Column #HR70 “We Wish You Love” steel tip – but baby it’s gonna take more than that!

Friday, May 25, 2012
Column HR70
“We Wish You Love” steel tip – but baby it’s gonna take more than that!

The music world lost some giants recently. Gone are Queen Donna Summer, Etta James, and the Bee Gee’s Robin Gibb. As the Old Dart Coach’s mom use to say, “Everything happens in threes.”

The ODC, an expert on little with an opinion on all, opines that Summer’s recording of “Last Dance” ranks near top of his list of all time great hits. Not above Dinah Washington’s “What a Difference a Day Makes” or Frank’s “One for My Baby” or Keely Smith doing “I Wish You Love” or even the 2004 Royal Albert Hall Rod Stewart duet with 16-year-old Amy Belle on “I Don’t Want To talk About It” but right up there. Etta James’ recording of “At Last” goes well with a scotch & soda and a twist. The Bee Gee’s just had a bunch of great stuff that plays as well today as it did back in the day. With a little stretching of credulity, all these now departed stars had hits that metaphorically might be applied to darts.

HUH?

Those that have in the past and do now ply their trade on the tungsten trail work hard for their money. Summer’s “She Works Hard for Her Money” could just as easily have been “he works hard for his money.” The song, originally about the world oldest profession, could be applied to the likes of Messrs. John Lowe, Eric Bristow, and Bobby George in England and to Jerry Umberger, John Kramer, Rick Ney and company in the USA.

In England they traveled at night by car like gypsies, setting up shop in a different pub each day. After the show and sharing a few pints with the locals they moved on to the next stop, sometimes making two to three stops per day. Some had a driver. Bobby George drove his own car, unloaded his stage, set it up, did his show, and then reversed the procedure. Sometime three times a day. In the USA it was even worse as there were few exhibitions, even fewer sponsors, and as time progressed less prize money spread over more events. “They worked hard for their money.”

In their day darters thought of themselves as “Hot Stuff” always looking for “Bad Girls” possibly using the pick-up line of “Love to Love You Baby.” Many a three-day romance came to an end when a tournament was over and it was time to move on. An entire season’s romance was a rarity and would today be fodder for a reality TV show. Darters were like the circus without the tent or the cotton candy

LAST DANCE

Summer’s “Last Dance” is still applicable today. Maybe even more so. At the beginning of this PDC season it was the consensus of “those in the know” that Phil Taylor was a has-been. This would be his “Last Dance.” If this is Taylor’s last dance then other players better hope that the damn band stops playing soon.

Taylor’s latest conquest was capturing the Premier League for the 6th time, not to mention £150,000. The fact that Taylor was in the final wasn’t any big surprise as he led the league table with 24 points going 11-2-1. In plus and minus legs won he was plus +51 with only Andy Hamilton having no minus legs. The “Pie Man” was “even Stephan” at nil. It was surprising who didn’t make the play off’s. World Champion Adrian Lewis fell two points short with Raymond van Barneveld a point away from the final four.

Simon Whitlock disposed of rookie Andy Hamilton 8-6 in his semi finals. Whitlock hit a 9-darter on his way to the final. Taylor fell behind James Wade 2-4, coming back to take 6 of the next 7 for the 8-6 win. This match got a little sloppy at times which enforces the credo, “it’s not how but what.” In this case a win for Taylor was the “what” and who cares about the “how”? Almost nobody.

Whitlock, maybe feeling the emotional letdown after the 9-darter, fell behind Taylor 6-1 and 7-2 in the final. It was a classic case of missed doubles all around. With the match tied at 7 after a Whitlock rally of 5 on the trot, the Aussie had the chance for an 8-7 lead. Wanting double 16 on the end of a 149-check Whitlock misfired. Taylor took out double tops for the 9-7 lead. It was a 149-check by Taylor that eliminated Wade in the semi finals. Despite the win it wasn’t a stellar performance by Taylor. He averaged below 100 in the play-offs after reaching 116 during the regular season which included a record 117.35. “I’m disappointed with my performances, even though I’m delighted to win,” he added. “I set myself some high standards this year and I want to play consistently at that level.” Guess Taylor cares about the “how.”

STEEL TIP “LAST DANCE”?

Certainly not in England and some other EU countries where the PDC has brought the sport to a prominence that could only have been dreamed about a few years ago. How’d they do it? Marketing. Pure and Simple. Marketing in this case means money and exposure. That has been the problem with steel darts in America for 25 years. The first step in marketing is to let people know, “Hey we’re here.” Then it’s “what’s happening?” The ODC, feeling guilty – yeah, like he feels guilty about anything – tried to find the results for the recent Cleveland Extravaganza and the Manny Pacquiao $30,000 event in Los Angles. He found Nada, Zip, Zero. He emailed a pal – she knows everything – and got “No Eye Dear.”

Okay, forget step one and two and move on to step three in marketing. Define your market, in this case players and/or potential players. The American Darts Organization, ADO, has pretty much left this up to “word of mouth.” Probably because they have for whatever reason not been able to attract seed money for recruitment. It was pretty much left up to pub owners that wanted “peeps” in the pub drinking. The steel sport also left nothing, meaning money, for the little guy. Their local tournaments were dominated by good players who came in then left town with all the money. Sometimes they also took the hearts of locals’ significant others.

