Column #HR124 Tales from the Dark Side

Monday, November 3, 2014
Column HR124
Tales from the Dark Side

As advertised, the Old Dart Coach ventured to the Dark Side not once or twice but three times to celebrate All Hallows Eve. First it was a trip to a “toy dart” blind draw where he and some other non-playing pals helped the bar business. The account of that trip from the viewpoint of a popular Las Vegas popular sports columnist, Ron Kantowski, was printed in the Sunday Las Vegas Review Journal and can be found below.

But first, the ODC should explain his view on blind draws: he never played them. The good players never played because they didn’t want to draw a player of the caliber of the ODC.  The ODC didn’t want to enter for the same reason.

During the two visit to the “toy dart” tournament the ODC felt like Ricky Nelson on his 1970’s visit to Madison Square Garden. Out of that trip Ricky Nelson would write and record “Garden Party” the opening of which was “Went to a Garden Party… they didn’t recognize me… no one knew my name”.  That wasn’t actually true as one lady, Babs, asked,

“Are you Howie Reed?”

“No ma’am.”

Okay, a number of people muttered, “Isn’t that… AH… Howie Reed?”

It’s interesting to sometime take  step back and look at our sport the way others do. From the Las Vegas Review Journal

Bar finds target audience

I was surrounded by darts players, and by big women, and by an affable long-haired guy who trains elephants for a living. One supposes training elephants is not something one would do in his spare time, so it would have to be for a living.

This was around 7:30 on Thursday night at Crowbar off West Charleston Boulevard, behind the AMPM.

My darts-throwing pal had cautioned me about the big women. But not all the women were big. The one at the end of the bar, for instance. She was wearing a snug black tank top, with spaghetti straps. Alas, a guy sitting at the bar said she was the waitress.

This was at the official DARTSLIVE USA Open Early Warmup/Huge Blind Draw Pro-Am/High-Low/Double Elimination. That’s what it said on the flier. And here you thought some of these NASCAR races have long names.

The official DARTSLIVE USA Open would be beginning Friday at the Riviera. It would pay a guaranteed purse of $100,000. The pro-am did not pay nearly as well. But playing darts must be a lot of fun, even for small sums of money, because the joint was jumping.

DARTSLIVE is a company that makes coin-operated dart boards you sometimes see in bars. They have a lot of these coin-operated boards at Crowbar. The darts have soft tips, so you can’t “poke somebody’s eye out,” like my mom used to tell my brother and me when we would flip over the dartboard to the baseball side and practice Brandon Crawford relay throws from the dining room.

You can’t poke your eye out with a soft-tipped dart, or even stick one in somebody’s thigh. Perhaps that is why this form of darts throwing has become popular over the past 20 years or so, though the guaranteed $100,000 purses probably have something to do with it, too.

You can’t flip over the board to play baseball, however.

One of the cool things about a pro-am darts tournament, besides the buckets of beer and the big women, is that you can talk to the players while they are playing. Even the pros. You usually cannot speak to the pros at a golf pro-am while they are lining up putts, unless you deal cars for a living.

In darts, you don’t even have to replace the divots. And it’s OK to shout. In fact, I think it’s mandatory. Also, in darts, it’s hard to tell the pros from the car dealers, because everybody sort of dresses the same.

I could tell right away this one small guy must have been a pro, because his knowledge of English seemed limited, and because he wore glasses with white plastic frames – and because just about every soft-tipped dart he threw landed in the bull’s-eye. This was Royden Lam of Hong Kong.

His girlfriend, Winnie Chen, spoke English fluently. She said Royden is so good at throwing darts with soft tips that he has been awarded an exemption to throw real darts, the steel-tipped kind, against guys from England on the Pro Darts Corporation tour.

Guys such as Phil “The Power” Taylor, the only darts player I had heard of before Thursday, other than my brother.

I met Danny Delfino of Atlanta, formerly of Las Vegas and Hammond, Ind., because he once was a poker room supervisor for Caesars Entertainment Corp. and supervised poker on riverboat casinos. Now he’s a father and an electrician, because he didn’t want to raise his daughter in a casino. Delfino said the darts scene in Atlanta is not as vibrant as it is at Crowbar, at least not in the suburbs where he lives.

I met Larry Butler of Ohio. The “Bald Eagle” is the only American to win on the PDC Tour, in 1994. This is why a guy wearing a tropical shirt wanted him to sign a book about throwing darts that somebody else had written. 

Butler took a pull on a Bud Light. He said he is 0-4 against Phil Taylor on the other side of the pond but that he could probably beat The Power in Switzerland or some other neutral site. A lot of darts players do not lack for confidence.

I met a lot of the pros and also one or two of the big women, who were as friendly as the pros. And then I met Chuck Pankow of Nashville, Tenn. Chuck is the pro elephant trainer of whom I spoke, which may explain why he says the pressure of throwing darts on the circuit is sort of overrated. He trains elephants at the Nashville Zoo. He’s also worked with big cats and chimpanzees.

It was so loud at Crowbar that you had to shout questions. One was shouted about the qualities one must possess to throw darts on the circuit and/or to train elephants. One of the amateurs shouted back: “Lots of Jameson.”

Jameson is a brand of Irish whiskey.

By then it must have been 9 p.m., and a couple of names, but only a couple, were being written in magic marker on the giant bracket, which looked like an NCAA Tournament bracket with lots and lots of play-in games. The Bald Eagle could relate. He’s from Dayton, Ohio, home of the play-in game.

A Bud Light truck rumbled up. Reinforcements were called for.

It appeared the pros and the amateurs were going to be tossing soft-tipped darts all night, so I headed for the parking lot, where a lot of the darts players had spilled from the bar and were telling darts stories, or chatting up the big women.

A call to Kantowski’s office asking for clarification of  his “big women” comments was met with the official statement from his personal assistant, “Mr. Kantowski is in a very important meeting and will call you back.”

The ODC’s opinion is that like the Sage Of Sittingbourne, Dave Whitcombe, he’s in  the Witness Protection Program. Whitcombe’s in the program after he posted,

“Think I upset Delph Whitcombe this morning.”

I said “That’s Scary”.

How was I to know she wasn’t in Halloween makeup?”

Kantowski ? He reportedly has received a large number of phone calls from females with really deep voices saying , “I want to talk to that Kantowski guy.” Now those calls could be from rather large lady dart players or the local transgender community. Could go either way – no pun intended. Okay, intended.

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.
Howie Reed

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