Author Archives: Dartoid

September 2020 Double Out Shot: Kelly Rohrbach




Column #592 Setting the record straight, again!

Thursday, August 20, 2020
Column 592
Setting the record straight, again!

After almost 25 years of publishing columns and books about darts it should come as no surprise that I am asked a lot of questions – but not about darts. Most often I am asked about women and elephants. I suppose this is because it’s so widely known, at least by those who’ve seen me compete, that I don’t know Jack Shit about darts.

The truth is I don’t know squat about women either. Find me someone who claims they do, and I’ll find you someone who says they’ve thrown five 180’s in a row. They’d both be lying sacks of dog poo.

I do know something about elephants. More on that in a moment.

SEX SELLS

Let’s get this straight. The Double Out Shots that appear each month at this website were not my idea. The idea – and it’s a frickin’ great one – came years ago from Australia’s Kevin Berlyn. So, if you want to call someone a “vulgar, sexist pig” he’s your main man. But he’s also one smart dude.

Berlyn understands that our sport needs more than just fancy stages like that big orange and purple thing the PDC used to erect in Las Vegas. The sport needs more than a bunch of big money tournaments at casinos. It needs more than tuxedo-clad Masters of Ceremony like John McDonald and booming-voice callers like Russ Bray. It needs more than gigantic electronic scoreboards, fog machines, walk-on music and walk-on girls. As incredibly attractive as Sid Waddell was, he was just not enough!

The sport needs sex appeal and it needs it on the line.

“If you build it, they will come,” whispered the mysterious voice to Ray Kinsella in Field of Dreams. “Bring on the BABES,” say I “and the audience will tune in.” Bring on Jess Nicoll. Bring on Charity Buntz, Tee Ruleman, Julie Heckman, Christina Oakley, Holly Young, Tina DiGregorio and Keri Stevenson. Find Lori Verrier for chrissake! Get some MUD!

Okay, skip the mud.

If you want to attract a television audience it’s past time somebody (besides the producers of Dancing with the Stars, Kevin Berlyn and, yes, Dartoid’s World) remembered that sex sells. It’s selling tennis. It’s selling golf. It’s selling soccer. It’s selling swimming. It’s selling volleyball. It’s even selling poker (Google “Shannon Elizabeth” if you doubt me).

I don’t care how you do it. And it doesn’t matter a whit where any of the ladies I have named are rated in the American Darts Organization’s (ADO) points standings. Does the ADO still exist?

If you want darts to pull in the television ratings you have to make darts sexy – and with all due respect to you ladies out there who don’t fall out of your halter tops when you set up at the oche, this is just the way it is.

Athletic performance alone is not enough to build strong ties between players and the fans. Men (who comprise over 70% of the sports viewing audience in this country) want to see near-naked women. We’re sickos perhaps but were not the only ones.

The ladies are sickos too. Make no mistake about it.

Just as Anna Kournikova, Lisa Harrison, Heather Mitts, Jenny Thompson, Lokelani McMichael, Michelle Wie, Gabriel Reece, Laila Ali and Danica Patrick have contributed to the television appeal of their sports by drawing in the male audience, sexy men have contributed to the television appeal of their sports by drawing in the female audience.

Just try telling me that women didn’t tune in to watch Michael Jordan – or that they flipped the channel when he appeared in a boxer commercial. Just try telling me that women are not drawn to David Beckham, Tom Brady, Alex Rodriguez, Ian Thorpe, Andy Roddick, Jason Taylor and Jose Theodore for more than their sporting skill (or their money). It’s simply not so.

It could be the same in darts.

Nicknames like The Power, The Wizard, and Voltage are not enticing enough (what they are is stupid), 180s and even perfect games are not spectacular enough to pull in the crowd. None of this, no matter how well framed with stage props and pizzazz, can mask the reality that darts players, at least most of those at the top of the ranks, have an image problem.

Anna Kournikova never won a Grand Slam (singles) tennis tournament, but more television viewers turned in to watch her in her heyday than tuned in to watch the men. Jason Taylor probably has a trophy room the size of my house, but I assure you that women who don’t know the different between a touchdown and a home run tuned in in droves after watching him foxtrot in prime time.

What the sport of darts needs to garner a viewing audience is players, men and women, with sex appeal, personality, and skill and not necessarily in that order. Darts fans are just not going to tune in to see some tattooed fat boy in a beer-stained shirt fill up the triple twenty. They just aren’t.

