Dartdude!” They were all taken. So Tom, of his own evil volition, typed in “Dartoid” and it took. It wasn’t until years later that some guy in New York – his name was Allan Mandeville – shocked me with a letter explaining that in medical terminology “dartoid” is synonymous with “scrotum.” Honest – Google it and you’ll see. The day will come when I pay Tom Moliterno back for this. I’m just waiting for him to run for Congress. I have photos from his bachelor party.
Anyway, this all transpired something like 15 years ago. I bought an annual AOL subscription for $19. If I’d bought $1,000 of AOL stock it would be worth something like $75,000 today. This as just one example of the sacrifices Paul Seigel has made to bring Dartoid to the world.
In May of 1995, and again purely by accident – Dartoid became the irreverent darts humorist that has written some 400 columns about our sport. Back in those days there weren’t all the websites that exist today – there were only a small handful. One of the forerunners was Rick Osgood’s CyberDarts in Houston.
Rick and I used to e-mail frequently when I traveled – and he had a chat room that I would pop into from time to time. One time when I was in Beijing, Rick and I got to talking and he suggested I find a darts bar in China, write a little story, and send it to him for his website. Marylou, my wife, came across the Beijing column just the other day and told me it was “crap.” Anyway, that was the very first Dartoid’s World column listed at my website. [www.dartoidsworld.com] I haven’t changed a word because I want my wife to be able to actually prove she was right, for once.
The geneses of the concepts that are what they are today are the fault of Tom Moliterno and Rick Osgood. So blame them.
When I wrote the first several columns I signed them “From the Field, Dartoid” (and still do). In the beginning, Dartoid was really just a screen name, a pen name – the character was completely undeveloped and only beginning. At the time Dartoid was Paul Seigel and I was having a blast traveling the world and writing about darts. I would go into some bar somewhere without any knowledge whatsoever about the local darts scene. I’d just ask a taxi driver or a hotel concierge where I could find a board.
Early on, a friend of mine in South Africa – David Barritt – who had a public relations firm persuaded me to let him develop the Dartoid idea and give the character personality. David put a fantastic graphics artist on the case – Malcolm Allen, who, sadly, passed away some years ago. It was Malcolm who created the Dartoid’s World logo with the whimsical little World War I flying ace straddling the dart as it zips about the planet. This was the birth of the actual Dartoid persona. Some believe that Dartoid is an alter ego of Paul Siegel but this isn’t so. He may have been my alter ego when I was in my 20s. If he was my alter ego today, in my mid 50s, I would not be able to keep up with him. One thing is certain: we are not the same. For example, I don’t drink, swear, or look at women.
I get some shtick from time to time from people who think I’m some sort of mixed up soul who doesn’t know who he is or worse, knows exactly who he is but uses the Dartoid character to say things he wouldn’t have the courage to say otherwise. I say to these people, from Paul Seigel: I respect your point of view but you know not of what you speak, and from Dartoid: Bite my arse!
So I got into all of this by happenstance and without any vision, without any direction, and without any business plan. Dartoid emerged from my mind and experiences and the bits and bobs of others’ – and slowly evolved. In time, Dartoid matured, at least a little, and grew beyond just a crazy hard drinking dart throwing babe ogling dude and into someone who occasionally felt compelled to offer serious commentary about the state of our sport. Dartoid generally yields his column to me at these times.
Fundamentally, my goal, through Dartoid, is quite uncomplicated: to share the joy that is bursting in me for the sport of darts. I try to find the words to share what it’s like to carry a board into the Congo rainforest, nail it to a tree and, to throw to the chorus of a billion insects under a giant starlight sky. I try to share the experience of walking into a bar in a strange land and playing with someone with whom you share not a lick of language in common, but with whom – due to the universal “language” of our sport – you can discuss the finer points of the game, commiserate over missed shots and bounce outs, and even argue about scorekeeping errors. Dartoid and Dartoid’s World is simple: the object is to promote the game I love and hopefully encourage others to give it a go. That’s all I’ve tried to do from the beginning. And this aim will never change. Sometimes I feel the need to bench Dartoid and write something serious, something that I think demands to be said for the good of the sport. I feel very strongly that after a quarter of a decade around the sport at all levels it would be wrong to be silent when serious matters come up.
