Author Archives: Dartoid

Column #587 Seal Boy is REAL – and now throws darts, in the Philippines!

Seal Boy

Wednesday, April 1, 2020
Column 587
Seal Boy is REAL – and now throws darts, in the Philippines!

It’s true what they say, “Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.”

When I was a kid, I was a swimmer, a pretty fast swimmer. My time for the 100 fly (52.6 – short course – in 1971) got me into college. paul-swimsMy career was ended by beer.

When I was even younger, my father began subscribing to Swimming World magazine. I read it cover-to-cover each month and followed the times of the best in the world – names like Don Schollander and Donna de Verona. An annual subscription in the late 1950s and 1960s cost $6. Today it costs $39.95.

 

Swiming World Cover

In October 1966, the magazine ran a story about a boy my age, called “Seal Boy,” who at 13-years-old was recording spectacular, literally unheard of times – as fast as some of the best high school and even college swimmers in the world. My friends and I were riveted and demoralized at the same time. Were the story true we knew that our dreams of someday being recruited by Doc Counsilman and making the team at Indiana University (Mark Spitz’s alma mater), and maybe even the US Olympic team, were over.

Many times during the past 50 years I have wondered about all of this. So one day I sent a letter to Swimming World and asked if anyone there might remember the story of “Seal Boy” and, if so, might they dig up the issue in which the story appeared and send it to me.

I was surprised about two weeks later when the magazine appeared in my mailbox. There on page 38 was the story I still faintly remembered, including a photo of the boy.

“Seal Boy” TO COMPETE

IN SOUTH PACIFIC GAMES

Swimming World – October 1966 Seal Boy Photo

BULLETIN – Noumea, New Caledonia – Officials at the capital say that the ship bringing the amazing “Seal Boy” here for the South Pacific Games reports that “he jumped ship about 60 miles north of here and was last seen swimming at a rapid pace toward the Coral Reef area.” 

Officials in charge of the fabulous “Seal Boy” at the University of Manila have decided to permit coaches to send him to the South Pacific Games at New Caledonia after he made an easy transition to living quarters in the Philippines. 

Reports from the island to Swimming World say the “Seal Boy” is swimming “fair,” and has enjoyed his stay on the campus. The head coach, Francisco Figueroa, was not available for comment, having been called to lecture on the “Seal Boy” at a clinic in Jamaica during the Empire Games.  

The change in the diet of “Seal Boy” shows he still favors fish over other food, with hamburgers running a distant second. The most fascinating revelation of the experiment was his tremendous liking of oranges, lemons, and grapefruit. 

The latest clockings received by Swimming World show the “Seal Boy” in a slow start for the 50 meter pool. His times in workout (time trials) are 50 meters (26.0), 100 meters (57.2), 200 meters (2:06.8), and a push 100 meter butterfly in 1:05.8. The coaches seem to think he has hit a plateau in his quick rise to fast swimming performances and won’t improve much more without competition. 

“When the South Pacific Games come in December we expect this chap to be ready for some top swims against competition which should be just about right for him,” said Simpson Hart, an assistant coach from the British delegation assisting the scientists. 

Dr. Ernst N. Brockmann, M.D., the chairman of the researchers, stated in a release here: “We have pinpointed his age at 13 years and two to three months through close interpretations of his limited speech.”  

Further reports will be available in the next issue of Swimming World.

Now, fast forward to September 2015, just a month shy of 49 years from when the story appeared…

On business in Manila, I was invited to visit a new darts bar called TRESMA. My friend and long-time National Team member, Mon Sabalboro, and I arrived just as it began to turn dark. It was already crowded – a luck of the draw was scheduled. I was pleased to be able to renew acquaintances with several old friends – Errol Magtubo, Logie Estacio and (the always quiet) Chito Pa Forillo Yacapin. I met some new people including Jason Sevilla and Jason Umali, and others, and TRESMA’s owner, Eugine Pioquinto.

TRESMA is a beautiful place. Located on Malvar St. – just behind Philippine Women’s University and in front of Wynn Plaza, it’s exquisitely appointed. There are Manny Pacquiao posters everywhere, announcing various darts tournaments. The tables are made from dart boards and covered with shiny glass. TRESMAThere are dozens of trophies on display. The lighting may be the best I have ever found in a bar (there is even a sort of chandelier that looks like a dart board). The oches are raised. I could go on and on, but I really don’t have the words to describe the quality of this joint.