But they will tune in – I flat-out guarantee it – if the promotion for a darts tournament were to feature the appearance of, say, Mieke de Boer, who posed for Playboy in The Netherlands in 2005 and who won the World Darts Trophy and the British Open in 2002.

Now, let me name some of the male darts players women drool over…

I don’t know why exactly (really, I don’t) but women I know frequently talk (just like the men do about some of the ladies), about Bill Bell, Rob Heckman, Dan Zimmerman, Roger Carter, Bob Gargan and Brad Wethington. This is absolutely all I’m going to say about the men because it gives me the CREEPS!

But the fact remains, whether people want to admit it, or accept it or not, just as the sport needs to market the babes it also must market the pretty boys.

Now, there are some who say none of this matters, that there is no market for televised darts in America and they are – how do I put this diplomatically… idiots.

Was there a market for women’s basketball? Of course, there was, but it wasn’t realized until there was professional marketing. Recognize, for example, that the market for women’s tennis was much smaller than for the men until it was marketed with sex-appeal. The Wimbledon women’s final now pulls more television viewers than the men’s single final. This didn’t just happen. It’s happening because of a plan. The same applies to women’s golf. The Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) has a formal five-point plan to attract more fans. One of the points in that plan is to market sex-appeal. The same goes for volleyball. The transition to short skirts and skimpy outfits in these sports occurred by design and it opened the television market.

Of course, there is a market for televised darts in America! If there wasn’t the PDC wouldn’t have tromped from coast to coast investing money trying to crack the market. Despite what most would call lackluster at best (in terms of both promotion and production) the old World Series of Darts premier episode drew nearly half as many viewers as an average airing of the World Series of Poker.

The World Series of Darts was not a bust. The result simply underscored the opportunity that is there for the taking. The sports business in this country is no less an entertainment machine than the film and music industries. And just like the film and music industries, the sports business is looking for sexy celebrities.

Once the sport of darts is marketed to television executives with words and images the executives understand – yes, sex appeal – the market will expand and from that, since advertisers are interested in the exact same thing, will come the opportunity to convince potential sponsors to step to the plate.

Now, I know that to some the very concept of marketing sex appeal is an anathema. The promotion of athletes, particularly women, on the basis, even in part, of sex appeal is considered by some to diminish their abilities. It poisons the minds of little girls (apparently causing them to dream of posing nude for Playboy). It’s unfair for someone like Michael Jordan to make millions wearing next to nothing in commercials while Brandi Chastain was chastised for flashing her sports bra.

Crap, all of it. Sorry folks. Live with it. Athletes in the ancient Olympic Games competed in the nude. Today most of our female athletes, dressed modestly as most do, would probably be stoned in many countries in the Middle East. It’s an inconsistent world.

Anna Kournikova may never have won a Grand Slam tennis tournament, but she’s made millions off her well marketed sexy image – the number of Americans and others worldwide who watch televised tournaments have increased. Kournikova helped her sport and it was no accident.

Her game plan was genius and it was founded on the one concept that is, always has been and always will be consistent in this world: sex sells. This is the same game plan that is needed to take the sport of darts to the Big Time in America.

It all comes back to sex appeal. That’s what sells. It always has and it always will. Sex appeal is selling frickin’ everything and it has been since the day Eve snagged Adam by sauntering into the Garden of Eden in that cute little Victoria’s Secret number. And Double Out Girls are attracting readers to Dartoid’s World. Just yesterday somebody clicked on this month’s Double Out shot 2,116 times. His name was Howie Reed.

It is sex appeal that is the key to the future of darts promotion.

ELEPHANTS

Second only to being asked about and sometimes criticized for featuring scantily clad women at this website I receive questions about the time I threw darts against an elephant at the Nong Nooch Botanical Garden in Pattaya, Thailand. Most often the questions come in the form of condemnation from animal rights activists such as those who support the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which it is worth noting, for years used sex-appeal – completely naked women – to draw attention to their anti-fur campaign. It’s also worth noting that the strategy has been incredibly successful.

In real life I am a fundraising consultant to animal protection organizations.

I care about animals. I have two dogs – one is a rescue who I carried back from Romania. My wife and I put food out every day for squirrels, racoons, opossum and birds. Even rats.