I am out of the country about half of the year – and so is Dartoid. The last I checked there were 104 countries represented among the regular readership of the Dartoid’s World column. The hits on my website go up and down. Readership skyrockets to several thousand a day in the period of time after I post a new column and decreases to a few hundred a day in between issues. Paul Seigel has been to 65-70 countries, and also a village called England, located somewhere in Ireland. Dartoid has been to a few less countries because there are some that won’t allow him in.
Dartoid does not pay for himself. Paul Seigel foots his bills. Dartoid has a fondness for White Castle cheeseburgers and Skyline chili dogs so he’s a pretty cheap date.
Dartoid has worked hard to contribute to the darts world in many different ways. But I can’t say to what degree he has actually made a difference. That is for others to determine. What I hope is that he has at least managed to share what it is that drew him to the sport and what keeps him involved and that through this he has helped draw others into the game. And again, that’s the priority objective. If someone reads a Dartoid’s World column, hops on a plane, finds the pub Dartoid wrote about on the other side of the world, and has a great time, well, how could I possibly not feel some sense of satisfaction?
I have set the humor and good times aside a handful of times and perhaps on these occasions have contributed to the good of the sport in a different way. A few years back I published three or four extensive columns about goings-on inside the Minute Man Dart League [MMDL] and the league has since been revitalized considerably. This doesn’t mean that the columns had anything directly to do with anything – there is a smart and very dedicated group of people who stood up, said “Enough!” and brought about much needed change in the way the league is managed. But I’d be less than honest if I were to suggest that being on the fringe of all this was not a satisfying thing.
Dartoid’s World was out front pushing the concept of a National Darts Regulation Authority in America – not just a linear body that oversees and demands proper sportsmanship within the American Darts Organization, but rather a body that ensures and enforces appropriate behavior among all players regardless of which organization they are involved in. More to the point – and it would seem obvious (but it is not the case, even still today in 2009) – if someone playing in an ADO-sanctioned tournament punches somebody out or slashes somebody’s tires and gets caught they may be penalized by the ADO but this does not prevent them from continuing to sully our sport by crossing over to another organization. This is wrong and must be corrected. And in my opinion, in both these instances, the offending parties should be banned from organized darts forever. Cooperation among the various governing bodies is essential to achieve such positive change.
Of course, it’s quite well known that I feel strongly that anyone convicted of a sex crime, particularly against children, and who is listed on the National Registry of Sex Offenders should not be allowed near any sanctioned darts event – and banned from darts web forums.
Darts is a gentleman’s sport – and the sport that “begins and ends with a handshake” should be respected for what it is, and its history and traditions. Darts is a family-oriented activity where everyone should be able to take their child to a darts event and expect to have a positive experience. While Dartoid is usually focused on the fun and the camaraderie – after all, this is why 99% of players are involved in our sport – the column also offers commentary on important issues that impact the game. I hope that to some degree, at least from time to time, such breaks from humor force some people to think.
I’ve made a tremendous number of friends through darts and Dartoid has made it possible for me to do that because people read Dartoid and they want to meet the person who writes Dartoid. Pretty much any where I go these days the game comes to me (and the beer is free!). If it wasn’t for Dartoid I would not have met and played and enjoyed the occasional beverage with the best players in the world – or the worst. People don’t give a rat’s ass about meeting Paul Seigel. They want to meet Dartoid. And let me stress something that many may not appreciate: Dartoid wants to meet them even more. For Dartoid the joy is not just in the game. It is just as much in the forming of lasting friendships, outside the “real world” of business, with other people who live for the game. For Dartoid and Paul Seigel all of their best friends are involved in the sport.
On a purely selfish personal level, slipping into the Dartoid character and writing about darts is always a welcome break from what I do day-to-day. My business is intense, serious, pressure-packed, and non-stop. Some people jog. Others dig in the garden or read. Paul Seigel, as Dartoid, picks up a set of darts or begins to write, and life becomes relaxing and sunny again.
Not that many people have the opportunity to travel all over the world and it isn’t darts that’s made it possible for me; it’s business. Many years ago when I would be away – often for three of four weeks at a time – meetings would begin at breakfast and last through dinner, every day. There was no respite. Then one day – in a sort of epiphany, I suppose – I simply decided the routine was ridiculous and had to stop. So I made a change – I gave my evenings back to myself. Since that time, I have dedicated my evenings and weekends on the road to darts. And then I write about it.
