Author Archives: Howie Reed

Column #HR271 Unintended Consequences

Sunday, September 8, 2019
Column HR271
Unintended Consequences

Colin Cunningham is quoted as saying, “Watch out what you wish for, you just might get it.”

The Old Dart Coach’s take on this includes “The Law of Unintended Consequences.” You get 6 wheelbarrows full of dirt from a neighbor. Then place dirt in a planter. Into the new dirt is added tomato and watermelon plants. Two months later: the plants are overtaken by weeds. The Law of Unintended Consequences strikes.

In the UK the PDC has grabbed the spotlight for steel darts. In the USA machine darts has provided an alternative. Saddest of all ladies’ steel darts is waning. Darters wanted more money. They got it. Unintended consequences strike.

A male (with original natural factory equipment) wakes up one day hearing Shania Twain singing “Feel Like a Women.” When she gets to “Oh, oh, oh, Man! I feel like a woman!” he yells, ‘That’s me!” Now he enters the lady’s singles.

The ladies’ singles could become, “The Ladies’ Cisgender Gender Fluid Nonconforming and Non-binary Open” with 54 Genders accepted. In Canada it’d be the “LGGBDTTTIQQAAPP Singles.” Steel tournament directors be on guard!

Last fall, “Miracle” Mikuru Suzuki hit the steel point world at the BDO “Amateur World Championships” like bran muffins at the Senior Center. Lately, she would win the Swedish Open defeating Lisa Ashton. Ashton is #2 in WDF rankings. Ashton and Suzuki met in the finals of the Australia Open finals.

Some argue that women can compete against the men. They can but can they win? The results to date say no.

Take the best of 15 match final in the Australian Open. Ashton would win 8-6 with only 7 legs less than 15 darts. Ashton had the low game (12 darts) on the end of a 139 check which was also the high out. Neither of the ladies would have won on the PDC Tour with those numbers.

Ashton would return to the UK to take home her third BDO world title in 5 years with an easy 6-2 win over Anastasia Dobromyslova. Dobromyslova tried her luck against the PDC guys a few years ago with no success.

After Australia, Mikuru Suzuki took on the men at the soft point world championships (Stage #3) in Japan. She finished top 64. Quite a feat with 256 entries. Paul Lim won the event 3-0 over Hong Kong’s James Law. Lim had a tournament which for some would be a career. Lim won all his matches 3-0 for a combined 30-0. Next time he loses a leg some jerk will cry “Wanker!”

Thanks to longtime friend Babs Evans (The ODC would never write “old friend,” Babs) the ODC was able to follow “Chainsaw” Joe Chaney as he cut his way through the field of the BDO World Trophy. In the quarterfinals Chaney, with the match level at 5, tossed in a T80 only to see his next three darts go awry which allowed Jim Williams to check 120 for the win 6-5. Williams would win the title beating Richard Veerstra 8-6. The BDO failed in their write up to note that Chainsaw had the highest average against Williams at 86.93. Wankers.
Then there are those times you dream for something. It happens with no unintended consequences. Mensur Suljovic probably dreamed of winning his home country tournament…

As Gomer Pyle would say, “Shazam!”

The PDC final mid-summer travels ended in Vienna, Austria. Mensur Suljovic eked out an 8-7 victory over Michael van Gerwen. The match was tied at 2 when Michael van Gerwen used a 10-darter to lead 3-2. Suljovic would level at 3 as MVG missed doubles.

van Gerwen then got serious taking the next three on the trot to lead 6-3 in the race to 8. As he does, van Gerwen got the “walk-a- rounds” (an unintended consequence of leading) missed four doubles to get to 7. Suljovic took the opportunity to take the leg and the next two, with checks of 121 and 86, to level at 6.

van Gerwen got a leg to make it 7-6. Suljović would hold to level at 7. The winning leg came to Suljovic after van Gerwen used a T80 to leave 84 but missing the bull on his next turn for the win. Suljovic erased 70 with his favorite d14 for the 8-7 win, the title and £25,000.

One of the greats from the Golden Age has put away his darts for good. John Kramer was and is irascible, caustic and loud but above all one hell of a darts player. Oh yes, he was also a roomie of the ODC’s on the road.

Among other titles, he won the North American twice (1989 and 1999) and represented his country on more than one occasion. The most famous title came in 1985 at the WDF World Cup in Brisbane. That’s when four Yanks (John Kramer, Tony Payne, Rick Ney and Dan Valletto) defeated England 9-0. What is not generally known is that after each leg won Kramer would jaunt down to the England warmup room asking, “How’d you like that?!” or words to that effect. (The night before in the hotel lobby, Eric Bristow made a comment about how England would win. At that point Kramer suggested that he “urinate up a rope.”)

Kramer was a great winner dismissing a loss as just one of those things which usually included several expletive deleted.

