Column #HR66 With a Song in his Heart

Thursday, March 1, 2012
Column HR66
With a Song in his Heart

An elderly friend of the Old Dart Coach cranked up the old walker recently to attend a 50th celebration Neil Diamond concert. For this trip, knowing him, he probably took along a nice bran muffin, some prune juice, and maybe some Activa as endorsed by Jamie Lee Curtis. For most of us this is far more than we need to know about Jamie Lee!

The odds are that on his first trip to see Diamond my friend took along some Annie Green Springs quality wine in a brown paper bag and adult tobacco with rolling papers. The ODC has a favorite Neil Diamond song called “Sweet Caroline” which he will sing if asked. That has happened once. It was at a gala party prior to the Pacific Cup in 1992. The Aussie hosts had laid out the red carpet which included a FREE party in the turf club of the Flemington Race Course in Melbourne.

As the aiming fluid flowed, without dartboards, it turned into singing fluid. For the ODC it became “stupid fluid” when he actually believed he could carry a tune. Silly knave. With the karaoke cued for “Sweet Caroline” the ODC began, “Where it began…” This was about all he got out before the other attendees headed for the loo, much like the crowd heading for the doors at WalMart on the Friday morning after Thanksgiving. It marked the end of the ODC’s short-lived singing career as, in the words of JR Smith, “He sang in the key of ugly.”

WHERE IT BEGAN

Like a Bill Clinton testimony “it” depends on the definition of the word “it.” If you mean the game of darts it’s thought to have originated with solders throwing small arrows using the end of wine casks as a board. The proper board? Probably from the cross section of a tree, although that may be a little far-fetched. Where would you find a tree with wires along with red and green scoring sections?

Now if one meant where did the Old Dart Coach first throw a dart, a question millions are asking, that would have been on January 1, 1977 at 2:15 a.m. at Pine Meadows Golf Course in Martinez California. The villains in this endeavor were Phil and Erlean Hakola who ran the local dart league. They agreed to stay after a New Year’s Eve Party to help the future ODC clean up if he would play darts with them that morning. A deal was struck and the first dart was thrown. Little did Phil and Erlean know the havoc they would unleash upon the darting world. They are currently in the Witness Protection Program, as well they should be.

I CAN’T BEGIN TO KNOWING

But there are some clues…

The ADO? As we know, it started at a darts event in Detroit. A group, including Tom Fleetwood and Ed McDevitt (who served as the first president) formed the organization. The official date was January 1, 1976 with “30 member clubs (leagues) and 7, 500 players.”

The PDC? This began when a group of “professional” dart players, finding themselves with decreasing income, joined together to form the World Professional Dart Players Association.

The ODC? The name came from a combination of events…

Jerry Umberger called him “Coach” after his brilliance in guiding a first place Pacific Cup team to third place. The “Old” was brought on by age. Toeing the Oche? It started as “A View From” for the Northern California Darts Association newsletter edited by Jan Stockstill who, like the Hakolas, is in the Witness Protection Program traveling the country in a motor home.

BUT THEN I KNOW IT’S GROWING

The American Darts Organization now has a lot more than 30 clubs and more than 7,500 players. The PDC, formerly the WPDPA, has grown to the point that its total prize money, while not on the scale of professional golf, is moving like a bullet train. Their Premier League just kicked off the 15-week season with sold out stops at Manchester, Aberdeen, and Odyssey Arena in Belfast in the first three weeks. The event in Northern Ireland drew 8,000 paid for a brilliant display of darting excellence by none other than Phil Taylor. With sold out venues and live TV for the Premier League is there any doubt that in the near future there will be another “League” – a league which can play smaller venues with good prize money and the promise for winning players to move up to the Premier League?

The PDC announced a European Tour with a prize fund of €500,000 across five tournaments in Vienna, Berlin, Dusseldorf, Stuttgart and Egmond-aan-Zee. The latter is of course Egmond-by-The Sea which is in Holland and was a PDC Tour stop last year. Each event will have the top 32 in the PDC Order of Merit seeded into the first round, which is really the second, with the remaining 32 spots filled via qualifiers. Each event will have a prize fund of £82,100 with £15,000 going to the winner. The format is similar to the one that used to be in place for the Desert Classic in Las Vegas.

WAS IN THE SPRING

Well it could have been the spring when we were first informed that Phil Taylor was over the top of the hill and on his way down. “Put him to bed,” were the words of Adrian Lewis. “He’s through,” said Paul “The Fraud” Nicholson.