I am a fund-raising consultant. I help international animal protection nonprofit organizations raise money to fund their program activities. That’s the short answer. Truth be known, I don’t think my parents, who have now both passed away, ever had a clue what I do. And sometimes I’m not entirely sure that my clients know what I really do!
My clients are spread around the world. For example, a number of people might recognize the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, founded by Captain Paul Watson. He was one of the co-founders of Greenpeace. The organization is based in Friday Harbor, Washington. For the past two years and again this year there has been a documentary program running on the Animal Planet entitled Whale Wars, where the Sea Shepherd crew battles the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary off Antarctica. To do what the Sea Shepherd’s do – to fuel their ship(s), supply them, feed the crew, and run campaigns elsewhere in the world – costs a bundle of money. The same goes for any nonprofit organization. That’s where professional fundraisers like me fit in.
There are numerous ways to generate income for a nonprofit organization. Starting at the lower levels, of what is commonly called the fundraising “pyramid,” there are small donors, who are generally recruited into an organization with direct mail. There are ongoing direct mail programs, electronic web-based programs, monthly giving programs, major gift giving programs, events, corporate and foundation programs, and then there’s the whole planned gift area where supporters can tailor all kinds of instruments – from simple bequests to things like charitable gift annuities, charitable remainder trusts, and many more – to balance certain tax advantages with their philanthropic desires.
I am generally first asked to do something called a development audit or assessment. I study what an organization has been doing to fund their programs, assess strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and evaluate how what they are doing or not doing is integrated with their communications and campaign functions. The assessment flows into a development (fundraising plan) which I then help implement or provide continuing counsel on. In many situations I write direct mail copy; in others I cultivate and solicit large donors or planned gifts. An average day begins well before daybreak with telephone calls to Europe and Asia and ends late with similar conversations with clients on the west coast. That’s what I do.
Contrary to the opinion of some, the point of Dartoid’s World is not to piss people off, although this does happen. But also contrary to what some believe, I do have a life outside of work and darts and writing about darts.
I was born the son of a poor black share cropper. As you can imagine, growing up black in a white man’s world wasn’t easy. Wait! That’s Dartoid talking there and that line is stolen from a movie!
I was actually born in 1953 so I am something like 35-years-old. I was a swimmer as a kid and into college. I attended the United States Military Academy at West Point but didn’t graduate (although I am an expert at shining shoes). I was a political fundraiser for several years before switching over to the non-profit arena in the 1980s. It was in 1980 that my wife, Marylou, and I were married – and that is the best thing that ever happened to me. Next fall we’ll have been married for 30 years! We have a daughter, Jami, who lives and works in Columbus, Ohio. And we have always had a house full of golden retrievers.
Darts is tough on relationships but I don’t really feel that the ways of Dartoid have had a negative effect on my marriage. It’s true that after all these years Marylou still can’t understand how I or anyone can talk nonstop about darts for as long as a clock can run. Although she loathes admitting it these days, she knows more about darts than most people I know who are involved in the game week in and week out. Marylou has her special interests – music is one of them. She probably has 3,000 CDs but I’ve only listened to maybe 10 of them. She’s a writer and has written several novels – she’s currently working on a screen play and two books, one about George Harrison and the other a sort of adventure thriller about the endangered wildlife trade that actually has a strong darts theme. What Marylou definitely appreciates is the need to take a break and that, for me, throwing darts and writing about it, is just something I need to do. She used to come all the time to my league matches and the tournaments and she’s traveled all over the world with me. But now-a-days our golden retriever, Bentley, refuses to let her follow me about on my travels. Plus, as is the case for many, the smoke in darts halls is something she finds offensive.
Yes, it’s true, I wrote a book. It’s called It’s a Funny Game, Darts. Life. I don’t know what my expectations were for the book. From the outset, I told the publisher that I had no expectations, that I wasn’t in it to make money. I suppose I just thought it sounded like a cool idea to have a book out there. But what do people think when they get into something like this? Probably there was a part of me that contemplated the fantastical. Might I make millions? Might a Hollywood producer call and offer me more millions for the movie rights?