Mon and I wandered around a bit, threw a few, and then sat down for a couple of San Miguels. Players stopped by our table, wanting my autograph and selfies. I regaled them with stories about all the times I whooped Lourence Ilagan and Christian Perez and made them cry like little girls.

NOTE: It is possible that some of what is stated in the preceding paragraph is a lie.

But Mon and I did gather a small group at our table and after a few bottles the familiar subject of why we throw darts arose. Basically, like so many, we were competitive in our youth. Mon was a professional dancer. Our friend, Steve Dorotheo, was a champion weightlifter (his father, Elpidio, was Mr. Philippines in 1952). received_1283894928304381Darts is a way to still compete without running fast, jumping high, or lifting heavy shit.

Yacapin was at our table. It’s been years since he and I first met and truth be known (anyone who knows him will attest) Pa Forillo is the antithesis of a quiet and unassuming guy. Still, he had been quite reserved, listening to our stories… until I mentioned I had been a competitive swimmer and began to relate the old story about the kid, “Seal Boy,” who swam so fast and ended up in the Philippines.

Almost immediately the room erupted, or at least it seemed that way. Pa Forillo jumped up from the table, waving his arms, yelling, I don’t believe it! It don’t believe it! Others gathered around and Pa Forillo, nearly out of breath, mixing English and Tagalog, continued to shout…

Hindi ako maniwala! Hindi kapani-paniwala! Hindi mo mapapaniwalaan! Ako yan! (I don’t believe it! It’s unbelievable! You won’t believe it! That’s me!) 

I AM SEAL BOY!   Or I was Seal Boy! Ako ito! (It’s me!) Pa Forillo! Chito! Chito (2)

Lahat sila rito alam yon. Napakatagal na panahon na… (Everybody here knows. It’s been so long…) 

Chito went on to explain that he always thought the old Swimming World story was hilarious – and that it was horribly inaccurate. He wasn’t raised by seals… 

Yan ay kalokohan. Sino naman ang maniniwala dyan? Hindi ko tumalon ng barko. Nahulog ako at iniligtas nila ako. Ako ay medyo matulin na manlalangoy nung kabataan ko. Napakatagal na panahon yon.  (That’s absurd. Who would believe that? I didn’t jump off that ship. I fell and they rescued me. But I was a pretty fast swimmer as a boy. That was a long time ago.) 

Lumalangoy hanggang labing-walong gulang ako. Siguro may labing-limang taon na ipinakilalala ako sa larong darts. Di man ako kagalingan, pero nagustuhan ko ito. Ako ay mas mahusay na manlalangoy. (I swam until I was about 18. Then maybe 15 years ago I was introduced to darts. I’m not so good, but I love it. I was a much better swimmer.)

It was surreal and reminded me of another old memory, again as true as it is odd. In college I pretty much lived on Chef Boyardee in-the-box pizzas. After I was married, I continued to occasionally make them for special dinners at home on the weekends. Still do sometimes.

One weekend, I noticed a contest announcement on the back of the pizza package. A substantial prize was being offered for a new pizza to be invented. Entries were to be judged by a panel of Chef Boyardee executives. What the hell, I figured. I spent that weekend “inventing” barbecue pizza – even creating my own barbecue sauce – and sent in my recipe/entry.

I never heard a word.

Years later, I was on a plane from New York to Atlanta and got to talking to a woman seated next to me. She was retired but said she was once the director of marketing at Chef Boyardee. Of course, I shared my pizza invention story. She remembered the promotion and said she was on the judging panel. To say I was astonished would be an understatement. I teased her – telling her I should have won and that she owed me a bunch of money.

So the truth can be stranger than fiction.

Chito and I stepped to the line for a quick game of 501. I won the cork and started with 135. He threw 43. He’s an honest man, that’s for sure. He does throw crap darts. When I closed tops he still had 200+ remaining.

But the bar was behind him. They chanted, Pa Forillo! Pa Forillo! Pa Forillo!

“So, Chito,” I asked, “I know Filipinos tend to have nicknames. I have friends called Boy, Baby, and Bong. I assume Pa Forillo means Seal Boy?”

