Column #HR83 Phil Taylor shows his stuff – good and bad

Monday, January 7, 2013
Column HR83
Phil Taylor shows his stuff – good and bad

The New Year has arrived and the Old Dart Coach is “Bat Stuff” happy.

How happy?

As happy as when he watched and listened as Ron Burgundy, Brian Fantana, Brick Tamland and Champ Kind crooned “Afternoon Delight” (after Burgundy announced his unrequited love for Veronica Corning stone). That’s “Bat Happy” – on the happiness scale it’s just a degree below the joy experienced by a “witch in a broom factory” or an “antelope with night vision.”

Of course, there’s no Ron Burgundy or Virginia Corningstone; they’re figments of the vivid imagination of the screenwriter who wrote for the movie Anchorman.

Sport writes true scripts that can be equally unbelievable…

That’s part of the allure of sport…

The Ladbrokes World Championships at North London’s Alexandra Palace provided enough material for many movies. There were good guys, bad guys, folks in funny costumes filled with happy juice, and the usual TV commentators screaming Unbelievable! or Impossible! or We will never see the likes of this again! Good fun.

In the quarter finals both Raymond van Barneveld and Phil Taylor enjoyed “Afternoon Delights” when dealing a dose of the “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu” to Simon “The Aussie Assassin” Whitlock (5-1) and Andy Hamilton (5-0).

The other side of the quarters had a “sky rocket in flight” provided courtesy of the new “Dutch Master” Michael van Gerwen. He’d 86’d the two-time defending world champion Adrian Lewis 5-4. Tied at 4 sets and leading in legs 2-0 Lewis had a chance to break serve for the set and match. Instead Lewis missed two at double top. Unbelievable!

van Gerwen got off the snyder, then took out 83 to level the set at two, adding the next two for the win. A match tied in sets must be won by two clear legs. “I felt like my chance had gone when Adrian had those darts at double top, but when he missed it felt really big. I think he knew that too.” van Gerwen averaged 102.73 with Lewis just a notch behind at 100. A wine match it was. “Not too Chablis.”

With James Wade nothing is easy. He fell behind Wes Newton 2-0, then leveled as Newton missed doubles. Wade took a 4-2 lead winning 6 of 7 legs. Newton would take 6 of 7 himself to level at 4 sets. But Wade took command and the decider 3-1 for a place in the semi finals.

Michael van Gerwen had been the “wise guy’s” choice to win the tournament. That chatter turned into a howl when he eliminated James Wade in the semi’s 6-4. After losing the first set van Gerwen took the next three sets 9 legs to nil for a 3-1 lead. Wade hit his favorite double 10, then followed with an 82-finish to lead in the 5th set 2-0.

In the third leg van Gerwen (throwing first) opened with 180, added 177, and closed with 144 (two treble 20’s and double 12) for a nine-darter. Next leg? 180-180 to leave 141. Then treble 20, treble 19 and a double 12 – that missed by a “RCH.”

RCH?

“Real Close Howie.”

van Gerwen threw a 9-darter and a 12-darter and lost the set 3-2 – when Wade took out 120. Unbelievable!

But van Gerwen took three of the next four sets for a place in the finals.

The “main event” for the night was penciled in as Phil Taylor against Raymond van Barneveld. Taylor-Barney played out not so much as a match between two greats but rather a lamb, Barney, being led to slaughter. Taylor took five of the first six sets with Barney appearing to have spent too much time in an Amsterdam “coffee shop.” There was an almost eerie quality to the match with Taylor never looking at Barney who himself sported the “1,000 mile stare.”

Pundits love to opine how Taylor starts slow and then gets stronger. Not true. After taking a 5-1 lead Taylor could have bid the semis a fond adieu but he missed two darts at double top allowing Barney to erase 66 for 5-2 down. It was 5-3 when Barney hung a 3-0 snyder on Taylor. The next set also went to Barney with a second leg that included a keen 125- finish of bull-outer bull- dead bull. Impossible!

The 10th set was all Taylor with a 100 exhibition finish of 20-double top-double top for the 6-3 win.

As Barney shook Taylor’s hand, Taylor pulled away.

Next Barney put his arm around Taylor only to be pushed away.

Taylor appeared angry. Barney befuddled.

As they started to walk off stage Barney again attempted to talk to Taylor and again was dismissed.