I just don’t know. What I do know is to the extent that I may have harbored any expectations, or fleeting hopes, along such lines I did not realize any of them. The book sits on a few shelves and that’s about it. I think there’s a bunch in the publisher’s basement. So, I guess, having no real expectations, I met them!
I’m not sure that any book about darts – certainly not the usual tutorials – has much of a chance to sell in any significant way. There have been a few novels (and for my wife, I am optimistic that there is a market for a good well written novel with a darts theme intertwined), a boatload of tutorials and some things in between. My book was a collection of Dartoid’s World columns but I’m not sure that there was the fodder between the covers necessary for success. Certainly there was little there that had not already been widely circulated. So when I think back on the whole book thing – and even the column – I sometimes think I should have started writing about poker. I don’t know any more or less about poker than I do about darts – I once lost $400 on a hand of one-card Indian Poker — but neither, it seems, do a lot of the people who write and commentate on Texas Hold’em, and some of them are banking some serious spending cash.
For whatever reason, in terms of other people’s books, if there is a darts book published I am asked to review it. I guess I am asked to do this because people read what I write – so the author’s figure if I review their book, even if I trash it, people are going to go get the book and read it and agree or disagree with me. So they see my involvement as free promotion.
There aren’t many reviewers of dart books. There is my great friend, Patrick Chaplin, certainly. He is asked quite frequently, possibly always. There’s Superstars of Darts [www.starsofdarts.com] founder, Andy Fairclough. There’s David King at Darts501 [www.darts501.com]. And of course there’s Jay Tomlinson from Bull’s Eye News, another great friend. And then I guess there’s me. If I was an aspiring darts book author I’d be afraid to send a review copy to any of us!
And I do continue to be an aspiring darts book author and there’s quite a bit on the horizon. In due course, there will be another compilation of Dartoid’s World columns published. There will be a book out soon called The Year in Darts – 2008. I’ve been running a series this year reflecting back on the sport in 2008 and these columns will be accumulated in a new book. There will be a book about the World Series of Darts. The event will probably never happen again and I’ve written about 25 columns on it in 2006. There’s another one in the works on the Professional Darts Corporation’s [PDC] Las Vegas Desert Classic. And there is one that is ready to go to print now called A Brief History of Darts, for which Patrick Chaplin has written the Foreword. And then there is my wife’s novel, on which I am collaborating a bit. It will certainly be better than anything I’ve ever written because my wife is an actual real life writer who doesn’t suck, like me.
I haven’t had a storied darts career. I’ve thrown darts in many countries and in a lot of remote and exotic out-of-this-world locations, but I am far, far from a professional. I know what to do. I just can’t do it consistently. These days I don’t play league at all. I don’t practice. I might throw for a week or so before a tournament. I still get to tournaments every month or so. To the extent I have had a “career” it all began– just as Dartoid and Dartoid’s World, by accident.
I was given a dartboard – one of those cheapo paper-wound dartboards – when I was something like 10-years-old. It had a baseball game on the back. I had no idea what was going on. I would just throw handfuls of darts at the bulls-eye. I could stick a dozen of them in there at a time. It beat doing homework.
About 20 years ago I was waiting with my wife and another couple in the bar in a restaurant while a table was being made ready. There was a couple playing darts against another couple and my friend’s wife asked if I wanted to team up and take on the winner. I said, I knew nothing about darts. She said she’d tell me what to do. So that’s what she did and that’s what I did – and we won!
We all went into the restaurant and I came out about an hour later to get a beer. There was this little hairy guy behind the bar who asked me if I had ever thrown darts before and I sort of chuckled and said I had not. He commented that it appeared earlier I knew my way around the board. Probably I should mention that the little hairy guy was blind?
Seriously, his name turned out to be Chris James and we eventually became close friends. He wasn’t just the bartender – he owned the whole joint, called Pizza Village in Yarmouthport on Cape Cod. Chris told me he had a darts team that competed in a league. He invited me to stop by some night and check it out. A darts team? A darts league? I’d never heard anything so screwy in my life. There wasn’t a chance in a million years that I was going to get involved in such nonsense.
About six months later though, well after midnight, I was driving by the place and there were some cars parked out front. I figured, what the hell, I’d take a look – I’d grab a beer. Inside there was a big match going on. A couple of “D” level teams in the Cape Cod Dart League [CCDL] were going at it and they were having a great time. A half-dozen beers later I was on the team.