Huwag, tarantado! Ibahin ang ayos ng mga nihayupang mga letra!, he replied. (No, asshole! Rearrange the fucking letters!)

From the Field,

Dartoid

March 2020 Double Out Shot: Taylor Hill




Column #586 Is somebody murdering dart players?

Tuesday, February 25, 2020
Column 586
Is somebody murdering dart players?

Down here in the “Real Texas,” Amarillo to be precise (where the phrase “nice bull” doesn’t generally refer to a little red circle on a dart board), darter Ray Fournier of the West Texas Darts Association (WTDA) weaved a tale that simply has to rate at the top of the list of the wildest stories I’ve heard in my years following the sport of darts. Quite possibly, Ray may be the only man alive to have ever faced death at the line and lived to tell about it.

Like good ‘ole boy George Strait, I hit “Amarillo by morning” when the orange sun rises big and where, when it sets on the vast plains in the evening, some say you can actually see the curvature of the earth. For years, I’ve wanted to test my skills at the line against some real cattle-country cowboys and watch cowgirls line dance the way they do on television. I finally got the chance. Guys named Orville and Heath, with belt buckles the size of their Stetsons, did up some darts, Texas-style. They barbecued me. Yes, siree Bob. I fared much better ogling the cowgirls.

My first stop was the Route 66 Roadhouse, a large and dark country bar set smack alongside the famous old Route 66 highway. The place is crammed full of more lost hubcaps and tattered beer signs than can probably be found within any four walls on the planet. The joint has six boards, as many pool tables, and a huge stage that attracts bands the likes of Vince Hopkins and the Texas Brigade, whoever they are. It was here that I met Ray and a couple dozen of his buddies at the WTDA league banquet. After the awards (and after WTDA President John Terry proudly pledged $1,300 in funds raised to Jerry’s Kids and the Make-A-Wish Foundation) we moved on to check out a blind draw up the road.

The Time Out Bar (16th and Jackson), a much smaller country bar but just as lively as the Roadhouse, currently sports just two boards but the owners plan to add another dozen or so soon. Certainly, they’re on the right track. With three leagues operating — and growing fast — in the region (the Panhandle Darts Association and the Amarillo Darts Association being the other two) there are a host of shooters just waiting to use them. It was here — after my partner and I got torn up in our final game of cricket — that, one by one, the members of the WTDA treated me to stories, punctuated of course by beer after beer after beer, about life in this last real slice of the Old West.

One fact is certain, and this is that cows are big business down in this neck of the woods. In fact, Amarillo is considered the largest meat producing area in the country — an amazing 25% of all the beef consumed in America is produced here. There are some ranches that actually slaughter 25,000 cattle, a day, year-round. Animal-friendly guy that I am, I passed on seeing this and opted instead to go to Palo Duro Canyon to see how far I could throw a dried-up chip of cow manure.

It was also at the Time Out where Ray took me aside to tell his story …

A while back, it seems Ray and his wife Rhonda were out shooting with some friends at another place in town called The Office (now called Hoots) on Hobbs Street. Here they met and threw for hours with a hell of a darter from El Paso. The guy had been everywhere. And thrown everywhere. He knew his game. As Ray describes it, it was a “spectacular” evening. Only tired arms and early morning business prevented Ray and Rhonda from accepting their new-found friend’s invitation to dinner.

The next evening Ray was home relaxing. The night before, while Ray was shooting at The Office, he had recorded one of his favorite shows. Ray and Rhonda slipped the still-warm cassette into the VCR and sat back with a couple of beers to watch America’s Most Wanted. What they saw stunned them like nothing ever before in their lives. There on the screen, wanted for the murder of a couple from El Paso — a couple he had befriended in a bar tossing darts — appeared the mug of their acquaintance from the previous night!

Wilder yet, according to Ray, this killer darter is still on the loose. Ray describes the man as “a slim, slightly under six-foot-tall white guy, approximately 30 years old, with long, dirty blond hair.” And, again, Ray hastens to add that the guy can tear the sisal off the board.

Despite my best effort I must admit I have been unable to verify Ray’s story. And I’ve tried. I’ve spoken with the “America’s Most Wanted” hot line, “Unsolved Mysteries” and even the El Paso Police Department — all to no avail. They remember murders. They remember murders in El Paso. What they simply do not recall is the darts connection. On the other hand, I’ve thrown and drank with guys who’ve been unable to remember their names the next morning.

