Column #HR103 The greatest match of all time?

Monday, December 2, 2013
Column HR103
The greatest match of all time?

A breath of fresh air… a lover stealing that first kiss… a fine wine in a crystal goblet or a cold beer on a summer’s day.  Oh yes, a romantic’s first love.

“A person remembers their first love”.

Not so the great philosopher – the ODC, says…

“The old usually remember their last love.  They can’t remember their first anything.”

Some moments are gone in a flash. Others linger to be savored and treasured.

In sport there linger many special moments.  Older Americans will never forget the late Russ Hodges’ radio call of the “shot heard ’round the world.”

At 3:58 in the afternoon on October 3, 1951 Bobby Thompson homered in the bottom of the 9th to send the New York Giants to the World Series.  The call?

“The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!”

Fast forward to February 22, 1980.  The semi finals for  hockey in the Olympics –  Russia versus  the USA.  America entered the third period down 3-2.  They scored to tie it at 3. Then the go-ahead goal. As time was running down Al Michaels made the call.

“Twenty-two seconds. You’ve got 10 seconds. The countdown going on right now! Morrow up to Silk. Five seconds left in the game.” And as the buzzer sounded ending the game, “DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES! YES!”

The greatest call ever.  If you don’t get chills something’s wrong. The Michaels’ call was perfect.  What the hell does this have to do with darts?

For darts players there are moments to remember. The first T80, the first meaningful double or just a great match.

The semi finals of the Grand Slam of Darts was special to all that watched.  Well those that weren’t so full of stupid fluid they couldn’t comprehend what was unfolding.

Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis engaged in a “wing-ding-doodle-slam-bang-what-the-hell’s-going-on” match for the ages.  For almost an hour anyone watching had to be in a state of shock.  This was a true heavyweight match where haymakers were the order of the day.

Was it the greatest match in the history of darts? Probably.

Did the darts speak for themselves? Yes.

Yet commentator Rod Studd yelled over and over and over, “This is  greatest match ever!”

Why?

Because he wasn’t up to the task.

Wayne Mardle the color commentator never forgot that darts is fun. Little Georgie Noble Jr., who is no longer that little, proved why he’s the best caller-referee there is.

In hindsight, always 20-20, this meeting between the two was different from the outset. They warmed up together backstage which is never done. Their demeanor on stage was of two pals – which they were at one time and may still be – having a game and a pint at the local. This meeting would put the winner in line for the £100,000 first place check.

Early on Mardle opined, “They seem like good buddies. I wonder how long that will last?”

He then answered his own question, “As long as Phil Taylor wants it to.”

Taylor has used the “buddy-pal-amigo” gambit many times, luring an opponent into his trap then slamming it shut. Ask Barney. Clever bastard that Taylor.

Lewis, rightly so, has a reputation for missing a couple of shots then going into a funk.  His darts do the same. Not this time.

At each break as they left the stage Lewis had Taylor in a bear hug, smiling and even kissing the top of his head. YUK.

Very seldom does Phil Taylor get outscored.  He did this time: 110.99 to 109.76.  Lewis had an astonishing 18 maximums and 33 scores of 100+ yet Taylor would win 16-9.

What the heck?

The ODC has come up with a statistic that might answer that question.  The checkout percentage is misleading. If a player uses three darts to hit a double the reported percentage is 33%.  But this is wrong. His percentage is 100%. The first two misses are irrelevant.  Lewis missed 9 darts in this match to win a leg he would lose.  Taylor missed 3.  That’s +6 for Taylor.  Taylor broke Lewis serve 8 times while losing 4 of his own.  That’s +4. Call it the “turnover” ratio or the “ODC Rule.”

Taylor broke fast with a pair of 12-darters for a 2-0 lead.  Lewis would win 3 on the trot helped when Taylor’s 177 left 110 which he would fail to erase with d15. Following the break Taylor would take three only to give 2 back.  The leg that tied it at 5 was a Rembrandt by Lewis.  He led off with a pair of T80s. Still, Taylor would have won the leg – but he threw a brick.  His third dart to finish 126 didn’t land. It had to – as Lewis then erased d16 for an 11-darter.

Lewis got his 9th T80, in 11 legs, sitting comfortably on 52 when Taylor would find the bull he missed in the previous leg to erase 167.  Lewis drew even at 6 with a 12-darter when Taylor missed d12.  Lewis reclaimed the lead with a spectacular 170 set up that left 32. They would split the next two legs with T80s aplenty – Lewis had 3 and Taylor 2.  They would hold serve – Taylor with a d3 after which he displayed a grin as if to say, “Easy huh?”

After 15 legs the scoring averages were Taylor 112.19 with Lewis 114.92

Down 7-8 Taylor turned on “The Power.” Kind of.

He leveled with a 132 leaving 42. Then it was 9-8 Taylor with a break of throw finishing 88 on the bull.  That became 10-8 when Lewis missed a pair at tops and Taylor hit d5 with his third dart.  Of course that’s all he had.

Then it was 11-8 as Lewis wanted tops for a 160 check, but missed – but Taylor didn’t miss the  160 check.  Behind a pair of T80s Taylor won his 5th leg on the trot and took a 12-8 lead.  Taylor would go up 15-8 before Lewis would win another leg but then see the match end 16-9.

During this match commentator Rob Studd – nice stage name – repeatedly opined, “Robert Thornton has got to be loving this in the practice room,” implying that either Taylor or Lewis would be easy pickings in the finals to immediately follow.

Yea right!

That prediction looked golden as Thornton got to a finish first in leg 1. He missed bull at the end of an attempted 121.  Thornton then proceeded to miss 8 darts at a finish allowing Taylor four at a double to close the deal. He did. It’s as if Taylor was thinking, “You had your chance mate.”

Taylor then went through Thornton like a dose of salts building cushions of  5-1, 8-2 and 11-3 before winning 16-6.

Whether Lewis-Taylor was the greatest match of all time is debatable. But it did provide a lot of special moments.  According to the ODC it ranks right up there with himself having Ronnie Baxter down 0-1 in  N’Awlins.

Stay thirsty my friends.

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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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