Column #417 Steel-tip ain’t no Olympic shoo-in – there’s (plastic) competition!

Monday, August 1, 2011
Column 417
Steel-tip ain’t no Olympic shoo-in – there’s (plastic) competition!

They call him the “Dragon” and he’s a former world champion. He has basked in the glory of his ‘sport,’ one that some describe as “just the right mix of skill and intellect.” Growing older and with a family, he is still highly regarded, puts in the practice and travels frequently in his quest to add another world championship to his resume. And he’s currently one of the most well known and popular promoters of his game.

But who is the Dragon? And with recent rumblings of a push to see his ‘sport’ added as a demonstration activity at the 2012 London Olympics one must also ask: Why the hell is the Olympics in London? Was Toledo booked?

This Dragon is not Rob Heckman, although he does fit the description of everything and more mentioned in the first paragraph. He’s actually a three-time Medalist world singles champion. He is also, according to Stacy Bromberg, the “perfect man from the neck down.” And he’s a chicken-shit. I asked him for an interview and he ducked me like a little boy on a dodge ball court. Possibly he’s been talking to Dave “Boy” Green.

The Dragon I’m talking about is Dave Lockwood. He’s from Silver Spring, Maryland and currently ranked fifth in the world. And yes, there is – according to Winking World, the magazine that covers tournament play, strategy and technique for his ‘sport’ – a campaign to have it included as a demonstration event at the 2012 Summer Olympics. But the ‘sport’ ain’t darts. It’s Tiddlywinks.

Yep, you read that right. Tiddlywinks. Except for the last column I published, I’ve never in my life come across anything so frickin’ absurd.

Of course, there are a lot of fringe ‘sports’ out there and they all have their nut case followers and ‘world champions.’ There’s extreme ironing, conkers and even wife carrying. But none of their practitioners or fans are delusional enough to think such simpleminded activities are worthy of the legitimacy that comes with Olympic acceptance.

extreme-ironing-04What, you might ask, is extreme ironing? According to the official website it’s “the latest danger sport that combines the thrills of an extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well-pressed shirt.” Competitors climb a mountain or snowboard or parachute and iron articles of clothing.

Conkers? A conker is the hard brown seed found inside the prickly green casings that fall each autumn from the horse chestnut tree (or Buckeye tree as they are called in America). The nuts are collected from the ground, holes are drilled into them and they are threaded on a length of string.

Two contestants then pair off like gladiators, just as in darts. One suspends his conker from one hand, to a length of approximately a foot, while the other contestant uses his nut on a string to try to smash his opponent’s nut to smithereens.

2385382504Wife carrying? In this ‘sport’ male competitors race the clock through an obstacle course while carrying a female teammate. The fastest time wins. Apparently the ‘sport’ is “…quite dangerous and can result in a slipped disk, broken legs and arms, spinal damage, facial injury, skull fractures, hernias, and other sundry injuries, including death.” The victor wins his wife’s weight in beer.

Then there is tiddlywinks, or (my apologies to those of the female persuasion) “tiddies” as it is sometimes affectionately called…

When most of us think of tiddlywinks we recall the old Milton Bradley game with the little pot and colorful blue, green, red and yellow plastic disks (winks) we played as kids and then stuffed away in a closet to collect dust bunnies because it was silly, boring, stupid and dumb, just like it still is. Little did we know (and had we, would we have given a rat’s ass) that the game was a really big deal in late Victorian times and Prince Philip himself, who looks like he was born in Victorian times, was a tiddlywinks aficionado.

Certainly never would we have imagined that had we practiced hard we might as adults someday lay claim to the title “Top Wanker” (correction: winker) and compete for fame and glory in the Olympics.

TiddlywinksNope, instead, being wise men (and women) and true sportsmen – former baseball, basketball and football players, and bartenders – when we grew up we took up drinking, smoking, darts and an occasional jalapeno popper. We’re real athletes.

Yet real tiddlywinks combatants – those who flick about little slugs of plastic at the upper echelons of their ‘sport’ – insist that what they do is serious business too, as well as rough and tumble. As the Dragon puts it, “Sometimes it’s hard to stand up and take the ridicule that comes when you say that you take tiddlywinks seriously. But it does have a physical element.” Oh my.

Just like in darts there are standard rules, detailed specifications for the color and size of winks, the squidger (the circular disk used to propel winks into the pot), the pot and the felt field of play.