I believe Ray’s story. I have no reason not to. And this leads me to only one possible conclusion and only one logical solution.

The conclusion: somewhere in America (possibly standing at the line in a bar near you) is one tough shooter who, not entirely unlike the group of friends I made in Texas, takes his darts damn seriously.

The solution: from here on in my travels I will play it safe and spend my time with the cowgirls.

From the Field,

Dartoid

February 2020 Double Out Shot: Paige Van Zant




Column #585 Hey Trump – please spare darts in Iran!

Wednesday, January 8, 2020
Column 585
Hey Trump – please spare darts in Iran!

This 2007 column is old but perhaps worth sharing again given current circumstances.

____________________________________________________________

While I had hoped business travel might coincide with the 13th staging of the Asia Pacific Cup in Kuala Lumpur in September, it was not to be. News reached me fast however and I was pleased to learn that my old Filipino friend Ramon Sabalboro just missed the quarter finals in the Men’s 501 Singles. Three Filipinos including Lourence Ilagan and Rizal Barellano made the final eight, testament yet again to the talent and depth of talent to be found on the archipelago.

As expected, New Zealand increased their winning streak to four and will be the odds-on favorite to make it five when they host the tournament in 2008.

But there was a surprise. Among the countries competing (Malaysia, Japan, Singapore, China-Hong Kong, Pakistan, Brunei-Darussalam and the Philippines) was a newcomer to the darting scene – the Islamic Republic of Iran. They came to play, and they didn’t disappoint.

“I met the President of the Iran Darts Association (IDA), Masoud Zohouri, at the manager’s meeting the day before the tournament began,” wrote my buddy Steve Dorotheo, one of the managers of the Filipino team. “They were dressed formally in suits, guardedly sociable, but brimming with enthusiasm at the state of darts in their country. We were all held in disbelief by their claims of having more than 200,000 regularly playing members.”

“During the tournament,” he continued, “the Iranian players, four men and two women, were deadly serious. The males were dressed in common player’s garb but the women wore traditional robes marked only by team badges. There was a contingent, including Iran’s Deputy Minister of Sport, which cheered them on lustily and erupted in shouts, announcing to all each victory.”

By the tournament’s end the Iranian team, in its first ever international outing, had more than marked its arrival. Both of its female members, three-time Iranian national champion, 21 year old Sahar Zohouri, and 25 year old Marjan Karegar Jedi, placed strong. Jedi finished fifth in the Ladies 501 Singles and Zohauri lost in the finals. Said Zohauri afterwards to reporters Kay Biouki and Harry de Quetteville of the UK’s Telegraph newspaper, “When I started playing darts I wanted to be the best in Iran. Then I wanted to be one of the best in Asia. Now I am thinking about the world and want a top three in the world championships.”

When I later posed through an intermediary the (perhaps politically incorrect) question to Zohouri and Jedi if they felt they were at a disadvantage because of the clothing they were required to wear Zohouri replied, “My hijab doesn’t affect me in any way. I am a Moslem girl and my prophet Mohammed is recorded in the traditions, or hadiths, as saying ‘Practice throwing arrows, swimming and horse riding and I am with all of you.’”

Said Jedi, “When I play darts I don’t think about other things. It is as if I am not in this world. I forget all my problems and everything around me and just think about my darts. My dart looks like a ship and the flight is the sail of the ship. I am the captain who must lead the ship to harbor.”

So, what once would have seemed impossible now seems entirely possible. Darts in Iran is on the map and approaching the world stage. Their national program is as comprehensive as any and growing stronger by the day.

According to Negin Khodayari, a female member and one of the coaches of the IDA – and now a regular e-mail acquaintance of mine, in actual fact the organized darting membership in Iran is 500,000, more than twice the figure that stunned those who attended the manager’s meeting in Kuala Lumpur. Even more telling is that this membership has been established in little more than two years-time from among a population of just 66 million, in a rugged, mostly arid country about the size of Alaska. Headquartered in Teheran, the Association was officially founded in August,2004 and acceptance to the World Darts Federation (WDF) followed not long thereafter. Recently the IDA approached the board of the WDF with a plan, still pending acceptance (perhaps now approved), to enter darts as an official sport in the Paralympics.

