Column #HR175 Darts and the Golden Age

Monday, August 8, 2016
Column HR175
Darts and the Golden Age

Last time…

“Marvelous” Michael van Gerwen had just won another major, the World Matchplay, as he knocked the stuffing out of Philip Douglas Taylor. The PDC is becoming King Michael and his Court.  Also when we were last together, the Old Dart Coach announced the release of his top-of-the-charts book, One Night while out Drinking with the Fat Swede, and confirmed that Subway has great sandwiches, just as his pal Annette has claimed.

We move on…

Recently, van Gerwen won the European Darts Open in style. Over 44 legs, his record was 30-14. Still, van Gerwen got a good struggle in the final against Peter “Snake Bite” Wright. van Gerwen built a 3-1 lead, then missed two darts to make it 4-1. As the late Bill “WC” Fields said, “Never  give a sucker a break.” He also said, “There’s a Ethiopian in the fuel supply,” which he couldn’t say today in this politically correct world.

Not that Wright’s a sucker, but he would accept the gift.

Wright would level at three only to see van Gerwen take two on the trot for 5-3.  Wright, who has the determination of a bulldog, fought back to level when van Gerwen lowered the hammer capturing his 13th tournament win of the year. Who said 13 was unlucky? Level at five, van  tossed 140, 180 with a 98-check for the “W”.

It has now been unofficially announced that the PDC is returning to Las Vegas next July. It’s rumored the dates will be July 11-17. The venue will be the “new and improved” Tropicana Hotel/Casino on the Vegas strip.  Dr. Linda Batten (aka “WB”) has volunteered to put together a reunion of darters from the “Golden Age of Darts” from both sides of the pond. Check out the reunion Facebook page at “Reunion 2017.”

Golden Age of Darts? Absolutely. Foreign players (mostly from the UK, but with a sprinkling of the usual Euro Trash – oh, lighten up for goodness sake) would invade each summer for the Golden Gate Classic, Peachtree, LA Open and the North American. The tour promised big money and even bigger parties. All now gone, relegated to the “bone yard of forgotten times.” Why? The darting landscape has dramatically changed.  Steel darts are in decline as machine darts ascends like a shooting star.

In their wisdom, the PDC has yet to announce the format for the return to the desert. While it’s a World Series of Darts event, North American players in any large number are unlikely to buy into the marketing line, “Pay an entry fee, play each other for the right to get your butt kicked by our ranked players.” But one can hope for the best.

As the Old Dart Coach was watching the opening of these Olympic Games, he thought back to 1984 and the Olympics in Las Angeles. The opening ceremonies were held as the darting elite descended on the Stockton Rod and Gun Club for the Riverboat Classic. It was Friday night and time for the blind draw. Walking in the Rod and Gun Club you immediately faced a bar, the main purpose of which (naturally) was to serve refreshing beverages.

A secondary purpose was soon discovered.  For a dollar you could purchase a card with five pull strips. Pull the strip to see if there was a money amount hidden. Sometimes nothing, sometimes a dollar, and, if lucky, maybe the grand prize of $600.

At the bar were Northern California darters Steve Payne, Paul Touchstone and the ODC – joined by non-drinking Dick McGinnis and Chicago’s Danny Pucillo. The $600 big payoff hadn’t yet been won, a fact the bartender confirmed, so a syndicate was formed.  Toss in $20, rip cards ’till we won, enjoy adult beverages and watch the opening of the Olympics.

There were rules. A winner had to buy a round of drinks, repay those who invested, and then split the money after taking 50%. As will happen with drinks, gaming, and  the opening ceremonies of the Olympics on TV, the guys ended up missing the blind draw. Point of fact: one concerned darter came to the bar and announced…

“Guy’s – it’s last call for sign-up. You’ll miss the blind draw.”

“No, we won’t,” replied Paul Touchstone.

As was bound to happen, Danny Pucillo hit the $600. “You’ll have to wait a bit – the owner has to open the safe,” the bartender announced.  Danny opted for a restroom break.  Danny had to have the weakest bladder in darts. Every time he got called to play he’d head for the head.  Sometimes he’d be in there until the third and final call. Funny that.

The money arrived and with no Danny the ODC accepted the $600.  He split it up according to the rules, bought a round of drinks and tipped the bartender $40.  Danny came back and was handed his share.

“Wait a minute. I’m $40 short.”

“Bought a run of drinks, gave everyone their share, tipped the bartender $40, and that’s your 50%.”

“The bartender got a $40 tip!” fumed Pucillo, as he took his money and left.  The four remaining continued to play. When each was in for $20, they hit a $350 payout, got the money, and decided to call it a night. Pucillo returned saying…

“Yeah, I guess the tip was all right. You guys still playing?”

“No, we just hit for $350 and quit.”

Now he was really mad.

The Olympics always conjure the question of why darts are not included. The answer is not simple, although the main reason is that those who long ran the World Darts Federation wanted no part of the Olympics. Why? Fear of not being in total control, unable to play God.

The ODC, then sitting as Thailand representative to the WDF, on his own contacted the U.S. Olympic Committee to find out how a sport became an Olympic sport.  With this information in hand, he then contacted the WDF with questions and received total BS in return. The ODC persisted in pressing the WDF and, finally, the Executive had enough. The WDF acted with their hallmark rigged vote, and the ODC was banished. Hell, when Donald J. Trump talks about rigged votes he ought to call the ODC, who can quote him chapter and verse.

Machine darts will be an Olympic sport before steel darts.

While watching the Olympics a thought came to the ODC. Women’s rugby is a new addition. His thought: If you formed a women’s rugby team made up of lady darters the rest of the world would tremble in fear. The U.S would be unbeatable.

The ODC had two final thoughts while watching the Olympics’ opening ceremony and thinking back to the Stockton Rod and Gun Club: the ODC is the only one left from that illustrious group at the bar in 1984 and “Children are the reason he doesn’t buy green bananas.”

Stay thirsty my friends.

The following two tabs change content below.
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.