He was predictable mainly because he was unpredictable. There was a period where JK, Kathy Hopkins and the ODC would meet each Friday at the St. Louis airport, they flying in from LA and the ODC from NorCal. It continued to the point that the bartender knew their names.

The ODC arrived once and went to the bar. “Your friends aren’t here yet.” They usually arrived first.

Watching the arrival gate, the ODC saw Kramer walking alongside with a Catholic priest, with Kathy next to JK. As they were late the ODC met them to go straight to the departure gate. To this point they hadn’t talked. Kathy had the look that said, “Trouble coming.” As the ODC approached he saw JK look down at the shoes saying, “Happening shoes, Padre.” The reply: “Thank you my son.”

JK suffered a stroke which involved a long rehab. The last time the ODC saw him play in a tournament was at the Las Vegas Open. They had warmed up together on Budweiser and Miller Genuine. John got called to play…

He returned. “How’d you do?”

“I was doing fine until they decided I needed a double. When did that start?”

Like all true champions John Kramer’s heart is fine but he had to say “No Mas” from arthritis of the spine which made it painful to practice.

You wish for a friend and darter like JK with the “unexpected consequences” just an added plus. As he wrote, “It was a hell of a run.”

Stay thirsty my friends.

Column #HR270 Letters (emails) to the Old Dart Coach!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019
Column HR270
Letters (emails) to the Old Dart Coach!

Those of you who in age are near or past the speed limit on Germany’s autobahn (80 MPH) may remember the American crooner Perry Como. He visited America’s homes with a weekly TV variety show.  At some point he’d sing “Letters… we get letters” and then proceed to answer a few. Today, Como would be singing “Emails… we get emails.”

The Old Dart Coach regularly gets hundreds of emails after every column.  Okay, maybe one or two.

The latest included one person’s assessment of the PDC and the ODC.  “I think they (the PDC) should change the PDC to PCD (politically correct darts) what a load of pussies complaining about bounced darts, got rid of drinking on stage.  I never watch them on TV boring personalities that’s why they dress up like clowns and Indians bring back Eric, Jocky, John, Cliff.  How am I doing so far at writing my column?”

(Actually, he done good considering punctuation’s not a requirement.)  “By the way you were crap at commentating and darts.”  (At least he’s honest.)  “Love your stories.”  (Well he did hit the out.)

The ODC once was a pretty good rodeo announcer (except for his voice and lack of knowledge). While the ODC does agree with lack of real personalities in darts these days he does not agree with many of the writer’s comments or their “right” to promulgate such unfair “observations.”

Darters from the past learned while nurturing their darting prowess in pubs.  Pub people know that finding characters in a pub is slightly less challenging then finding fleas on a dog.

In their attempt to appease critics the PDC has grabbed their ankles at the first sound of any critic’s discouraging word.

A critic is “one given to harsh or captious judgment.”  Critics will never be your friend.  With TV in charge “politically correct” is now in capital letters.

When the players association (WPDPA) started it struggled until they brought in new blood – Barry Hearn. This infusion turned the sport around.  With Hearn came innovation, knowledge and business acumen. Also, the willingness to try something brand new (or is that innovation?).  If it didn’t work (the first Premier League) they went back to the drawing board.

When the players ran things, they ran it for themselves.  They preferred long formats not suitable for betting or TV.  Then came the best of 12.  Bingo!

Steel darts has struggled in the USA and the reason is obvious (machine darts are here to stay so live with it).

Steel darts have barely moved on from the 1970s.  The tournament system has shrunk as ADO steel leagues disappeared.  Yet the ADO continues to utilize the policies that got them where they WERE.  They’re insane.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result,” said Albert Einstein.  The ADO keeps doing the same thing hoping the results will be different.

Dart players associations have sprung up around the country where serious players can compete against the best. (No noise, loud talking or aiming fluid allowed). In the latest, Dart Players of Los Angeles, Chris “The Great” White emerged as the year-long champion.  White is a Canadian who now resides in California, a lateral move.  White’s a good dart player but a better person.  The cream rises to the top.

Giving advice or suggestions to most dart organizations is like teaching a hippo to rumba.  On the other hand, free advice is usually worth the cost.

The apparent demise of the American Darts Organization has come not for failure to announce financial records but from inbreeding.  

“Dear ADO: check your mission statement!”

Nowhere does it say your function is to provide scholarships for youth or a living for players.  Do something POSITIVE for your regular league players.  The once a week player doesn’t give a Sweet Fanny Adams about international teams.

Here are some suggestions.  Build a computer database containing every player.  Charge them $1.00 per week, keep a record of their play at the league level, provide players’ ratings, eliminate “seeds” in tournaments and offer different levels of singles separated by player rating.