Khodayari reports that up until the IDA was formed darts was merely an amusement in the country. Powers that be recognized the potential of the sport and created the Association with the express purpose to “promote darts as a professional sport” and to advance “happiness and health in society.” Suffice it to say the IDA functions with the full support of the Iran Ministry of Sport.

In less than eight months the membership ranks swelled. Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children joined from “among all levels of society including employees, college students, housewives, handicapped people, politicians and even clerics.”

All kinds of competitions have been held across the country and more than 200 events have been sanctioned since the IDA was founded. In cooperation with municipal and provincial or state governmental organizations more than 200 “dart houses” have been established in 25 of Iran’s 30 provinces, “one of them 3,545 meters above sea level on the summit of Mt. Tochal.” Says Khodayari proudly, “We think it might be the highest official dart house in the world.”

“We believe that darts is an enlivening sport for all ages and so we hold different kinds of competitions,” she explained. “We have held some championships for elders. In May 2006 we held our first Darts Olympiad, using a magnetic dartboard, for children under seven years of age. Fifty-four teams from about 70 kindergartens participated.”

One of the children, seven year old Shaygan Mohammadzadeh, had this to say about his experience. “The day of the championship was interesting because all of my best friends and also my mom were present there. I found some new friends. I love to throw my darts to number 20 because it is the number which I always hope to get in school.” (The best grade mark for students in Iran is 20.)

Another child, a little five year old girl named Sogol Rezaei, said, “Before I participated I didn’t have darts but now I love darts very much. I got some darts as a reward. Now I throw them at the circle of my dartboard which I hung in my room on the wall.”

Of course, darts play in Iran is somewhat different than in other parts of the world. “Alcohol is strictly forbidden,” reminds Khodayari, echoing words that Masoud Zohouri shared with the British reporters after the Asia Pacific Cup, “so here darts is truly a healthy pursuit – for both men and women. For Iranians darts is a sport. It’s played in prisons, among the civil service and in factories. Dartboards are even installed in some of the mosques.”

According to Khodayari, who is the manager of a computer science institute in her professional life, while smoking is permissible under normal circumstance, at sporting clubs and athletic stadiums it also is forbidden. Even music is only rarely played during darts competitions. “Often times, says Khodayari, “for the player’s concentration music isn’t played in the dart houses.”

For the most part the players drink tea, juice and coffee and focus on the task at hand. Occasionally and since they don’t play cribbage, between matches some of the players will get together in a corner and kick around a hakisak ball stuffed with plutonium.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist that!

In addition, for years all sports in Iran have been contested such that men and women are separated. Khodayari notes however, and in quite excited terms, as she has a personal interest in women’s sport, that times are slowly changing. “The IDA has held some darts championships of mixed team form,” she says, “including both men and women by observing the essential rules.”

Masoud Zohouri responded a bit more directly, almost testily, when pressed after the Asia-Pacific Cup as to the unlikelihood of Iran being able to compete successfully someday on the world stage, under pressure and amidst the drink, smoke, noise and taunting of raucous partisan crowds. “Don’t think,” he replied confidently, “that in Iran there is no noise because there is no alcohol. We are spreading the game without alcohol and as such we can become a role model for the rest of the darts world.”

When the British reporters challenged Zohouri further he gave the sport the greatest compliment of all. “Darts can bring people around the world together, irrespective of their backgrounds,” he said. “Families of different cultures can get together and play it without distinction according to religion, language or race. That is the Olympic spirit.”

And that is darts in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

From the Field,

Dartoid

January 2020 Double Out Shot: Irina Shayk




Column #584 Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 31, 2019
Column 584
Happy New Year!

My plans for welcoming the New Millennium were set 26 years ago (now 45!) in Kalamazoo, Michigan. In fact, when the beer ran out and as the sun began to cast its glow across the snow on the first morning of 1974, my roommates and I took the opportunity to plan our entire lives. We then scarfed down some cold pizza and threw up.