I have been involved in elephant issues for twenty years. I am very familiar with the cruelty involved in training elephants to perform in zoos and circuses. Years ago, a colleague and I worked with Ian Douglas Hamilton, Cynthia Moss and others to strike a deal to end the Kruger elephant cull in South Africa (my colleague did far more than me!). I have been involved in zoo elephant issues from Bombay to Manila and Hanoi. And I am intimately aware of related issues in Thailand. I was the person most directly responsible for negotiating the deal to enact an ordinance to have elephants removed from begging in the streets in several of the major cities there.

The situation in Thailand is unique. The relationship of the people with elephants is tightly intertwined. Years ago, elephants were used as tanks in war. They were then used as trucks in the commercial logging industry. An estimated 4,000 elephants live today at monasteries where they spend their entire lives revered – while being eternally chained by the leg to trees through the heat and monsoons.

When the logging industry was banned (even chain saws are outlawed today) the “unemployed” elephants and their handlers (destitute people known as mahouts) resorted to begging in the streets, where late at night the elephants would wander the streets with their handlers, eat trash and cigarette butts and beg; the payer of a few baht would feed the elephant a slice a fruit and then walk underneath the elephant’s legs for good luck. The ordinance I worked to have passed made this illegal. The quid pro quo was to arrange for small sanctuaries where the mahouts and their (already trained) elephants could live, eat, and quite literally survive by entertaining locals and tourists. It was a creative, although not perfect, solution to a terrible situation.

Today, there are few options for elephants in Thailand. There are very few left in the wild. There are some in zoos who live a miserable existence, waiting to die. There are those at the monasteries whose existence is no better than the life of those at the zoos.

And then there are elephants such as the one I threw darts with (Omsin) – who are the few remaining of those who once walked the streets at night. Except for the lucky elephants who have found their way to legitimate sanctuaries (there are very few) these elephants are far and away the best treated. Indeed, the first time I visited Nong Nooch there were no elephants. Now there are and they wander a very large area, have a lake, nutritious food, and are cared for constantly by their handlers (the same mahouts who used to walk them through the streets at night to beg to survive).

As someone who understands the issue and has been involved in many aspects of it for more than 30 years, particularly in Thailand, I do not believe that what I did was inconsistent with what many who care about elephants might do if they fully appreciated the intricacies of the situation in Thailand. You can be certain that did I not feel this way I would never have agreed to play darts with Omsin.

Omsin, and other elephants were unmercifully beaten into submission with bull hooks. This is a fact. This is what was done to turn them into tanks, trucks, and street beggars. This is what is done to elephants worldwide to force them to behave in zoos and perform unnatural tricks in circuses. This is what was done to make Omsin into a darts throwing phenomenon. Yes, it is horrible – yet in Thailand and in many situations, it is a fact of survival.

I do not accept that throwing darts with an already trained elephant suggests that I in any way condone cruelty to elephants, or any animal. I do not accept that throwing darts against an already trained elephant glorifies abuse any more than any rational person would accept that eating tofu shaped and flavored like meat glorifies eating meat or wearing a faux fur glorifies trapping, killing and skinning an animal to wear it.

But none of this holds water with many animal rights activists. I am a bad guy. I am “unethical” and “hypocritical” and I “exploited” Omsin and all animals just as they, in the case of PETA, “exploit” women. I vehemently disagree – I support PETA’s strategy just as I champion the same strategy to promote darts. Sex appeal sells. Controversy sells. Neither qualifies as “exploitation.” If throwing darts against an already trained elephant in a unique culture like Thailand to promote darts works then that’s fine by me.

Yet, I nearly lost a client because of it.

My efforts to discuss my point of view and to listen to the point of view of others were rebuffed and ridiculed. Unfortunately, this is the signature response of some in the animal rights (not animal welfare) movement. Self-righteous denunciation, holier than thou intolerance. It’s either their way or the highway. Either agree or you’re the enemy. They hurt their own cause as a result.

So, I made the decision. Quoting Winston Churchill’s address to Harrow School in 1941, I informed them that due to “convictions of honour and good sense” I was moving on, that they would have to find someone else to represent them.

It’s the same in darts. Soft-tip players are renegades – the game isn’t pure. It’s Tupperware. It’s a toy. The targets are too big. Bounce outs count. We shouldn’t have to pay to play. Bullshit.