The PDC completed the last legs it Down Under Tour – New Zealand last week. Then it’s on to the Austrian Darts championship and finally the European Darts Matchplay.  Some may question whether Austria is “Down Under” but a map shows it’s “down under” Germany.

At the Melbourne Dart Masters (the word “Masters” makes it important) the “real” Michael van Gerwen emerged from his summer slumber to score a KO of Daryl “The Chin” Gurney 8-3.  For van Gerwen it was his first TV win since May.

When his summer slumbers hits van Gerwen’s serious about them.  At one point it was a 3-3 match.  Along the way he took out the still slumping Gary Anderson (8-6) before he dropped the guillotine on Peter Wright 8-0.

Then on to Hamilton, New Zealand, where a bumper crowd awaited them.  It’s always good to find a “bumper crowd” awaiting the players.

The event was sponsored by Burger King and TAB.  This is mentioned only because in the USA Burger King has come out with the new “Impossible Burger.”  Great name. Their marketing department knew that with “no meat” it would be impossible to sell to the ODC. The Whopper is King.

Awake from his summer slumber van Gerwen won his second title on the trot.  He struggled early against Kyle Anderson (6-5) who had 4 match darts that went awry.  MVG handled Gary Anderson (8-5), as everyone has lately, then blew the doors off Rob Cross (8-3) and Raymond van Barneveld (8-3) in the finals.

The final was played before 4,000-strong fans (no comment on how many were weak) and one assumes it was a “bumper crowd.”  There was no spotting of guys with sheep so dates must have been left home.

“I am so happy to win this title in Hamilton; it has been a phenomenal tournament and the crowd has been amazing.  I told my wife before I left three weeks ago, I am going to win two of the three events whilst I’m away and I’m so happy to have done that.  To play a final against Raymond is always an honor.  Raymond has been good for darts, like Maradona was good for football but now Messi has taken over.  It’s the same in darts now.”

Well said.

Just as Perry Como ended each show by singing “It’s so nice we spent this time together,” the ODC concurs – and reminds one and all:

Stay thirsty my friends.

 

Column #HR269 What color unicorn would you like?

Thursday, August 15, 2019
Column HR269
What color unicorn would you like?

A few weeks ago, the Old Dart Coach received an email. The communication arrived shortly after the ODC made remarks critical of “dart commentator” Paul Nicholson.

“I have concluded we are alike. I only said he was a monotone commentator – didn’t say he was bad at commentary. In short, boring delivery. Now, you have summed it up – he also fabricates.”

The writer is spot on.  A monotonous voice is an obstacle that can be overcome (much like the man carrying the cello found while walking the streets London looking for Royal Albert Hall). He stopped a gentleman, who strangely enough spoke English, and asked, “How do I get to Royal Albert Hall?  “Practice, practice, practice,” came the reply.

The writer continued, “I believe it’s jobs for mates and who they can get for the least number of pennies.” The ODC would add it’s also a place for former players of some note or no note.  It’s all part of the “you must have done it to comment on it” media culture.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The ODC did the first ESPN dart telecast. It was the Lucky Lights Challenge of Champions match between John Lowe and Leighton Rees.  The event was broadcast from Resorts International in Atlantic City. Working with the ODC was an ESPN newcomer named Chris Berman. Lowe would win the match. During the telecast Berman noted that if you used Rees’s hometown of Ynysybwl (Wales) in scrabble you could score maximum points.  After the telecast it was decided that the ODC had a voice for sky writing and a face for radio which led to a pause in his broadcasting career. He did appear on TNT (Canadian Sports Network) and briefly on Malaysian TV. His resume is available upon request, shipping not included.)

Then came a challenge to the ODC, “If you do decide one day to do a “best of the commentators column” it would make good reading.”  

After long consideration the ODC must decline the challenge because it would be unable for him to be objective.  No one is purely objective about sports commentators. Everyone has an opinion. It’s vindaloo vs. madras or Earl Grey vs. Colombian Fresh Roast. No one is neutral. All are prejudiced.

The ODC agrees 100% (which is about perfect) that knowing the players, their darting tendencies, their favorite approach to a double is important although it doesn’t take a Euclidean scholar to learn those tendencies or read a three-dart out cheat sheet.  The one ingredient all good commentators must have is an outgoing personality.  Electronic media doesn’t allow a person to fake personality. You’ve ether got it, or you don’t.

He late Sid Waddell was the best because he was Sid Waddell. The late Eric Bristow was good because he was Eric Bristow. Wayne Mardle is good because he’s Wayne Mardle. John Part is good because he’s John Part. All had or have personality and are or were interesting while apparently having fun. All have or had opinions (perhaps wrong at times) which they are or were happy to share. The only human who was never wrong got nailed to a cross.

