Column #HR228 “High Hopes”

Friday, May 18, 2018
Column HR228
“High Hopes”

It was 20 years ago last week that Frank Sinatra died…

Recently, social media asked the question, “Why do Millennials like Frank Sinatra?” The Old Dart Coach answered without hesitation, “’Cause he could sing.” Seemed simple.

One of Sinatra’s big hits was “Fools Walk In (Where Angels Fear to Tread)” which he recorded with the Tommy Dorsey Band in 1940. That was the theme as the ODC, attired in a highly colored flowered shirt topped off with a bright fuchsia ball cap with an embroidered Mickey Mouse likeness on the front, entered the DARTSLIVE hall at the Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas…

…in an example that proves beyond any doubt that subtlety doesn’t always register with machine dart players (or E. Ron Deane) as not one person connected the hat with an “old time steel point” darter drinking $4 beers.

A $4 beer in Las Vegas is rarer than drawing to an inside straight and hitting it. Ned Hughes, one of the ODC’s former dart partners and owner of the Moonshine Beach House in Jomtien Beach, Thailand, took to Facebook to comment. “Being a retired pro I couldn’t agree more with your hat.”

Ned has a point but should recognize that machine darts takes a special talent. Sure, you don’t count or throw at almost anything but the bull but you still have to hold your nerve. It’s a different game.

Being a steel darter comes with the admonition that paying for a game is a cardinal sin. But until steel darts comes to the realization that there has to be money for league playing venues and money for players to have the chance to play against opponents of equal skill the game will continue to die a painful death. One would think that dart manufacturers would jump into the breach but they are too busy selling machine darts supplies. A buck’s a buck.

Ned’s response is not unusual coming from someone from the “Golden Age of Darts” (a term that the PDC’s John Part has adopted) when steel point darts ruled the world. As François-Marie Arouet, known by his nom de plume Voltaire, said, “It is hard to free fools from the chains they revere.” In North America steel point darts are as dead as Kelsey’s reproductive organ. How dead is that? Both Viagra and Calais have told Kelsey, “Sorry pal, your time is up.”

At DARTSLIVE Stage 1 in Las Vegas Leonard Gates from the great state of Texas faced off against Paul Lim, with the winner taking home $15,000. At this level, starting first in the best of 5 (701, cricket, cricket, 701, choice) is a big advantage especially considering the bull is seldom missed. In this match (which Gates won 3-2) it’s was Lim’s inability to close 19s that ultimately led to his loss. He used 4 darts to score only one 19. Gates had a field day coming from behind in the leg after Lim, going first, stroked 3 triple 20s. Gates closed out the winning leg with a 101 finish of bull, 1, bull. Thank you.

As predicted by the ODC, PDC pro Justin Pike dipped his toe in the machine darts water finding it cold and deep. He would lose in the round of 32 to Japan’s Kenichi Ajki.

On Thursday night at London’s 02, “Marvelous” Michael van Gerwen may well have played the greatest 11 legs in darting history taking the Premier Championship for the 4th time. Over the course of his 11-4 win over Michael Smith van Gerwen opened the final with legs of 12, 12 and 11 darts for a 3-nil lead. Smith hit tops to gain a leg which allowed him to breathe a sigh of relief. It was a brief respite as van Gerwen would then run off 5 more legs on the trot. At 8-1 down Smith, who had played well enough to make the match close against a normal human being, made 125 disappear bringing the score to 8-2. van Gerwen would answer with a 13-darter which Smith answered with a 14 dart finish. They traded legs until at 10-4 van Gerwen erased 112 for the title.

On the way to the finals van Gerwen sent “rookie” Rob Cross to the sidelines winning 10-6 after a 12 dart opening leg. As in the final van Gerwen built a big lead of 7-2 before Cross got a pair back. van Gerwen would stop Cross in his tracks moving to 9-4 with a 128-check. van Gerwen booked his place in the finals with a 15 darter.

Michael Smith got maybe his biggest win when he beat Gary “Gary Gary Gary” Anderson with a 10-6 win. Smith built an early lead 3-1 before Andersen came back to draw level at 4. Smith, who won the youth championship on the same stage the night van Gerwen won his first title, then ran off three winning legs to bring it to 7-4 (including an 11-darter with a 120-check). Anderson would narrow the lead to 8-6 only to have Smith get to one leg from victory with a 12-darter. Tops sealed Smith’s place in the final.

van Gerwen would take home £250,000 with an additional £25,000 earned as the league’s bonus leader. For Smith, he took away £125,000 and a new respect earned throughout this year’s Premier League play.

Some have complained that this year’s Premier league was nothing but a glorified traveling exhibition show…

This year’s Premier League was actually a firm message to PDC players that “new” blood must be recognized and respected. The two “rookies” that made the stage at the 02 announced their presence as quality players that will be heard from in the future. The “regulars” will have to come to the realization that there are “new faces” on the scene that won’t shirk when placed in the spotlight.

To quote Frank Sinatra again, they have “High Hopes” (and the ability to fulfill them).

They won’t knock on the door. They’ll kick it in.

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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