To call someone names simply because you do not agree with them only drives a wedge and to do so suggests that that is one’s intent. To recognize that just possibly the person with whom you disagree might have some kind of point or at least a rational perspective (whether you agree or not) and to make an effort to explore that possibility is the only way to find common ground – or to truly agree to disagree. In many cases, perhaps most, it’s safe to say that conversation instead of condemnation will lead to a finding that those who have opposing viewpoints have far, far more upon which they agree than disagree.

Politics aside, I believe and I would think most would, as philosopher Tom Regan wrote, that “at the deepest level human ethics is based on the independent value of the individual” and therefore “all individuals have the right to be treated with respect.” Surely most animal rightists would agree with Regan that the “philosophy of animal rights demands that logic be respected… hence any argument that plausibly explains the right of humans to be treated with respect implies that non-human animals have this same right, and have it equally.” It’s odd that many animal rights activists don’t respect one of the most basic tenants of their own philosophy.

If we – those who condemn me for throwing darts with an elephant – agree on the above, then perhaps we might both find a way to embrace the concept of respect in our dealings with each other. I know I have tried to understand – and certainly respect – the view of those who have condemned my throwing darts with Omsin.

I came out of animal welfare and that is the vantage point from which I have long viewed the elephant situation in Thailand, and still do. The solution to the street elephant problem there was an animal welfare solution. Of course, it wasn’t perfect. But it was the only solution, regardless of what some animal rights activists who’ve never even been to the country proclaim.

Tom Regan also wrote that “merely to reform injustice is to prolong injustice” and that “when an injustice is absolute one must oppose it absolutely.” This applies across the board – to women’s suffrage, slavery, gay rights. Who could possibly disagree? But people must also be appreciate that women, slaves and those of a different sexual orientation didn’t achieve justice overnight, and in many ways still haven’t.

Those who have little more than a Wikipedia education on the mahouts and elephants in Thailand cannot possibly grasp the reality of the situation on the ground. An animal rights solution was not realistic – not in any way whatsoever. An abolitionist position would have only served to prolong the injustice. A hard-core position, no matter its purity, would not have resolved the issue. Far more was accomplished for both the elephants and their destitute handlers by fashioning an agreement than by trying to force an all or nothing solution. Any such attempt would have guaranteed no solution and the elephants would still be wandering the streets in the wee hours eating cigarette butts.

DARTS, SEX, and ELEPHANTS

PETA’s anti-fur campaign goal is to educate people to the cruelty associated with killing an animal to wear it. Who doesn’t care about animals? Certainly, PETA does. I certainly do – my dogs are my family, not my pets. I don’t own them – I am their guardian. Sex appeal, not disrespect for women, is effectively promoting PETA’s “I’d rather go naked than wear fur!” message.

If “Double Out” shots of pretty girls attract readers to Dartoid’s World and the purpose of Dartoid’s World is to promote darts – and it is – then, well… it ain’t “exploitation” or “vulgar,” or “sexist” – it’s Marketing 101.

If throwing darts against an already trained elephant in a basically Third World country attracts readers to Dartoid’s World and the purpose of Dartoid’s World is to promote darts then, again, it ain’t “unethical” or “shameful” or in some way promoting the abuse of animals.

Respect for women and animals and basic marketing are no more mutually exclusive than the motivation of soft-tip proponents is the antithesis of steel-tip purists: darts should be fun.

The bottom line in the Book of Dartoid’s World is if pretty women and elephants can help sell darts and soft-tip can attract hordes of new players to the line there ain’t a damn thing wrong with any of it.

Disagree with me if you wish. Condemn me if you choose. It’s your right. But I am not the enemy of women or elephants. I am a fan of both.

And darts.

From the Field,
Dartoid

August 2020 Double Out Shot: Maria Sharapova




Column #591 Remembering Stacy Bromberg on her birthday…

Monday, July 27, 2020
Column 591
Remembering Stacy Bromberg on her birthday…

A few years ago, at King David Mortuary in Las Vegas, Nevada, along with a couple hundred others from as far away as England and Japan, I said good-bye to one of my best friends ever.  Stacy Bromberg was just 60 years old.  She had battled cancer since 2012.

As the late, great Sid Waddell often described Phil Taylor, Stacy may have been the greatest female darts player “ever to draw breath” – certainly no North American comes close to or will ever challenge her accomplishments.  She toed the line against the best of the best – Francis Hoenselaar, Deta Hedman, Trina Gulliver, Tricia Wright, Anastasia Dobromyslova – and won her fair share.