We were called the Village Idiots and over a few years we advanced through the ranks, from “D” all the way to “A” – where we lost in the finals
As I said, Chris and I became buddies pretty much straight away and he took me around to all the bars with boards – and there were dozens and dozens of them on the Cape. We’d order a beer, play just one game, drink the beer, and head to the next bar. On a few nights each week we’d hit lucks of the draw. My addiction was beginning and Chris was my pusher.
So I played for several years in the CCDL and played in the MMDL for part of a season. During this general period I was traveling to England for about a week each month so I substituted for a team there in Crowborough, East Sussex. I’ve played league in Tampa, Virginia Beach, and Philadelphia – and was even on the league board in Philly for a month, or more technically, one meeting. It was a bit by trial and error, but I learned pretty quickly that being a captain or a tournament organizer or a board member was not for me. I just wanted to play. And write.
Everybody has their thing. That’s just life. People are naturally attracted to what they enjoy most and do the best. Some enjoy organizing tournaments like Chris Bender. He does a phenomenal job in Virginia Beach. Chris and I had some great league battles and we’ve partnered before, like you and I have, George, but, also like you and I, we were horribly unsuccessful! Others find enjoyment in other aspects of the game.
Although I haven’t gravitated towards some sort of leadership role – as a captain, board member, or organizer – and while I am certainly not a professional, I have a deep appreciation for what goes into attaining and performing in these roles and great respect for the dedication and hard work that goes into performing them well.
I have to resist the temptation to contemplate “who contributes the most” to darts because to so or to try to indentify just a few among so very many who contribute so much, would by definition almost ensure that many people who should be recognized are missed in the process. I have already mentioned Chris Bender. He is a great shooter, has been a great captain, runs super tournaments in Virginia Beach along with his wife, Linda, and all this obviously impresses me. There are dozens of others who come to mind like, for instance, Pete Citera in Chicago. But there are so many people who have made and are making a difference that just to mention Chris and Pete is to be unfair to others. I could say that John Lowe and the late Barry Twomlow are, in my opinion, the two greatest worldwide ambassadors of our sport. What Patrick Chaplin has been contributing to the historical record will not be fully appreciated for how amazing it is for years and decades to come. But where does mentioning these people – something I should not have done – leave Phil Taylor, Eric Bristow, John Part, Tommy Cox, Dick Alix, Sid Waddell, and an endless list of others? I observed what Chris White and Rob Heckman just did to help government officials and organizers in Shanghai put together a phenomenal tournament. What they are giving to the sport is not appreciated at the moment, not in the slightest. I do have a column in the works about this tournament and I plan to highlight their role – but to name Chris and Rob, or any of the others I have mentioned, is really quite disrespectful to so many more.
The name that leaps to mind as to who, at least in America, might have the greatest impact on the sport were they to chuck it all tomorrow, is Jay Tomlinson. Jay publishes the only magazine about darts in the United States, and has for years. It’s one of the few darts magazines that exist in the world and if the darts community woke up tomorrow and Jay was gone, one must wonder who would fill that void.
Somebody else, who has had a massive impact, which many people are not aware of – because he is a very quiet and unassuming individual – is Glenn Remick, head of the American Darters Association (ADA). [Paul did this interview the day that Glenn died, before he knew of the loss.] He was largely responsible for the bylaws of the NDA and advises them. He was integral to the ADO in earlier days. He’s been around since the fledgling days of the MMDL. He is a promoter’s promoter, but only associated with the ADA by most people today. If Glenn hung it up there would be a huge vacancy. On the other hand, I know that Glenn has long been training his very capable son, Karl, to someday fill his shoes.
Stacy Bromberg has for years stood head and shoulders above all the American lady darts players. But if she retires tomorrow – and while her accomplishments will stand forever – someone else will step up. The same thing applies to Phil Taylor. It was the same in the days after Eric Bristow tore up the darts scene. Darts will go on and it will continue to grow. This is because there will always be players and from this pool there will always be extraordinary players – and those who have a knack for driving the critical infrastructure that all of darts stands on.
