Column #HR158 Taylor pulls a Bristow

Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Column HR158
Taylor pulls a Bristow

Those out there in Tungsten Land who can read, even a little, know that newspapers are soon to be a thing of the past. The “news” in newspapers is a fiction now – it’s mostly opinion. Newspapers are as yesterday as feathered flights on brass darts.

The Old Dart Coach took a journalism class in high school, although he hides the effects of the teaching. On Day One of the class he was taught, “The first paragraph of any story must contain who, what, when, where, why and if space how.”

In the style of that now bygone era comes, “The sports of steel point darts in America is deader than Kelsey’s reproductive organ.  League have disappeared, tournaments have declined, interest lags, and machine darts have taken control.”

The late author Lewis Gizzard wrote a number of humorous books including Elvis is Dead and I Don’t Feel too Good. Lewis would have made a great dart player in the Golden Era of darts for his humor and view of life.

“Life is like a dogsled team. If you ain’t the lead dog the scenery never changes.”

Even though many steel players of quality don’t accept the fact, machine darts is the lead dog. The view is not pretty. The “why” should be no mystery although the answer is really not that  simple. Some cite the beginning of the decline of steel darts as when representatives of the ADO board left the Holiday Inn in Mundelein, Illinois, for a meeting with machine people in Wisconsin. That’s when they say the “dye was cast.”

The meeting was set up by the late Glenn Remick who was also an ADO Executive but also active in machine darts.  Following the meeting, the ADO told  the soft point industry, “Take your game and shove it.” The additional “We don’t need you” just added frosting to the humble that steel darts is eating now.

The meeting marked the beginning of the end for the “Golden Age” of darts in America.  But to blame it all on the ADO or one meeting would be unfair and wrong.  At the time, steel point was at its zenith with nothing but peaches and cream on the horizon carried by Unicorns. Darters were looking at the sport through multi-colored flights.

Steel darts is a sport supported by pubs where profit comes from selling beverages. It’s also very difficult to play at even a medium level. Along comes a machine dart game that provides income with every game and is easier to play (while taking about the same amount of space) with “bells and whistles” tossed in for good measure.  Throw in every “juke box and cigarette distributor” as a salesman for the machine game and the results were apparent – except to steel folks who never saw it coming. RIP steel darts.

Philip Douglas Taylor will never beat Michael van Gerwen in a meaningful dart match again. He’s done. History. Stick a fork in him. Butter the toast (or Vegemite for Aussies). While many have made that prediction for years the time has arrived, no less in front of a worldwide TV audience.

The latest big TV event was the Unibet Masters worth £60,000 held in Milton Keynes, not related to “Where’s my keys?”

The tournament started well for Taylor with a comparatively easy win against Jelle Klaasen (10-6) and a nail biter that took an 11-darter to beat Peter Wright 10-9. After the Klaasen win, Taylor was interviewed on TV by ITV’s Ned Boulting. Mr. Boulting seemed like a pleasant chap, knowing “Sweet Fanny Adams” about darts.  After the  usual, “Well, yes, I’m practicing harder than ever, I’m ready to win, blah, blah, blah,” Boulting asked…

“Are those new darts ?”

“Yes, see they have different colour so I know where to hold ’em. We locked Garry (Plummer) in a room with padlocks on the doors and told him he couldn’t come out till he designed a set of darts that felt good. Gary’s a genius. Took him 20 minutes, would have taken only 15 but he has a bad leg.”

Talk about a fish taking the bait. Mr. Boulting bit hook, line and sinker. Taylor had him on the line. British humour at its finest.  Mr. Boulting’s resume includes footbol (soccer) and cycling but darts probably won’t be added anytime soon.

Taylor started out like the Taylor of old against van Gerwen in the semis with  leads of 3-1, 7-4 and 9-6 – which didn’t hold as van Gerwen used finishes of 161, 144 and 130 levelled the match at nine. The devil is always  in the details.  Up 9-8, Taylor had his own Eric Bristow moment. For old Rich Noggin that reference would be to the Bristow-Deller Embassy final in 1983. Tied at five sets each with Deller leading two legs to one, Bristow wanted 121 with Deller on 138. Bristow hit a fat 17, then T18, leaving 50. Bristow then passed on the bull to leave 32 – which he never got a chance to throw at, as Deller took out 138 (60-54-12).

A few weeks later at the British Open, as Bristow was warming up the late John Markovic, Deller’s manager along with Dr. Linda Batten, were giving Eric a “bit of stick.” Bristow replied after one comment…

“I’d do the thing again.”

“And you’d lose again,” fired back Markovic.

In this case, Taylor needed 121 for a 10-8 lead. Van Gerwen was back at 144. Taylor nailed the T20 but declined the 11-bull route, setting up an “easier” double.  Van Gerwen punched out 144 for a level match at 9.

Taylor, hitting a 174 to set up D16 – which he erased – put him up 10-9 in the race to 11.  In what should have been the decider, Taylor missed D16, D8, D4 and D2 a total of seven darts for the win – and van Gerwen punished to tie and then tossed an 11-darter for the win.

Van Gerwen, who had never led in the match, grabbed a hold of the opportunity for the win like the Old Dart Coach does the two pieces for $1.49 at Popeye’s on Tuesday. Like the ODC, van Gerwen did it in style with a nifty 11-dart. All 11-darters are nifty. You could almost hear WC Fields saying…

“Philip, my boy, never give a sucker a break.”

Just like the Carolina Panthers in the Super Bowl, Phil Taylor choked on the big one. Their combined actions must have had the late Linda Lovelace aghast.

This column was dedicated to the memory of Steve Anderson who passed away recently. He was a good dart player and a member of the 1990 ADO Masters Team.  Howie - Steve AndersonBut he was a better human being. One year in Phoenix he finished second and was asked how he was doing…

“Okay,” he replied. “Finished second again, Just call me Second Place Steve.”

He may have had some seconds in darts but in life he was Number One. His infectious smile and pleasant demeanor brightened every room he entered. Now that smile’s in heaven. They’ll love him there him there just as we’ll miss him here. RIP Steve Anderson.

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.