She was a three-time world champion – indeed, upon her death on February 12, 2017, she wasn’t just the “former” Professional Darts Corporation’s (PDC) Ladies World Champion – she was the one and only and still reigning holder of that prestigious title.

As has been recalled so many times during that past several days, Stacy was also the American Darts Organization’s (ADO) top-ranked lady player 16 times (13 years in a row), a US National Team member 12 times, National Ladies 501 Champion 11 times, National Ladies Cricket Champion 4 times, and the 4-time Bullshooter Ladies Top Gun Champion and MVP.  In 2009, in addition to winning the World Cup singles in Charlotte, she won the inaugural Shanghai International Darts Open, dropping only one leg.  There is SO much more.

In 1999, Stacy was honored by Sports Illustrated as one of Nevada’s 50 greatest 20th-century athletes.

But you know, none of this was what was most important to Stacy.

She’d been a teacher, lawyer, and private detective.  She was an accomplished swimmer and tennis player in her younger days.  No doubt she could have excelled at most any sport.  She landed upon darts by accident, not design, and although she achieved all that a female currently can in the sport I have no doubt, had she been able to crawl into a time machine, she’d have chosen a different direction – a different sport, a different profession.

From the day she began to make her mark to her final hours she was given the cold shoulder and worse by the ADO.  She was screwed by the organization that is supposed to represent the sport and players in America and whose record books she smashed and rewrote forever and all time.  Current writings by certain ADO-associated people and talk of an official ADO award in her name would have disgusted Stacy.

When it could have, the ADO board chose to do absolutely nothing to intervene on Stacy’s behalf when she was unfairly disqualified by the World Darts Federation (WDF) from playing (and defending her title) at the 2011 World Cup in Ireland.  In fact, and even worse, all these years later it is clear that at least one ADO board member was complicit to the decision to declare her ineligible.

In Stacy’s own words…

In January (2011), I went to the WDF world ranked Rae Chesney tournament in Philadelphia.  I won the 501 singles. In February, I went to and won the 501 singles event in the WDF world ranked Las Vegas Open.  Then, in March, I attended the Virginia Beach Classic, another WDF world ranked tournament and won the 501 singles.  I was on fire.  It felt great!    I simply couldn’t wait to go to Ireland and defend my singles title.  I would be the “favorite.”  The “one” to beat!

But she never got the chance.

In Connecticut in August at the welcome party prior to the annual East-West Challenge, Stacy was pulled aside and summarily informed by an ADO official that she would not be able to defend her title.

Again in Stacy’s words…

I asked _____ about this and all _____ would say was “the board voted on it and that’s their decision.”  I asked _____ who “the board” was and was told by _____ that he “could not tell” me.  It was clear I was going to get no support from my own country’s ADO officials – especially since I was not taking another player’s spot who _____  didn’t want in the World Cup.

This is the reason – not illness – why Stacy was rarely ever seen again on the ADO tournament circuit.

Then last week, this same cowardly individual (as well as another ADO official and even a WDF representative) wrote glowingly about Stacy, as if they were all longtime buddies.

To echo Joseph Welch’s famous words to Senator Joseph McCarthy, “At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

No, what Stacy was most proud of was her work for charity, her friends (she used to say she “collected” them), and helping others – even those she barely knew.  This was the real Stacy Bromberg.  She was called “The Wish-Granter,” having raised $100,000+ for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.  This was a big deal to Stacy, but it was the little things she did that defined her, and she did them every day.

I traveled a fair bit with Stacy.  She knew her days were numbered – although we, I anyway, surely thought she had another six months or more.  She was working on her bucket list.  She’d say, “I don’t know if I have two weeks, two months or two years left – but I’m going to live every day to its fullest.”  Almost at a frenzy, from under the Northern Lights to Machu Picchu to Easter Island we knocked sights and experiences off her list.  With others she made it to Japan (her “special” place) to climb Mt. Fuji.  She got back to England one last time.  Niagara Falls.  With another friend she went to Costa Rica to zip line and swim with sharks.

While on Easter Island with her long-time friend and sponsor, Terry Maness of Horizon and Laserdarts, we met a retired couple from New Jersey who traveled the world.  Of course Stacy befriended them.  They told her the most sensational site they had ever seen was Iguazu Falls on the border of Argentina and Brazil.  Stacy and I had just started to plan this trip.

