Column #HR34 Take a Lesson from Darts History – There’s Not Much Left to Lose!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Column HR34
Take a Lesson from Darts History – There’s Not Much Left to Lose!

The Old Dart Coaches muses, as muses takes little energy, about days past when all dart tournaments were preceded on Friday evening by a blind draw at a local bar. His favorite was held before the Golden Gate Classic at Chris’ Club in Vallejo. The Golden Gate, run by the Northern California Darts Association which could claim the ODC as their own but doesn’t, always had an international field because it was part of a three tournament swing that included the Santa Monica and North American Open’s. Santa Monica later morphed into the LA Open and then into oblivion.

The Chris’ Club shoot was run by a gentleman named Joe Klingensmith along with his girlfriend/wife Carol. The ODC worked as a bartender for one week a year there which was enough for Joe to instruct Carol to fire him until next year. It was like the late movie mogul Harry Cohen who reportedly would command, “Throw that son-of-a bitch off the lot and don’t allow him back till we need him.” Carol playing the part of Harry with the ODC being the SOB, a part he was well suited for.

The Chris’ Club blind draw was unique in that locals were put in one hat and “travelers” in another. That encouraged locals to attend with a real chance of playing with one of the traveling stars. His first year the ODC drew Billy Glover from Dallas who at that time was one of the top players in America. But alas even a great player like Glover couldn’t overcome the piano tied to his back that was the ODC as he tried to run. Some of the big name players would bypass this event by saying “I don’t do blind draws.” This particularly “tee’d off” the ODC especially when it came from his pal, still a friend until this article is published, and sometime “on the road roomy.” Through the day at the ODC’s Casa de Martinez he tried to convince the then ranked #2 lady player that “she owed it to her fans to play in the blind draw.” Finally worn down she acquiesced and entered. Also in the field that night were Brit Champs the late Grand Dame Lil Combs and Sonja Rolphs along with other luminaries.

As fate would have it the ODC drew his SoCal Gal Pal. The dart area had 8 boards separated from the bar by a wall but with direct access. The pair drew to play against a gentleman who due to physical disabilities moved about in a wheelchair with a partner who couldn’t play a lick. The wheelchair bound gentleman was able to stand and play by holding himself up on crutches. The dart room, besides 8 boards, also had a goodly supply of picnic-type tables used for beverage consumption and card games.

As the ODC and loyal Pal drew early there was a good crowd to watch this battle of Titians. Needless to say the crowd was rooting for the wheelchair bound gentleman and the drunk who couldn’t play. Tied at one in the race to two the crowd was having a great time. All matches stopped throughout the room to watch the spectacle of the ODC getting taken to the woodshed along with his Pal. Both teams reached a double with the gentleman on crutches to throw. With his third dart he hit the double for the win. But wait, the ODC in a loud voice yelled “crutch fault!” claiming that the gentleman’s crutch was over the oche, accusing the gentleman of cheating. The crowd loudly reacted to the ODC’s charge with language not printable in a family publication or for that matter a non-family publication.

With abuse directed at the ODC, his partner pulled herself up to her full 4’9”, gave the ODC a look that could kill and should have, put her darts away and headed to the bar. The ODC joined her. Before he could open his “yapper” she said, “Shut up. Just shut up. What are you drinking? I’m having a shot of Tequila.” “Me too,” the cowered ODC murmured. At about the same time a goodly number of “stars” both local and international lost so gravitated to the bar. 1800 Tequila was the drink of the moment chased with a beer.

Within a short time fueled by 1800 one local female star was crawling around the floor playing horsy being ridden by a Brit lady to cries of “Ride’em cowboy.” Another star was amazed by the wonders of Tequila. “I stuck me darts into me leg but couldn’t feel a F’en thing.”

The ODC seeing that things were heading south faster than employee’s at McDonalds when the Immigration guy showed up made a wise decision. Most of those lady’s in the “tequila drinking orgy” were staying at the Casa de Martinez. He asked his Pal Dick McGinnis, who doesn’t drink but does play cribbage, to give the girls a ride across the bridge to the Casa as he had to get up early the next morning. As Dick was in the dart room playing cribbage he had no knowledge of the carnage taking place in the bar. Having arranged rides for the girls the ODC raced home to his Casa and dove into his trundle bed. He slept like a baby, nekked, until 5AM when the door to his bedroom burst open with a not happy McGinnis yelling, “I hope you’re pleased with yourself. You will clean the inside of my truck before I get up. Thanks a lot you SOB.”

There are some givens in life. The sooner that people, especially ladies, learn that tequila is not their friend the better. Everyone complains about the weather but no one ever does anything about it? Okay, except for Al Gore. “Tell me Al how’s that global warming thingy going you ya?” I ask this with little respect as most of the country is up to their collective asses in “global warming.” “Yes it’s getting colder but I made $500 million, got a Noble prize, an Oscar, an Emmy, a home in Malibu and got rid of a wife who had porked up like the Goodyear blimp.” Well 5 out of 6 seems like a win.

The point? Everyone who plays darts has the “one plan” that will turn the sport from “You do what?” to “You’re a dart player!”

Too often dart folks dwell on the past, sometimes to the point of re-inventing the past to favor their point of view. Waste of time? Not really. When sipping a couple of tall cool ones a good chin wag is good for the mind. Of course a couple of cool ones without the chin wag is equally as pleasing.

The history of darts in North America is relevant only if one doesn’t want to “repeat the past.” The philosopher and poet George Santayana said, “Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it.” President Andrew Jackson takes credit for the statement but it was old George that done it.

The Old Dart Coach is of the opinion that during the Golden Age of Darts from the late 1970s to early 1990s the sport flourished in spite of the national leadership, a leadership that once it got past the words “me and I” had a limited vocabulary. This Golden Age, so named by the ODC because he can, was a combination of great and good players, places to play regularly, good local leadership and what the ODC called “The worlds greatest no host floating cocktail party.”

He traces the beginning of end as the day that the “executive” of the ADO, at a meeting in Wisconsin, told the “soft point folks” to “take a hike” when they wanted to join the ADO – reportedly saying “We don’t need you.” What was overlooked by almost everyone was that soft point provided the bar owner with income that steel point could never match. “Unaccountable cash.” Furthermore “soft point” players didn’t demand new boards, fancy bowling shirts (which could be an oxymoron) or free drinks. Soft point is “boogying down” today while tungsten is currently doing the “minuet.” Minuet? “A slow, stately pattern dance in ¾ time for groups of couples, originating in 17th-century France.”

Not everything that was tried in the past was a mistake. Some things just didn’t work out as planned.

The Lucky Strike dart program put money into darts which resulted in more money for the top players and some tournaments. They got their Challenge of Champions on ESPN. The unexpected consequences were that more “average” players stayed away from tournaments (“You don’t need us”) and local tournament organizers got lazy when they no longer had to hustle for entrants among their own. “Hired guns would come into town, eat your food, drink your beer, steal your girl then leave town Sunday night.”

The Tungsten Highway is strewn with the skeletons of tournaments past. That’s history.

The ODC suggests that tournaments eliminate the blind draw and instead give the event to a local bar. Furthermore any player not playing in the blind draw should not be allowed in the main tournament draw. Oh yes, also lower the price of beer.

Try it. There’s not a lot left to lose.

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Howie Reed
The one and only Howie Reed (the Old Dart Coach) goes back decades with the legends of our sport - he knows where the skeletons are buried. Just ask any of the ADO and WDF old-timers! His widely popular column, Toeing the Oche, is a must-read.

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