Column #HR238 World Matchplay – some questions answered, others remain

Monday, August 6, 2018
Column HR238
World Matchplay – some questions answered, others remain

Sometimes the best laid plans of mice and men – to say nothing of people that write of darts, as they’re too lazy for real work – go astray. As Huey Lewis sang, “This is it.”

The plan for World Matchplay was a “Blackpool Diary.” Then reality hit. The Old Dart Coach realized he was the wrong gender – no matter how he felt – and a little long in the tooth to type “Dear Diary.” Worst idea since the ODC tried to sing karaoke at the 1992 gala welcoming dinner for the Pacific Cup in Melbourne. That proved “aiming fluid” and “group tighter” didn’t help his darts or his ability to carry a tune.

On Sunday, July 29th, Gary Anderson added the final jewel to his triple crown resume – a 21-19 victory over Mensur Suljovic worth £115,000 plus £45,000 for the nine-darter he tossed against Joe Cullen. Prior to the final the experts, Phil Taylor and Wayne Mardle, predicted a close win. Spot on. They also predicted that Anderson would have the higher average with more T80’s. Suljovic had the higher average (104.43 to 101.12) and both produced 14 T80s.

The match had beaucoup scoring but checks of 100+ were rare – just 3 in 40 legs. The first 15 legs were nebbish. Suljovic lead 8-7. Anderson would open some daylight at 11-9 and 14-11. Then Anderson going for a bull on a set-up had two red bulls rejected. Anderson looked askance at the board, his darts and the “dart God” (who obviously lived off stage left). Anderson’s wry smile said “WTF” in any language. He won the leg, thanks to Suljovic squandering doubles. Both were somewhat discombobulated.

Anderson got to 17-13, two legs from victory when Suljovic ran 5 on the trot to lead 18-17. This would ignite the beer swilling crowd and transform what had been a rather pedantic (another word for nebbish) match into what became a “wingding doodle.” Anderson drew level with 99, T34, T34, 94 and out – a nifty 12 darter. Then in what could have been the coup de grâce, Anderson went T40, T40, T – leaving the dreaded 121. He followed with T20, T17 – leaving bull. The dart at the bull was a thing of beauty hitting the “lipstick” heading right only to find the inner wire and bounce out. As Anderson picked up what would have been the match winning dart he held out three fingers. This indicated either the three times in the match his darts were rejected by the bull or was the “one finger salute” to the Dart God.

On the way to the Phil Taylor Trophy, Anderson survived two missed darts from Joe Cullen taking out the “maybe” emerging star 19-17. In the semifinals Anderson eliminated another “maybe” future star, Dutchman Jeffrey de Zwaan, 17-12 to reach the final. de Zwaan provided the shock of the tournament in the opening round when he defeated Michael van Gerwen 10-6. de Zwaan came from 6-5 down with a 121 check to level, then ran off 4 for the “dagger to the heart.” de Zwaan also took out another former World Champion, Adrian Lewis, 11-9.

Do both “maybes” – Cullen and de Zwaan – have legitimate star power? Only time will tell.

The ODC got taken to the woodshed by a reader for comments last column out about Rob Cross. “You sometimes seem a bit harsh. Rob Cross is still learning.” True. Cross went out to Darren Webster 11-8. A learning process.

Daryl Gurney got an early Christmas present when Steve West, leading 7-1 in the race to 10, missed 11 match darts, losing 12-10.

After beating Kim Huybrechts (11-5), “Snakebite” Peter Wright said he “misses Phil Taylor as there are no more great players these days… easily tougher than van Gerwen.” He didn’t need to get out of bed to beat a lethargic Simon Whitlock 16-5. In the semifinals Wright would exit to   Mensur Suljovic 17-13. Wright’s last two matches were great arguments for either a shorter format, a “mercy rule” or justifiable homicide.

The ODC didn’t curry any favor with another reader when he wrote that Phil Taylor was only “okay” in his initial stint in the commentary box. Was he better this time around? Yes, indeed. Especially when teamed with John Part and an interlocutor.

Not everyone is enamored with the PDC’s “darts commentators.” The Great Mr. John Lowe is one of those. Quoting himself from the past, “I am ranked number 3 in the world, and you can’t get much higher than that – nonsense I know, maybe I would be a good darts commentator!” His point, “state the obvious making it seem like a divine revelation.”

No reader has asked, “Where does the ODC get off talking about darts commentators?” Been there done that. The ODC is the only darts commentator anywhere that has done darts on both ESPN (with Chris Berman) and TSN (The Canadian Sports network). Yes, offers of employment aren’t flooding in.

The game at the professional level has changed. Back in the day, using the bull to set up a double was a “no-no.” Going bull with two or three darts in your hand was an offense punishable by a firing squad or a fist sandwich. Mr. John Lowe tells of the time he was playing Ceri Morgan in the world championships. “I remember well finishing 5 legs against Ceri Morgan on the bull in the world championship. Tony Green the commentator said I was taking the piss. I said it was just another double, it’s now very acceptable.”

With the PDC’s midsummer classic in the books some questions are answered, and some remain to be…

American TV reported Gary Anderson’s 9-darter explaining, “It’s like a hole-in-one in golf.” No, it’s not. It’s possible to get a cheap hole-in-one – not so a 9-darter. You need 8 triples and a double. Period, end. Morons.

Was Gary Anderson winning average of 104.43 actually that much better than the 92.72 achieved by Larry Butler in 1994? Butler doesn’t think so. “92 on that board would easily be high 90s on today’s boards.”

Consider that in 1995 Phil Taylor beat Dennis Priestly 16-11 averaging 92.72, the same as Butler. The next year, Peter Evison beat the trice time loser on the trot, Dennis Priestly, 16-14 averaging 100.51. So, in one year Evison became that much better than Butler and Taylor?

Hello, new forgiving boards and better equipment.

Here’s something else you might like to ponder. The PDC has eliminated the walk-on girls that led the players in along with the girls on stage that danced around and jiggled their ample “pom-poms.” Some players walk on now and kiss males and females alike. After matches some hug and kiss. WTF is going on? Perhaps the PDC is going after a new audience?

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.