When we were watching the Northern Lights in North Pole, Alaska, Stacy saw me pick up a pebble and put it in my pocket.  She asked me what I was doing.  I said something like, “You collect friends; I collect rocks.”  She then said she did too.  But it was more than that…

It turned out that we had each seen a movie years before (With Honors – 1994) where a homeless man, Simon Wilder played by Joe Pesci, would occasionally pick up a pebble and save it in a pouch he carried in his pocket.  He would do this each time he experienced a key moment in his life.  The pebbles were his memories, good and bad.

Long ago, Stacy and I had each adopted this same practice.  Stacy told me about pebble memories she had in a small box at home – from the day she was married, divorced, her world championships, and more.  She also picked up a pebble in Alaska.  I saw her find one at Machu Picchu and on Easter Island…

Yet in all my travels with Stacy the sights and experiences we had seemed secondary.  Important yes – she absorbed every second.  But it was when she met new people that she really lit up – in an airport, on a plane, in a hotel lobby, a restaurant, or hiking on a trail.  Just as she was in a darts hall, Stacy was always talking and meeting people – “collecting friends.”

And she was constantly shopping – shopping for fake Rolexes, laser pen lights, and pirated DVDs in Shanghai… little beaded bracelets, key chains, refrigerator magnets, hats in Alaska, Peru, and Chile – just stuff, tons of it.  When I’d ask what she was going to do with this or that item she’d always have an answer.  “I told the parking lot attendant I’d bring him a gift… I met someone at the store the other day… I don’t know, I’ll save it for my next friend.  Here, take one.”

I’ve wracked my brain trying to remember when I first met Stacy and I honestly don’t know.  I think it was when I was a member of the Tidewater Area Darts Association (TADA) in Virginia Beach.  TADA’s tournaments were a favorite of Stacy’s.  An old friend of mine, now also no longer with us, “Thumper” Galloway, used to arrange for a Rolls Royce to pick Stacy up at the airport.

While this is history now, Stacy would have been so pleased about efforts led by Paula Duritza Bushey to raise money to be added to the prize fund for the ladies at the Virginia Beach Classic.  Stacy was long a vocal proponent of fair payouts.  The likelihood is that Bushey’s efforts resulted in the ladies taking home more than the men at the Classic.  Stacy would have loved this!  What Bushey and others did is what respectful people do.

Wherever Stacy and I met it no doubt began with an argument.  Stacy loved to argue, as do I, and she was good at it.  Just as good darts were not something we had in common, verbal (and written) jousting were very much in our wheelhouse.  Stacy was smart and quick and witty and tough and damn difficult to convince to change her position.  I don’t recall ever winning a bout with Stacy.  Probably no one ever did.

Some may be aware that Stacy authored a book, Lady Darts: The World of Women’s Darts Though the Life of World Champion Stacy Bromberg (2011).  When she took her place at Heaven’s Oche she was working on another, Life is a Gift… Open it Slowly.  Memories of the 3-time World Champion and Cancer Fighter.  As the title suggests, it is about far more than Stacy’s extraordinary career at the line.

Despite lacking feeling in her fingers due to multiple chemotherapy treatments, Stacy continued to compete and win at the highest levels while working on her manuscript.  Her book will still be published.  As a tribute to her beloved cat, Knothead, she selected an animal welfare charity to receive the proceeds.  The book is certain to be a compelling story of determination and perseverance from which all can draw strength – pure Stacy Bromberg.  And as she put it to me several times, “I’m going to tell all and take no prisoners.”

Recently, a package arrived in the mail from Stacy.  In it was a small box and a note.  In the box were a couple dozen pebbles of different colors and sizes.  The note read, “Please save my memories.”

A long time ago someone told me, “If when you die you can count on one hand the number of true friends you have, those for whom you would do anything and upon whom you could depend to do anything for you, you have been fortunate in life.”

Stacy was one of my five.

But she left this world with thousands of her own.

Rest in Peace, Stacy.

Dartoid

Column #CM91 Top Secret (or World Matchplay – Quarterfinals to Final)

Tuesday, July 28, 2020
Column CM91
Top Secret (or World Matchplay – Quarterfinals to Final)

Do you know those spy thrillers? Or spy movies?

You know, where inconspicuous middle-aged men with brown briefcases (I don’t know why, but they are always brown) travel by train to some really remote village where they are picked up by a chauffeur and driven to an even more remote country house or estate?