There are formal governing organizations – the English Tiddlywinks Association (ETwA), North American Tiddlywinks Association (NATwa) and the “supreme ruling body,” the International Federation of Tiddlywinks Associations (IFTwA) which, not surprisingly, all seem to be better run than the British Darts Organization. The centers of tiddlywinks strength have long been those legendary bastions of athletic prowess: Cambridge University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Also just as in darts there is an insiders’ lingo – but Bobby George can’t lay claim to having invented any of it. A “doubleton” is a pile in which two winks are covered up by a single ememy wink. A “squop” is to play a wink so that it comes to rest above another wink. A “scrunge” is when is when a wink bounces out of the pot. And a “gromp” is an attempt to jump a pile onto another wink. So if you were one of the 80% who in the most recent Dartoid’s World poll thought these terms applied to ballroom dancing, quidditch or soft-tip darts you can take comfort knowing you’re not alone in your ignorance of useless ‘sport’ trivia.

Estonian_Carry_styleAlthough the Finnish rule wife carrying, as in darts – and extreme ironing and conkers – the current world tiddlywinks champion is British. When his teammate and former world champion, Dr. Patrick Barrie of Cambridge University, was asked how he rated the chances of his ‘sport’ gaining a nod from the 2012 Olympic Committee he replied, “I would cross my fingers but I can’t risk an injury.” Actually, this was his answer to some other question but what the hell…

Recently the 2011 World Tiddlywinks Championship was held at St. Andrew’s Church Hall in Hull. Those of us who hope for darts to be accorded the respect it deserves should take note of what transpired – and hope that the Olympic Committee does too. Here is a first-hand (and slightly shortened) report from NUSE International so it’s technically fictional but, again, what the hell…

In previous years, the World Tiddlywinks Championship has been a calm yet exciting event attended by families from across the world. However, during this year’s championship, rather unorthodox behaviour and violence was shown towards match officials and opposing spectators.

This has caused outrage among the tiddlywinks community and has meant that several matches during this year’s championship were boycotted by veteran players. Despite the relaxed nature of the game, the rise in popularity and skill amongst youth recently has caused a great deal of distress for players who are more advanced in years.

The first incident occurred in the opening ceremony of the 2011 World Championships, when tour rookie Dale Mac, 19, threatened the tiddlywinks tour veteran Nigel Simmons, 74, with verbal abuse, including offensive phrases such as, “I bet you like tiddling winkies, granddad!” causing Simmons to walk out of their fixture during the games, after first assaulting Mac with a chair and a half-eaten apple in front of a packed crowd consisting of almost twenty people – the largest attendance of the games since they began.

The International Federation of Tiddlywinks met in Brussels to discuss the recent incidents. However, the discussions were interrupted by Mac, who burst into the room brandishing a sharpened metal tiddlywink and a half-empty bottle of Frosty Jacks. Mac, who had been celebrating his world championship victory, was removed from the proceedings; however, a fight ensued in the corridor between Mac and Simmons, each unhappy with the conduct displayed by their opponent during the recent championships.

Both players have now been suspended by the International Federation of Tiddlywinks until the issues have been resolved, which is not likely to happen before the next tour event. This has produced a tremendous surge of division between both competitors and fans who have taken sides in this battle between Mac and Simmons.

As a result, extra security precautions have been put in place to oversee the smooth running of the upcoming tiddlywinks tour event, which is to be held in Portsmouth in August. The precautions include the hire of a security guard: Dave, a bag packer in the local Tesco. The Federation are hopeful that the nature of the event will continue normally as the most historical and lucrative event on the calendar with a prize purse of nearly £20.

So there you have it…

Tiddlywinks, as played by the Dragon, is a simpleminded child’s game played by dysfunctional adult geniuses who are violent.

Darts on the other hand, as played by another Dragon, is a serious sport embraced by gentlemen – role models for the next generation – who, while we may not have the grades to get into Cambridge or MIT and despite our need for an occasional nip, are smart enough to know that tiddlywinks is just frickin’ stupid.

And never, not ever – you can be damn sure of this – has a world darts championship been marred by one player assaulting another with a chair and an apple.

Tiddlywinks does not deserve to be showcased at the 2012 Olympics.

Darts does.

And the Olympics should be moved to America.

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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