Column #HR183 Christmas Presents!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Column HR183
Christmas Presents!

‘Tis the time of year when we raise our voices on high to sing, “Deck the Halls with Balls from Holly.” Holly was formerly known as Hank but got a reality show out of the deal, along with the ultimate equipment change.
 
Old Rudolf’s getting ready for his run as darters everywhere have visions of doubles and triples – like sugar plums for small kids – dancing in their heads.  It’s Christmas time for darters around the world but particularly in North America and at the PDC (North American players will have to wait till July 11-12, 2017 to enjoy their gift).
 
The PDC gets their present now as the William Hill World Darts Championship began on December 15th. The event at London’s Alexandra Palace carries a prize fund of £1.65 million in prize money, which in US dollars is $2,041,752 and a meaningless 50 cents. Then, they went to the mantel – where their stockings were hung  – to find  a  prize fund for next year of £11.2 million.  As the Pater use to say, “Them that has, gets.”
 
Either “Marvellous” Michael van Gerwen, Phil Taylor, Gary Anderson or Peter ”Snakebite” Wright will take home £350,000 for winning this year’s World Championship.  The first round lasts till December 23rd when the players break for Christmas.
 
With 72 players from 22 nations, most everyone in the darting world will have an early rooting interest, although for most countries that will be short lived. By the second round, the “wheat will be separated from the chaff. That quote of course comes from Matthew 3:12. “Matthew from the Good Book.”
 
Gary Anderson is the reigning champion, the #2 seed, and a good bet at 6-1. Top seed “Marvellous” Michael van Gerwen  has yet to win the World Championships, getting close in 2013 only to lose to Phil Taylor 7-4.  He’s won darn near everything this year including the “Telly Savalas Haircut Award” so betting against him would be a fool’s project.
 
TV Commentator John Part made an excellent point during Phil Taylor’s hammering of David Platt who went “splat” losing 3-0.  “Platt went Splat.” As Taylor was on his way to registering a 102 average Part said, “They (players) will say they want to play Taylor, Van Gerwen or Anderson but they don’t really mean it.”  To help Part out the Old Dart Coach added, “…in the finals.”
 
As Taylor was having his way with Platt on his way to a snyder, the Oceania Masters winner Platt was hanging by a thin thread. Then he tossed a T80 which seemed to put a little bounce in his “death march step.”  Taylor followed with a T80. Bounce gone.  That’s what champions do. They take the ever-loving air out of the sails. 
 
It’s great to watch, not only for the darts but for the costumes on display.  The World Championships are  a two-week Halloween dressing contest. Where else can you see 5 chickens dancing, a plentiful supply serapes, sombreros and fake moustaches, and some good darts?  Nowhere, baby.  The telecast does miss Eric Bristow who’s been sent to the “sin bin.” He was hired to speak his mind.  Then got fired for doing it. Hypocritical bastards. 
 
Ireland’s #1 dart fan Tom Firth kind of agrees. “Probably I would be like Eric and go back and sort out these abusers but it never happened when I was involved in all sports from a very young age. I wish Eric the best for the future and think Sky should reconsider their actions as he is not the culprit here.” 
 
North American darters found an early Christmas present with the announcement of the details for the PDC visit to Las Vegas in July.  It’s a welcome visit which is bringing cheers, particularly via Facebook headlines which blared…
 
“HUGE $160,700 prize fund for PDC World Series of Darts Festival in Las Vegas.”
 
What a great Christmas present. Upon further review, it may be the battery operated present without batteries as the devil is always in the details.  What can be wrong with four “North American Qualifiers” with a $100 dollar entry fee each that pays $1,000 for winning and a place in the U.S Dart Masters and the North American Championships?  In addition, the 4 players that have won the most money in the Qualifiers will also qualify for the North American Championships on July 13 and the U.S. Dart Masters.
 
No problemo. What’s the problem? Well there is the caveat that to play in the North American qualifiers a player must be registered at the Tropicana Hotel for the nights of July 10-11 and be either a Canadian or American citizen. Seems more than fair.  With the Tropicana being the official hotel that means the Casa de Old Dart Coach is not an alternate sleeping venue.
 
The caveat that only players from North America can play in the qualifier keep those PDC players not in the top 8 of the PDC at home. If anyone could play a great bet would be that PDC players would flood Vegas and the qualifiers. Nicely done PDC.
 
For the average North American player there is a rule that is a nod to them. The draws for the Qualifiers will be “open.”  With  the prize structure of last 64 paying $100 and last 32 paying $200 it’s a win-win and a drawing contest. There’s the chance of a couple of  “toughs” drawing each other with good league payers actually getting the chance to advance and cash a check.
 
So upon further review it’s a Christmas present with batteries.    
 
For North American players who have been whining like “Hillary democrats” about the PDC not doing enough “for us” it’s time to put up or shut up. Show up now or forever hold your tongue. Like there’s a chance of that. It’s a party. Costumes optional.
 
This time of year it’s always appropriate for a feel good story. Many years ago, there were some very good darters from the Chicago area. One of them was Frank Lopez who doubled as a “professional musician.”  He recently took his wife Mary on a cruise. He writes about one night on the ship…
 
“There’s an English pub on this ship with a dart board. A couple of Brits were playing a good game of darts and beating a few of the locals on the ship. After not picking up my darts for about 2 or 3 years, I decided to challenge them and ended up whipping everyone’s ass that I played. Felt like the old days.”
 
Another great present for American darters. An older player whipping the Brits at their own game.

For all darters – Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
 
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.