There they meet some equally inconspicuous persons – most of the time men as well – and hand over some top secret papers or information.  Sometimes the travelling inconspicuous man is kidnapped, sometimes he is blindfolded on the way to the remote estate, sometimes some very expensive and sartorially dressed (of course beautiful and mysterious) women are involved somehow as well. And sometimes the plot includes villains or traitors…

Well, this to a tee is Bletchley Park just outside Milton Keynes.  Only it is not fictional; it is real.  More specifically, it was real (today it is a museum).  And what happened here during World War II stayed top secret until 1973.

During World War II Bletchley Park accommodated “Station X” – the Government Code and Cypher School, a secret team of scholars and academics who worked as codebreakers. They penetrated the secret communications of the AXIS Powers (Germany, Italy, Japan) – most importantly the German Enigma and Lorenz Ciphers.

The house was bought by Admiral Sir Hugh Sinclair in 1938.  Sinclair was the head of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS or MI6).

Bletchley Park was ideally situated – quite near to the Bletchley railway station, halfway between London and Birmingham and close to Oxford and Cambridge.  It was from these universities that many of the codebreakers were recruited.

It was linked to the A5 and nearby in Fenny Stratford was a telegraph and telephone repeater.  And of course, it was remote, and every stranger would immediately stand out.

To stay with the cliché: Sinclair and his colleagues inspected the site as “Captain Ridley’s shooting party”…

All kinds of people were recruited including top solvers of cryptic crossword puzzles but trained mathematicians as well.  Of course, the personnel included people working in the administration too – those often were women. But among the scientists were a few women as well – the one who became best known was Joan Clark. In January 1945, the personnel working at Bletchley Park reached a peak of nearly 10,000.

The Germans mostly used the Enigma machine to cipher their secret messages.  It was the Poles who first managed to break Enigma and Polish specialists travelled to England to help.

Alan Turing – a mathematician, computer scientist, logician, cryptanalyst, philosopher and theoretical biologist – played a crucial role in cracking the code.  For this purpose, he built a machine called the “Bombe.”  Historians estimate that by cracking the code Turing shortened the war in Europe by more than two years and saved 14 million lives.

Turing is also considered as the father of the theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence.  But since Turing was homosexual, he was not fully recognized during his lifetime.  Instead he only avoided prison by accepting chemical castration in 1952.  Just wo years later, Turing died from cyanide poisoning.

It was not until 2009 that British Prime Minister Brown made an official public apology on behalf of the British government. In 2013, Queen Elisabeth II granted Turing a posthumous pardon.

Robert Harris’ book Enigma is probably the most famous about Bletchley Park.  From to 2014 there was a series on ITV called the Bletchley Circle.  In 2014, Mortem Tyldum produced the film The Imitation Game about Alan Turing in which Benedict Cumberbatch plays Turing and Keira Knightley plays Joan Clark, again one of the few female scientists in Bletchley Park during World War II and a close friend of Turing.

As we return to the remaining matches of World Matchplay the only enigma left to break in the tournament is: who will win?

Glen Durrant entered the quarterfinals as favourite.  But would he really be the winner in the end?  As there was no one around to crack the code of this question we only could sit back on our sofa, drink tea and wait for what would develop before our very eyes.  And though no one was kidnapped or blindfolded it was a thrilling scenario…

We had two nights of quarterfinals…

From the first night Michael Smith and Gary Anderson progressed into the semi-finals and both came through quite close and difficult matches.

Smith got rid of Krzysztof Ratajski who played a strong tournament as did Simon Whitlock who lost to Gary Anderson.  In both matches the winners averaged just below 100, a little bit higher than their opponents.

The second night of quarterfinals was close, high class and thrilling as well – perhaps a bit extra thrilling due to the match between Vincent van der Voort and Glen Durrant which went into a tie break and ended 18-16 for Durrant (who had never led before the tie break).  van der Voort was bitterly disappointed – how was it possible he lost a match he had under control for almost the entire time?

The other winner of the night was a once again impressive Dimitri van den Bergh who ended Adrian Lewis’ hopes.  For van den Bergh it was his first match ever over such a long format and he progressed into his first major semi-final.

So, we had two semi-finals in which an older player met an up and coming player.  In the case of Smith vs. Anderson the mentor played against the “pupil.”  In the case of Durrant vs. van den Bergh two players met who knew each other quite well.

Smith didn’t play as strong as in his other matches, or at least not all the time, while Anderson was consistent.  Probably that made the difference as Smith twice had to fight back and it looked as if he just ran out of steam.  He had nothing left and lost 16-18 in the tie break.

