Column #454 The Ultimate Book of Darts by “Sleepy” Kramer – a Review

The first thing you’ll notice when you pick up one of Anne “Sleepy” Kramer’s new books is its weight. It’s heavy.

At ten ounces it registers just three ounces shy of a can of Budweiser or about one four-thousandth the estimated weight of the dart player featured on page 227. Yep, this is one heavy-ass book – but it’s not full of hot air, like the player featured on page 227.

After a quick flip through the pages the second thing you’ll notice is that there are a lot of photographs of players. A lot. I counted 67 of them. Pretty much every player born between 1926 and yesterday is captured in four-color brilliance – unless that player’s name is Larry Butler.

For some reason this most consistent player of the past three decades and the only American ever to win a world title is pretty much a non-entity between the covers (mentioned only in tournament results – there’s no way to avoid that). I can only assume that at some point in history at some tournament in some city between the covers in some hotel room something went horribly wrong and the Sleepy One and the Bald Eagle had a falling out.

Apparently the opposite is the case with Paul Lim whose mug appears nine times. You know what they say about those dudes from Singapore.

And then there’s Julie Nicoll-Jennings. There are five photos of her (all gorgeous as ever). I don’t know what this might mean, although I do like imagining.

Far and away though the best photo of all is one of the Sleepy One herself – dancing naked in a bar in Juarez. The book is worth every cent of the purchase price just to see this!

At roughly 75,000 words, The Ultimate Book of Darts is about a sixth as long as Tolstoy’s epic 460,000-word War and Peace – one of the ten longest books ever written (which I have owned since high school, never read and will never read because it’s as boring as shit). The exact opposite must be said of Kramer’s effort. And now I am being serious.

The Sleepy One has penned a winner. A real winner! But don’t take it from me…

Here’s how the player featured on page 227 described the book in a recent Facebook post (one of 2,109 that he logged while woofin’ down a muffuletta during a half-hour lunch break on October 4th), “Mais me, dat nekkid pic of Sleepy… damn, she be as purdy as a mud boat in da swamp. Da book be good too. I guarantee dat.”

Yep, regardless of one’s level of play, this book has something to offer. It grounds itself right away with a bit of history and moves quickly into a fourteen-page discussion of gear – the sum of which is (beware – here comes a spoiler): to play darts you need a dart.

This book has it all. From chapters on form, mechanics, the mental game, practice routines (including an excellent interview with George Silberzahn), league and professional play, and more – often accented with words of wisdom the author has picked up from top players during twenty years of competition – the Sleepy One shares the basics in a relaxed, very easy-to-digest format. There are fresh discussions – found nowhere else that I am aware – of the influence of television and the Internet on our sport and the soft-tip revolution. And there are thorough presentations of both American and world tournament history – just plain terrific walks down Memory Lane.

From my vantage point the strongest parts of the book (no doubt they will also prove to be the most popular) are the interviews with and advice from players found in chapters 15 and 16. Silberzahn employed a similar technique in 2008 in his best-selling second edition of How to Master the Sport of Darts. After sharing old but important subjects in a very readable fashion, for extra and extremely effective measure Silberzahn reinforced his main messages by yielding more than half of the space between the covers to first-person bits of wisdom from some of the icons of the sport of darts in America.

As if to say “Hey, if you still don’t get it, don’t take it from me – listen to these guys,” he handed a big, fat pad of paper and a brand new pen to nine of the most accomplished darters ever to step to the line in this country: Joe Baltadonis, Conrad Daniels, Frank Ennis, Ray Fischer, Bob Theide, Jerry Umberger, Danny Valletto, Helen Scheerbaum and Julie Nicoll-Jennings.

anne-kramer-darts-bookThe Sleepy One has done the same thing. It works! I loved it!

Umberger (looking as fit and trim as ever) talks about learning out-shot combinations, practice routines, being comfortable with your equipment and sportsmanship. Nicoll-Jennings (HOLY CRAP – I simply must get her into a bar in Juarez) talks about passion, improving your game by playing better players and, like Umberger, learning out-shots and sportsmanship. Have fun they admonish!

Their words are echoed by many others…

On practice. “When practicing, have goals…” (Darin Young). “When you think you’ve practiced enough, practice some more…” (Ken MacNeil). “Practice… you cannot forget to practice…” (Cindy Hayhurst). “PRACTICE… PRACTICE… PRACTICE!” (Benny Dersch).

Sportsmanship. “My first bit of advice… show good sportsmanship. Be considerate; shake hands before and after, even if you lose.” (Umberger) “Most important, sportsmanship. We all love this game so treat it with respect.” (Robbie Phillips) “Be a great sport whether you win or lose.” (Scott Wollaston)

Fun. “Don’t take yourself too seriously and enjoy the game and the experiences that come along with it. Life is short… live for the day.” (Bromberg) “Just try to remember the reason you started – for fun.” (Steve Brown) “Remember that darts is a game, that’s all it is. The friends you meet and play with and against are far more important.” (Marilyn Popp).

And perhaps the best advice of all, on reality. “Darts is just a game… to most people. For most that play darts, it will NEVER CHANGE YOUR LIFE! If you get focused on thinking it will I can guarantee it will cost you things in your life. I have done a lot in the game of darts but I can sit here and tell you way more things I have missed out on or gave up to do what I have done. I have seen the world and made a bunch of cash but looking back… I wish I had gone fishing more. So even though we should all strive to play better and do the work it takes just do not get caught up in the DREAM that you are going to be the next great one. Enjoy darts for what it is…. a game that allows you to meet others and have a good time with friends.” (David Fatum)

From history to gear to technique to etiquette to tournament results to a review of top world tournaments to a recounting of highlights of the old North American Open to a league and association list to a listing of some of the other books in the marketplace to an excellent review of what some players have done to organize charitable activities to even an abstract of an academic paper by Linda (Batten) Duffy (that she wrote while working to obtain her PhD in sports psychology) that explores differences between the sexes and possible reasons for difference in performance at the line Ann Kramer’s book is just plain cram-packed with information. There really is something for everybody, recreational to professional alike.

I found the section on charitable fundraising activities fascinating. Over the years I have donated to some of the causes discussed – like the iDart benefit for the Japanese players caught up in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, John Kuscynski’s annual Toys-4-Tots fundraisers, the benefit for ADO president Chris Helms after he fell off a roof in Texas, Bromberg’s Score for Charity for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Believe me when I say that the story of Miho Kadokawa’s fight to survive the tsunami – “her entire head under water… breathing through a straw” – is absolutely riveting. I was truly unaware.

Even the introduction which explains how Kramer gained the moniker “The Sleepy One” – now “SleepKramer” – was news to me. And it’s pretty damn funny.

Whatever your level of interest or play, whatever you have achieved or hope to achieve, if you love darts Anne Kramer’s The Ultimate Book of Darts deserves a place on your bookshelf. It’s author has been there and done it all – and she’s married to (a very mild mannered) someone who has been there and done it all.

So… go out and buy Kramer’s book today (just punch the title into any search engine). She needs the money – so she can pay me for this review. And I need the money so I can buy a few beers for my buddy who I may have pissed off in the first paragraph.

Of course, I may also need a few extra bucks for a trip to Juarez. Let me know Julie.

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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