Second to the product itself – the actual sport – players are the most important thing to darts. Everybody else just makes it better. All the credit in the word is due the Barry Hearn’s and Jay Tomlinson’s and Glenn Remick’s of the world and the multitudes of others but without the players the sport of darts would not exist. Everybody else just facilitates.
Those people who are captains, board members, tournament directors, officials, product sales people, sponsors, and promoters – have pretty much all come from the ranks of the players. As I have already said: people gravitate towards what they enjoy and do best. And so I come back to the product…
If darts wasn’t all that darts is – if it wasn’t power and precision, tense but relaxing, literally war among friends – and fundamentally, at least in my book, spiritual – there would be problems. But because the product is so exceptional and the because players, both the old-timers and the new recruits, are so committed, if one of the people in the so-called hierarchy of darts were to drop off the map tomorrow, I have absolute confidence that just as they bubbled up from the ranks new leaders will emerge.
So what I am saying is that if darts wasn’t darts there wouldn’t be players. But because darts is what it is, in every respect, there are players and participation is growing across the States and the world.
How do Dartoid and Paul Seigel fit in to all this? That’s one of darts’ great mysteries! I suppose after all these years people come to me with questions because they know, quite possibly, I will share a perspective that is unique. I suppose they read the Dartoid’s World column because, for the most part, it’s about the purity of the sport. It’s fun. It’s irreverent. It’s self-depreciating. It’s real. And generally it’s constructed so there is an uncertainty as to what’s coming at the end of each sentence and paragraph – and usually a message. I’d like to think people follow the column because they love darts and know that, whether we agree or disagree on a certain topic, they have a kindred spirit out there – Dartoid – who is certain to make them think while also prompting a chuckle or two.
When it comes to the hierarchy of darts of what is important to darts, you must appreciate that Dartoid and Paul Seigel are nothing but bit players and neither of us take what we do seriously.
The Dartoid’s World stories are true. I lead an interesting life. So does Dartoid.
What Paul Seigel tries to do is find the similarities between the Dartoid character and the rank-and-file darts player and bring those thoughts and feelings – those commonalities – to life. There are only a handful of bona fide professional darts players in the world and even they began as recreational shooters, just the way I did.
I believe that there is a bit of Dartoid in all of us and what I try to do is help Dartoid speak in a voice that all darts enthusiasts can relate to.
My worst darts experience? Well, it pops into my head immediately. I wrote about it. The column was called “Ban Assholes!” I was at a tournament, in a luck of the draw, and the guy I drew – it was one of those things that just happens – had absolutely no tournament experience. The two people we were playing were experienced and, in fact, one of them was at various times quite highly ranked in the ADO point standings.
We were on 51 in the first leg and my partner was up. He didn’t know what to do and I told him to throw the 19. It wasn’t the yips or dartitis, but he couldn’t let the dart go. He was just too nervous. So this guy who was ranked was behind us going crazy. “Throw the dart!” he’d yell. “Doink, doink,” he’d follow up with, over and over, in very aggressive fashion, while pantomiming tossing his darts into the 19 and the double 16.
So finally, my partner lets his first dart fly and hits the 19. He then struggles even worse with the finish and doesn’t really come close. Our opponents quickly ended the leg and then the match.
There was actually much more to this incident and some of it, thankfully, I have forgotten. What I vividly recall is how I felt – how during the moments this all occurred how embarrassed and disillusioned I was that somebody new to the game had to have that experience. These feelings were compounded by the fact that the person responsible for what happed was someone who had been around the sport for a number of years. The entire experience was the utter antithesis of everything that I, through Dartoid, try to do to get people involved and to experience the joy I have for the game. Now, as it happens, this particular individual and I are friends today – but what happened happened. Fortunately, I haven’t had many “worst” experiences.
The opposite is true when it comes to “best” experiences. They are just so damn many. I wouldn’t know how to begin to whittle the many down to a few, let alone just one. Almost every time I go out – to a bar or a tournament, wherever – I have a flat-out wonderful time. So on any given day I would have to say my best darts experience is the one I enjoyed most recently. So today, right now, having just retuned from China, I must point to the Shanghai International Darts Open. Even the PDC – and they put on some spectacular shows – could pick up a nugget or two from the guys who staged this event. There were colorful dancing dragons. There was confetti flying. There were dancing girls. An Olympic gold medal diving champion handed out some of the trophies. There were participants from Malaysia, the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, Russia, England, New Zealand, the United States, Canada, and even Mongolia. The thing was quite a sight.