Taylor stalked off stage like spoiled brat.

van Barneveld attempted to follow but a PDC suit intercepted, delaying Barney until Taylor disappeared behind the black curtain.

Taylor acted like the north end of a horse traveling south.

The ODC received an email asking, “What went on with Taylor?”

“He appeared to be an old lion with a sore tooth… Grouchy.”

Next came the post match interview with Taylor, conducted by good guy Dave Clark.

“Phil what happened up there?”

“Tommy Cox said nothing happened so nothing happened. I don’t want any more questions.”

Phil Taylor being Phil Taylor, the subject was dropped. For those not familiar with Tommy Cox, he serves as Tournament Director for the PDC. He’s a no nonsense guy who it’s claimed once smiled. The fact can’t verified. The ODC ran afoul of Cox in 2000 getting hired and fired. You mess with Tommy Cox at your own peril.

Cox probably has had as much to do with changing the public image of professional darts as anyone. He’s taken soccer hooligan-like characters drinking beer, smoking fags and acting like spoiled children and recast them for the TV cameras, most of the time, to at least appear like gentleman sportsman. Try that script Hollywood.

Cox’s knows that it’s the image of “sportsman” that yields advertising money. This allows players to compete in the Ladbrokes for more than a million pounds. If professional dart players were putting up their own money they’d be playing for a couple of gallons of paint as they did one year for the British Open.

Hence it’s extremely doubtful that Cox said, “Nothing happened.”

The following day the PDC issued a statement asking one not to believe “their lying eyes.” “Taylor has since contacted van Barneveld to apologize for the misunderstanding after being pulled off-balance by his Dutch rival’s handshake.”

“I’m over the moon to be in the final but I’m disappointed with my behavior at the end of the game. Raymond’s a big lad and he has a strong handshake, and when he pulled me he it hurt me. I reacted wrongly and I’m ashamed of that because I really like Raymond. I’m gutted about what happened. It’s upset a lot of people and it’s also upset me.”

What a load. It upset a LOT of people and one person in particular: Mr. Tommy Cox. Not a good idea.

Following all this, in a Hollywood script Michael van Gerwen would have taken his first world championship over Phil Taylor. van Gerwen would have lifted the Sid Waddell Cup and accepted the £200,000 first place check. MVG the “white hat” and Taylor the “black hat.” ‘Twas not to be as sport writes its own scripts…

Despite a Taylor 170-finish to start the match van Gerwen would lead 2-0 and 4-2. It could have been 5-2 except van Gerwen missed a double 16. It became 4-3 when Taylor hit tops. The next set also went to Taylor with a 136-check following a van Gerwen missed double.

The 9thh set and a 5-4 lead went to Taylor thanks to a pair of 11-darters and a double top. The next set also landed in Taylor’s column, 3-1, and included another 11-darter along with a 106-check for MVG. van Gerwen’s last gasp came with a 13-darter for leg one of the final set. Taylor answered in 13 to level at one. Opportunity knocked for MVG in the next leg with four chances for the win. He couldn’t convert with Taylor using five darts for the leg. With the air out of the MVG balloon, Taylor tossed 174 and 91-out for his 16th title.

“The 52-year-old Stoke great emerged victorious in one of the sport’s great matches to win his 16th World Championship title, although he was pushed all the way by a brilliant van Gerwen performance.”

Those are the official words that trumpeted Taylor’s victory. Was this “one of the sport’s greatest matches?” No. Taylor’s average of 103 was average Taylor. He had only two triple digit checkouts. MVG, who collected £100,000, assessed an average of 100 with four 100-plus checks. Knowledgeable viewers will have noticed that as the match progressed MVG was not throwing with the alacrity seen in his earlier matches.

One of the seminal scenes from the Anchorman takes place in the newsroom when Ron Burgundy asks Veronica out on the first date. She accepts. His reaction is a very apparent physical condition politely explained as “if the condition remains after 4 hours call your doctor.”

Phil Taylor would remark when accepting his trophy, “There was a 180 when the crowd were singing Sid Waddell’s name and I looked up and thought he’d put that in for me, and also Bruce Spendley (who refereed the final) was retiring too and him being on stage at the end meant a lot to me.”

Think anyone but Taylor had a Ron Burgundy reaction?

Stay thirsty.

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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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