That’s not to say that others, non ADO, aren’t trying. Major League Darts will hold their finals in Nashville November 30-December 2. They have broken North America into 13 regions with those leading the player rankings in regions getting either a free entry or seeding. To date 23 regional contests have been sanctioned and held. MLD is including in their ranking New York Players and PDC North America results.

A new player in the game is the New World Dart Series which will hold their first “major” event October 12-14 in Dayton, Ohio with a prize fund of $30,000. This NWDS is limited to 192 men and 64 women with the top ranked 64 men and 16 women seeded into round robin groups of 8. The player rankings will come from the ranks of the North American Professional Dart Players Association. The statistics will be compiled by Bulls Eye News (now BEN) based on results of $20,000+ tournaments held between July 31, 2011 and August 1, 2012. A check of the BEN website at press time found no rankings which is understandable as it’s a new concept.

Both of these approaches, from a marketing standpoint, are targeting those that play with the carrot at the end of the stick, somewhat oblique, for “newbies” being the chance to “compete.” Rather than a Donna Summer “Last Dance” it could be said that these efforts will bring a return to Golden Age “At Last.” If not, then the relevance of steel darts may resemble the Bee Gee’s “Staying Alive.” If all efforts fail then it’ll be the Bee Gee’s “How Do You Mend a Broken Heart” for truly there is a genuine love affair with the steel game.

ROCK N ROLLIN

Meanwhile machine darts keep “Rock N Rollin.” Check out Etta James rendition on YouTube with Chuck Berry and Keith Richards (although the latter probably doesn’t remember being there). From a marketing standpoint soft point, rather planned or by accident, found a perfect marketing strategy. It was two-fold. First was MONEY. Money to pub owners and those that ran vending routes – and finally something was left for the average player. It was “win-win.”

Both Arachnid and Medalist have been in the field for years. Arachnid has its major tournament May 24-28 in Chicago worth $300,000. Medalist has it’s “World Championships” July 18-21 at the Texas Station in Las Vegas just down the road from the Casa de ODC. Medalist projects prize money at $300,000 guaranteeing $70,000. Both tournaments are played in divisions. One year the late Bill Nichol and the ODC played in the Chicago event. They were playing 01 doubles. It took all day for them to play including the consolation round. They played twice losing 2-0, 2-0. After Nichol lost the diddle the ODC got to throw 6 darts in each game. All bulls. “Boy this was fun.” Oh yes, the second team that beat them was from the darting country of the Christmas Island. “Oh the shame of it all.”

THE ODC IN HONG KONG

The ODC was in Hong Kong to act as a boxing judge for the Universal Boxing Organization for three world championship fights. Besides doing a walk around the town the ODC was able to hook up with long time pal, World Champion Paul Lim. Lim currently serves as a darts consultant for DARTSLIVE, a maker of Soft-point machines, which is headquartered in Hong Kong. The pair hooked up late in the afternoon for a refreshing beverage at one of his company’s “i dart” pubs. The ODC’S first question to Lim after saying “I’ll have a beer” was: how come “nobody walking around Hong Kong seems to be smiling?” “Don’t know.”

DARTSLIVE has a presence in Singapore, Malaysia, Macau, and of course Hong Kong. They’ll be opening an “iDart pub” shortly in Bangkok. It’ll be just around the corner from the new Bourbon Street which has the best breakfast sausage in the world and a hot spinach salad to die for. The preceding was a free plug for the ODC’s pal Doug Harrison at Bourbon Street in the hopes of an “on the house” pint of lager or 10 next visit.

DARTSLIVE recently entered the American market with at least a couple of locations in Southern California. Lim, who collected $128,769 winning last year’ DARTSLIVE Soft-point World Championship, explained to the rather dimwitted ODC the advantages of their soft-point machine, which were impressive. Impressive in that with today’s software the ability to collect demographical information opens broad vistas for additional income and revenue for all. Follow the money.

The ODC spent a night in Hong Kong at a Super League match between Over Kill and the second place team. Over Kill’s motto is “Then is no Overkill in Over Kill.” Must be a Cantonese deal. The venue was The Raven, an iDarts club in the New Territories. It was a blow out with Over Kill, behind the play of World Champion Lim, skunking the foe 9-0. At one point Lim opined:

“I think they’re are a little bit intimidated.”

The ODC, full of aiming fluid, responded with, “Ya think?”

While the league match was being played on a raised platform the 15 or 20 other machines in the Raven were going full tile boogie with folks “just playing.” The crowd was semi-upscale almost like the “club” scene in America. DARTSLIVE is entering the American market, as mentioned, with the 7th stage of their 2012 World Championships in Las Vegas September 28-29. The tournament will have a no handicap format with a $50 entry fee and $12,000 going to the winner.

In the end steel point darts has got to face up to its overall decline in the USA. For way too long it’s been “I Don’t Want to Talk About It.” A long time ago steel point should have heeded the wisdom of that great American philosopher Pogo when he said “We have met the enemy and it is us.”

Maybe “At Last” steel point will turn the corner. “So set ’em up Joe, I got a little story you ought to know… make it One for My Baby and One More for the road.” In sport and marketing it’s a proven fact “What a Difference A Day Makes.” Especially when one is barely “Staying Alive.” The soft point game will continue to be a “Rock ‘N Rollin” affair. Steel point? “We Wish You Love” but baby it’s going to take more than that.

The ODC figured out why people in Hong Kong don’t walk around smiling. If you were ruled by the British for 156 years would you be smiling? A situation to ponder…

Stay thirsty my friends and pop a few Miller Genuines.

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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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