Bob Muir was going to make millions after he graduated, passed his CPA exam and became a Partner with Price Waterhouse. Tim Mace didn’t care if he graduated – the way he had it figured a diploma wasn’t a prerequisite for becoming a touring tennis pro. Ken Ver Duin (“VD” or syphilis” we called him) was going to marry his high school sweetheart, Patty, and dip into his trust fund to buy a house on a lake, a fast car and have a family. Paul “Poncho” Villavicencio planned to move back to his native Venezuela, marry a pretty girl and return some day as a member of the foreign service.

I was going to follow in the footsteps of my hero at the time, Richard Nixon, and run for Congress. Then, once we had all made our mark on the world, we were going to reunite for one last New Year’s Eve blowout. Tonight. December 31, 1999. The mother of all parties.

Sadly, as with so many things in life, our plans just didn’t work out.

My relationship with Bob has been strained ever since the day I sent him the video “Deep Throat” for a wedding present. He says his wife doesn’t appreciate my sense of humor. Go figure. Bob is now a partner with Price Waterhouse Coopers in Houston. He’s got millions.

Ken married Patty, bought the house, several fancy cars and had a big family. When he isn’t fishing, he manages his trust.

Tim’s life has been a mystery since 1976 when he got kicked off the tennis team for skipping practice to drive to Notre Dame to watch Adrian Dantley play basketball. The last I heard he was stringing tennis racquets at a country club somewhere in the Miami suburbs.

Poncho ended up hitched to some beauty queen from Wisconsin and has a dream job with Oscar-Meyer. Basically, he sells hot dogs.

And me – well, I just didn’t know that girl was 14 years old. No, wait! That was Chuck Berry. Seriously, until the Clinton and Trump administrations such “indiscretions” tended to dampen careers. My problem was that I couldn’t raise the few million dollars required to get elected. So now, I write a column that no one reads about a sport that gets no respect.

I am content with the course my life has taken. I’ve got a beautiful wife. A great kid. Fluffy dogs. A house. A couple of cars. Four dart boards. Six sets of darts. There’s beer in the refrigerator. Well, there was a few hours ago. Somebody broke into the house and stole it. Bastards.

Still, as I sit here at my laptop and as the final minutes of the 20th Century (now 2019) slide into history, I can’t help but reflect. That’s what you’re supposed to do on New Year’s Eve. That, get blotto and moon strangers. Make resolutions. And predictions.

Yes, my old buddies and I traveled different paths but I’m happy with where mine has taken me. Congress is for criminals. I don’t enjoy hooking innocent fish. Tennis requires exercise. And while I must admit that I do love hot dogs, I find that Oscar-Meyer has just a tad too many snouts, lips and hair follicles squeezed into their particular brand of intestines. So, I wouldn’t trade places with Poncho either.

As I contemplate 2020, there are a couple of people’s shoes I wouldn’t mind stepping into for a night, even for just a couple of hours. Twenty years ago, the choice was a no-brainer – Phil Taylor’s shoes would have been on my feet in a flash. Tomorrow, I would happily wear either Michael van Gerwen’s or Peter Wrights’ (although £500,000 would come in handy £200,000 is nothing to scoff at). For the record, I’d also be just fine wearing Fallon Sherrock’s skirt.

Next, there are the resolutions…

I resolve to spend more time with my wife – to achieve this I will reduce my nights out throwing darts from five to four. On second thought I’ll just take her to the bar.

I resolve to drink less Budweiser. I will switch to Coors.

I resolve to chalk more often. Oh, screw that.

I resolve to be sensitive and politically correct in all that I write and do. To accomplish this, I will jettison the words “liar, bullshit, laughable,” and “loser” from my vocabulary (unless I am referencing the ADO or convicted sex offenders and plagiarizers with delusions of grandeur.)

Finally, predictions…

Just as my roommates and I did a quarter of a century ago (yep, now heading towards 50 years) I must gaze into the crystal ball. Unfortunately, the big glitter orb in Times Square is but moments from dropping. I do not have the time required to fully consider what my life and my darts will be like in the New Year.

So, what I will do is take one dart in my hand. I will step to the board on the wall in the room where I am typing. The possibilities for a bright, or not so bright, 2020 range from 60 to a big fat zip. Are you with me? Here we go.

Okay. I’m at the line. I’m ready…

The ball is dropping… we’re seconds away from the New Year. A brand-new slate. League’s startin’ up again in a few days. The future’s gonna be mine, baby.

I set. I stroke. Release…

Oh shit.

From the Field,

Dartoid