AND SPRING BECAME A SUMMER

Taylor quieted some if his critics when he defeated James Wade 18-8 to win the mid-summer classic World Matchplay, his fourth MatchPlay in a row. The whisper became a roar when Taylor lost in an early round of the World Championship and didn’t cop the Premier League title. Cue the Fat Lady to sing. Pull out the butter, “He’s toast.” A “has been.”

WHO’D BELIEVE YOU’D COME ALONG

You foolish knaves. Phil Taylor will be Phil Taylor until the time that he decides to become someone else. For the first three nights of the Premier League Phil Taylor has been spectacular. Opening night it was Phil Taylor vs. Adrian Lewis. Lewis jumped to a big 5-0 lead without missing nary a double. Taylor hadn’t either but he never got to one. Then, here it comes, Taylor turned The Power ON. Over the next 7 legs – the format is best of 14 or first to 8 – Taylor went 6-1 grabbing a point while averaging 119 over the last 8 legs and 112.79 for the match.

The following week in Aberdeen, where that ewe in the pasture may be your date for the prom, Taylor fell behind to Premier League newcomer Kevin Painter 3-5. Taylor then took the next five legs for three 8-5 win. During his rally for good measure he tossed his 11th 9-darter, a classic with 180-174 and 147-out. Forget that Taylor said, “I’m overwhelmed to have hit the 9-darter. Kevin was playing really well and I knew I had to do something extraordinary to crack him.” That’s bologna but it makes good copy. It was just “Phil being Phil.”

In hindsight it would be easy to type, “You ain’t seen nothing yet” but Taylor saved his best for Belfast against Raymond van Barneveld. Barney, in this match, wasn’t exactly chopped chicken liver either. At the break Taylor was ahead 5-1 as he broke Barney’s throw twice averaging 129 on those occasions.

There is nothing more irritating than when someone answers the question, “How’d you play?” by responding with a dart-by-dart play-by-play, so…

…with that as a “get out of bore land card” Taylor took the first leg in 13 darts with a 131 finish and the second after first missing a 124 finish. Another Taylor 180 got him to 3-0. Make that 4-0 with a 74 finish and an average of 111 over those legs. Barney gets off the “snyder” with an 11-darter (180-137-140 and then 12 x16) for 5-1 down. Barney got to 5-2 after a 145-check. Taylor got back on track with a 120-check that boosted his average to 116.20. Barneveld narrowed it to 3-6 when he played his best leg of the match, overcoming a opening of 134-180 by Taylor. Taylor, proving he’s human but just barely, missed three at tops. Barneveld erased 80.

Taylor’s win for a 7-4 lead came with a 94 finish with bull, 12, and double 16. Little exhibition stuff there. Taylor closed the show with 180-174 to set up the 9-darter. He missed the next trip 20 but still finished with 20-tops for an 8-4 win. Heck of a show.

A NEW SONG FOR PHIL

It’s about time that “Walking in a Taylor Wonderland” is retired. Put it to bed. The ODC suggests the following with no apologies to Neil Diamond and especially “Sweet Caroline.”

Where it began
We can’t begin to knowing
We know that Phil’s growing strong
Was it the spring
Then spring became a summer
We knew that Phil would stand alone

Darts…
Touching boards
On the mark
Touching red
Touching Green

Sweet Phil of mine
Da… da… da
Good times never seemed so good
Da… da… da
We were inclined
To believe he always would
We all know
Sweet Phil of Mine
Da… da… da

AND FINALLY

Toeing the Oche’s own Phil Taylor, the Old Dart Coach, has finalized his plans for his annual Asia Tour to press the flesh with the darting masses. There’s been some question about the ODC’s darting ability (based, unreasonably, on knowledge of his darting performance). That is about to change thanks to his old pal John Kramer, known and loved by all as “JK.”

Thanks to JK’s new affiliation with COSMO Darts, the ODC has been provided sets of “JK” autographed COSMO flights and shafts for use during this year’s Asia Tour. The flights and shafts arrived via the post in a plain brown box with the following warning, “Use of this equipment, while certain to improve your game, may cause some unwanted side effects. It’s possible that use of this equipment may cause one to drink to excess while becoming loud, boisterous and obnoxious.” Since the ODC pretty much has those side effects already embedded in his DNA there is no downside.

Look out Asia!

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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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