But Shanghai was just my most recent best experience. Tomorrow night I am meeting up with three guys I have never met – Scott Groves, Joe VanVoorhees, and Lance Kent – to throw for a few hours in Arlington, before I catch my flight out of National Airport the next morning. As sure as I am sitting here talking to you right now, I am positive that two mornings from now my answer to your question would be Arlington, not Shanghai. I just love the game that much.
I have a lot of memories but every time I go to throw darts I have a wonderful time.
The soft-tip “invasion?” I’ve followed the progress of electronic darts for a long time. Dartoid used to go after it quite regularly as impure and bad for all humanity. But both of us have come full circle. I’ve now spent a fair bit of time with Medalist’s Lee Pepperd and even went to Las Vegas this year to get a sense of the NDA’s Team Dart extravaganza. The bottom line is that I now think the electronic game – and particularly the way many of the tournaments are structured, offering a degree of parity – is a benefit to the sport. It’s bringing in new blood.
At the end of the day people can say all they want about the size of the doubles and triples, bounce outs counting, the Freeze Rule,” electronic scoring, having to shove quarters into the machines, and all the rest – but the reality is that the playing field is the same field for everybody.
So I think the electronic game contributes in a significant way to the bright future I see ahead for the sport.
Something must be going right. In fact, somewhere in a little room in Hollywood someone else must recognize this because you literally can’t punch a television remote these days or go to a movie – or even watch a commercial – without a dartboard appearing on the screen. Of course, the board is usually hung about waist high or behind a file cabinet or something. But there are definitely people in high places cognizant of the burgeoning popularity of the sport, both steel and soft.
In fact, what I’d like to do in my next life – or tomorrow, if Steven Spielberg is reading this – is be a consultant on hanging dartboards for Hollywood. I think it would be a good gig.
Just what do I see for darts in my crystal ball? My, what a question! My crystal ball has beer on it…
I believe Barry Hearn will be successful in his bid to retire Olly Croft. I believe this will lead to a unified darts world championship within the next five years. I believe there will be a world champion from Asia before 2020 and that this individual will be from the Philippines. I believe we will see the day that darts is a full-fledged Olympic sport. And I would not believe any of this if I were not certain that with respectability comes respect and with respect comes progress – and that the day is not far away when darts is no longer associated with overweight deadbeats and drinking beer and smoking cigarettes and accorded the stature that I think, for the most part, it already deserves.
What would I impart if was asked to speak to a room of beginners, people who knew very little about darts and were thinking of becoming involved? As it happens, just a few weeks ago in China – along with Rob Heckman, Chris White, and David Fatum – I found myself in pretty much just this situation.
The group assembled was all just starting out and they were asking for advice how to practice and so forth. Rob, Chris, and David – all professional-level players – gave the kinds of answers one would expect. And the answers were great.
My perspective is different.
My advice is to first determine what you want out of darts. If you want to be the best in your league, or city, or country, or world champion someday there are certain things you must do. But if you just want to go out and have a good time with friends there are different things you should do.
In the first instance, of course, practice, more practice and practicing right is the most fundamental component of success. Who am I telling this to? The George Silberzahn!
If your goal, if your reason for becoming involved in darts, is to have a great night out with friends – just like you do shooting pool or playing foosball or playing the bar trivia game – then recognize that, for you, darts is entertainment. You don’t have to get the best out of your darts. You don’t have to purchase the newest set of darts on the market. You don’t have to hold the dart correctly. You don’t have to perfect technique. You don’t have to understand the math.
All most people need to do is understand what darts means to them. You have to appreciate why you’re involved – that you’re out to have a good time. The fact is that a fair bit of improvement will come even if you do everything wrong!
My personal view is that a lot of the best players in the world struggle after they reach the upper levels because they are unable to relax the way that once came so naturally – when they were not taking the game so seriously.
Darts should be about friends and fun. Maximums are great. High outs are great. Winning is great. But Paul Seigel and Dartoid are not going to lose a wink of sleep after a night of throwing poorly. We’re quite used to it anyway!
Our message is simple: embrace every minute of play and never lose the joy. This is exactly what we intend to continue to do at the line and with our writing for as long as we are able.”
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