Column #HR241 Paddy Power Champions League of Darts

Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Column HR241
Paddy Power Champions League of Darts

Many darters in America used to spend Sundays glued to the television screen watching NFL football. Now, there’s another option (one taken by the Old Dart Coach – after beers): watching the PDC on TV/computer. The latest event was the Paddy Power Champions League of Darts worth £100,000 to the winner.

A PDC critic called the event “an exhibition.” Granted it doesn’t garner PDC ranking points, but you can’t spend ranking points. The “Paddy Power” came to the Colonies and the world via the BBC (stream). The BBC has hitched its dart star to the PDC leaving the BDO scrambling for any TV exposure it can get for its major events like the Masters and the “BDO Small World Professional.”

The BBC is always understated in its presentation. Pronouncements are always subdued with just the proper amount of serious deep concern. Their darts coverage reflected that philosophy including “politically correct” hiring.

Their lady chat dart host Carolyn, who obviously didn’t get the memo about a foundation garment being up-lifting, was joined by Alan “Hyphenated” Warner (who added the hyphen and a few pounds since his stellar darting days). In addition to that mix for interviews was a gent wearing a shirt with only the top two buttons fastened and needing a shave and obviously on loan from the corner news agent.

The evening fans in Brighton were in full voice on Sunday eve expecting exciting darts. They got it in spades with an unbelievable comeback from the brink of disaster. The afternoon fans got a great game along with their autumnal lager. The event was played round robin in two groups. The final afternoon match in group A was between Michael van Gerwen and Gary Anderson. Anderson needed a win to advance to the semifinals. A loss and Daryl Gurney would move on.

Anderson broke on top leading 7-3, 7-6 and 9-7 in the race to 10. At 9-9 van Gerwen poured it on as Anderson seeming “hit the wall.” The final leg saw van Gerwen sitting on 76 with Anderson at 140. MvG hit the triple 20 to leave 16. He then missed d8 and d4. Anderson, using his own exhibition out chart, went T20, T20 and D10 to move on to the semis to face defending champion Mensur Suljovic.

Both van Gerwen and Anderson are a pure delight to watch as their facial expressions let you know exactly what they’re thinking. When Anderson took T40 his face said, “How about

That!” van Gerwen’s wry smile said, “Heck of a deal.”

Mensur Suljovic has to be the easiest PDC player to like. He genuinely appreciates being in the PDC. He sees it as a privilege. Standing on stage with “walk-on” music blaring (“Simply the Best”) Suljovic takes his right hand touching his heart and then swings his arm to include the crowd. He means it.

Suljovic was up 2-1 on Anderson, sitting on 46 with 3 darts in hand. Suljovic loves 28 so predictably he hit the solid 18 – his first at d14 was high his last hit solid 11. When Anderson took 40, with one dart, the air went out of the Suljovic’s sail and his boat capsized. He would lose 11-4.

The other semi, van Gerwen-Wright, was one for the ages. The “Marvelous One” went up 5-3 when it seemed the only thing Wright could hit was a double as he was 3 for 3. Wright loves the bull-out doing it better than others. He used a pair to level the match at 5. Wright fell behind 8-6, then broke van Gerwen twice to level at 8. Wright would lead for the first time at 9-8 taking out 83 with 17-16-Bull. He uses the bull like a magician uses a silk hat. At 10-9 Wright erased 92 with 25-51-d8 for the 11-9 win.

It wasn’t so much that Wright came back to win that was noteworthy. It’s the fact that over the first 8 legs Wright’s darts were horrid. One of Wright’s traits, besides dressing like a clown that no one would invite to a child’s birthday party, is his penchant for changing darts, flights and points, sometimes even during a match. This time it was “diamond pointed points” described as sparkling like “Liberace’s” loafers.

The Anderson-Wright final was anticlimactic after the drama of Anderson-van Gerwen and Wright-van Gerwen. “Anticlimactic?” That’s after the climax which usually calls for a beer and a cigarette.

Anderson, as cool as a Brighton autumnal breeze, strolled to a 6-1 lead at the break. Wright, as he had been against van Gerwen, seemed lost in a fog, unable to hit anything other than the board. It was plain that Wright had left his best in the semis.

The first break, after 7 legs, was not kind to Anderson as he came back colder than a January wind that chills Brighton residents to their very bones. Anderson got to 7 when Wright broke serve then held for 3-7 down. The next 5 legs were split 3-2 for Anderson as the crowd checked out, as had Wright. When the second break came at 10-5 Anderson was one leg from victory.

The dart chat lady, Carolyn, said, “There’s the feeling in the crowd that we better drink up as this is almost over.” She was spot on as Anderson would finish T80-T168 and d8 with his last 7.

The ODC has mentioned that the PDC always tries new approaches. At Brighton Paddy Power £50,000 was offered for a 9-darter, with a twist – the player would get £5,000 with the remaining £45,000 distributed to the crowd. Anderson had a chance with 7 perfect darts only to fall short with the 8th. The crowd responded with the anticipated Bronx cheer. Anderson took it with a wry smile indicating, “I had a good go at the 9-darter, I really tried for the fans” – which he articulated later in an interview.

Anderson can be forgiven for saying “I’m over the moon” as no one’s perfect. That’s especially true of the Old Dart Coach. Ever striving to improve, he perked up when he saw an advert on TV promising to make him smarter. With crayon – he’s not allowed to have sharp objects – and paper in hand he waited for the 800 number.

Order today. For just three equal payments of $49.95 you can improve.

“What a rip off!” he yelled to no one. “No way!”

See, he got smarter immediately.

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.