Anderson once again was not really happy as he still felt something was wrong with his throw and he had to fight more against himself then against his opponent. For Smith, to be sure it was another disappointment and he still must wait for his first major title…

The second semi-final was in fact quite similar though in this case the fightbacks came from Glen Durrant and van den Bergh was the player who managed to pull clear several times. Rather astonishingly, the experienced Durrant looked much more nervous than his opponent.  Durrant this time didn’t find an extra gear at the end of the match and the winner was van den Bergh – who almost couldn’t believe he was through to the final.

The final was not as good as one had hoped for – at least Anderson didn’t really perform as the problems with his grip and throw still bothered him.  Both players showed nerves at the start of the match and played a few weak legs.

But it was the young Belgian who found a way to improve while the complete match stayed a struggle for Anderson.  Anderson’s highlight was a 130 finish while van den Bergh hit four high finishes – among them a 170 finish.

In the end, the Belgian won the slightly one-sided match and the title.  What an achievement and to be sure, not only for me, a surprise!

One will see whether this was van den Bergh’s breakthrough and how he will fare when the crowd is back…

It was a good tournament despite the situation, and an interesting one.  I never missed van Gerwen, Wright and all the other top players who were eliminated so early.  The quality was high nevertheless; there were a lot of close matches and a lot of drama, and some astonishing returns to form.

One even could forget the strange circumstances under which the tournament took place.

The only thing I “missed” was when after the final no inconspicuous middle-aged man appeared on stage, opened a brown briefcase and handed over the price money…

 

Column #590 Ant ATTACK!

Tuesday, July 21, 2020
Column 590
Ant ATTACK!

Some years ago, I threw league darts with a former pro from Houston named Dave “Buddha” Fasnacht. He helped me with my stance and my grip and my mental game. And he gave me some advice that I’ve been trying to follow ever since. According to Buddha I needed to get serious about my practice routine. This meant I needed to hang a board in my living room.

Now there are spouses and there are spouses and I have one of the best. My wife understands my love of the sport. She tolerates my late nights out and my early morning returns, smelling of smoke and stale beer. She understands more about cricket strategy and out shot percentages than most of the people I shoot against. What my wife also knows, and she knows this without any doubt whatsoever, is that she doesn’t want a dart board hanging in her living room. Imagine that.

So, when my wife came up with the idea to redecorate the garage, ostensibly so I could have a “nice place, close to the living room” to practice, I jumped at the opportunity.

Together we headed to the paint store to pick out colors for the walls, the ceiling and the floor. My wife chose “Mild Wild” – a sort of swimming pool blue. Next, I was constructing utility shelves. Four of them. Bolt by bolt. Two hours each. I made friends with spiders. Patched holes in the plaster. Mopped up oil. Washed paint out of my beard.

In two weeks’ time the project was complete. And it looked damn good. After seventeen years of marriage my wife finally had a clean garage and I was the proud owner of a powder blue dart room equipped with everything a serious darter could possibly desire. A new board. Special lighting. Three trash cans. Two bicycles. And a Plymouth Horizon. Yep, while my wife watches the nightly news from the comfort of our living room, I can now play cricket from the front seat of my car.

Anyway, a week ago my friend Tommy Molina stopped by for a few beers and to check out my new set up. We ran through our usual routine. A little cricket. Some ’01. It was about midnight when Tommy bet me ten bucks he could pick off an ant that was sniffing its way across the number four pie. Three darts. Three misses. Beer money for me.

As a second ant appeared near the bottom of the board I stepped to the line. Told Tommy I’d stick the little guy when he crossed into the double three. A tough shot any day, even without the ant.

The ant stopped just below the wire. We waited. We waited longer. We grabbed a couple beers…

And, damn, if there now wasn’t another ant wandering below the nineteen. A couple more back over by the number four pie. A few on the scoreboard. Dozens near a (previously unnoticed) pile of sawdust in the corner by the utility shelves. My Mild Wild dart room was under attack!

It is now a week later. The exterminating company has just pulled out of my driveway. “It just like big game hunting, but on a smaller scale”, the guy told me before blasting eleven colonies of some three thousand carpenter ants each. He then presented me with a $580 bill.

For this, plus the cost of paint, pain and suffering I could have finished off the basement. What worries me now is that my wife tells me this is our next project.

From the Field,

Dartoid

July 2020 Double Out Shot: Yanet Garcia