The current PDC dartboard is under considerable attack for “bounce out darts” and, on occasion, for taking on the appearance of a “cheese ball” at a cheese ball-tostado party.

In a just released study of 602,897 darts thrown only 2,080 were rejected by the current board.  The first dart is unlikely to be rejected while the second dart has 6 times more chance and the third 12 times more often.  This study will provide little solace to the darter who loses a match when his or her dart is rejected.

As one connected to the PDC said in a recent interview, “The appearance of the dartboard provides bad optics.”  With that as a basis the person also guessed that sometime in the near future “barbed points” will not be allowed – much in the same way that golf outlawed the belly putter.  For any dart board manufacturer “optics” will overcome all studies.

PDC head honcho Barry Hearn recently announced a major TV contract for North America.  The contract mentioned is DAZN European streaming service. For North America, at a cost of $99.99 per year, it provides a variety of sports that have generally little fan interest or are not available via regular television transmissions. DAZN will now feature darts in North America which are currently covered by PDC streaming.  You must have a smart TV which poses a problem for the ODC. He has a smart TV but a dumb operator.

The PDC marriage with DAZN should come as no surprise.  Barry Hearn’s son, Eddie, runs Matchroom Sports which signed with DAZN when he had heavyweight champion boxer Anthony Joshua. Since then, Joshua got his clocked cleaned by Andy Ruiz and DAZN has had little or no effect on North American TV.

There’s a dumpster fire that broke out in the PDC and still burns brightly.  It broke out early this summer when top players, to put it politely, started falling on their collective fannies. Peter Wright and Rob Cross do not fit in this category.

The fire continued Down Under in Brisbane when former world #1 and two-time world champion Gary Anderson went out to 32-year old local Damon Heta 8-6 while missing a total of 24 darts at a double.

In the same quarter finals Michael van Gerwen got set packing by Daryl Gurney 8-5.  Aussie Damon Heta, celebrating his 32nd birthday, is the top-ranked player in the DPA, whatever that is. His win in the final over Rob Cross 8-7 was the first time an Aussie had made a World Series final since 2017. That year it was locals Kyle Anderson and Corey Cadby in the Auckland Darts Masters.

A well-known lady darter (LD) posted her conversation with the Tungsten Dart God (TGD) recently…

LD: “I want a unicorn.”

TDG: “Impossible.”

LD: “I want a boyfriend.”

TDG: “What color unicorn would you like?”

Stay thirsty my friends.

Column #HR268 World Matchplay Reflections – a Midsummer Night’s Dream

Friday, August 2, 2019
Column HR268
World Matchplay Reflections – a Midsummer Night’s Dream

In 1595-96, William Shakespeare produced “A Midsummer’s Night Dream.”  It’s said to be a comedy, which the Old Dart Coach will accept as fact.  (NOTE: This fellow Shakespeare was a writer not the Shakespeare that makes great fishing equipment.)

“A Midsummer’s Night Dream” is about a marriage.  Then add in four Athenian lovers who are controlled and manipulated by fairies. Hmm. Sounds funny to the ODC.

The PDC has its own “midsummer dream” called the Betfred World Matchplay. It’s held each July in Blackpool which has been called “The Las Vegas of England.” This year, it certainly had the high temperatures of the Nevada city in the desert – the weather was sweltering. Sweltering weather is bad.

World Matchplay is the PDC’s mid-summer Classic.  The state of the PDC and its Order of Merit took a hit on night 4 when both Michael van Gerwen and Gary Anderson bid the event a not very fond adieu in the second round.

Anderson took the biggest hit as he was the defending Matchplay champion – he saw his Order of Merit winnings fall to 5th.

Both Anderson and van Gerwen were favorites to roll though the second round. As Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” (Burns actually spoke this first but when no one knew what the hell he was saying he wrote it down.)

Michael van Gerwen most recently tanked in Las Vegas. He went on holiday and then got his comeuppance from the three-times Lakeside Champion Glen Durrant.

As has been the case lately, van Gerwen started slowly as he watched Durrant stroll to an 3-2 lead, then 4-3. The eighth leg saw Durrant start with 7 perfect darts only to settle for a 10-darter and a 5-3 lead.  At 5-4 Durrant took a pair for a 7-4 advantage.

van Gerwen’s strength has always been his ability to flip a switch that shocks his opponent into a tap out. Down 8-5 and using an 11-darter van Gerwen gained a break to start a run of wins that moved him ahead at 9-8 for the first time.  When level at 11 Durrant hit double 6 to move ahead 12-11.

What would become the final leg was a nail bitter for both players. van Gerwen had a chance to secure the leg and extend the match only to miss the bull on an 86-check.  Durrant had three darts in hand with 40 remaining. The first missed. The second nailed double tops for the match.

The 58 minutes encounter left Durrant in tears.  “This night will live with me forever; I’ve never experienced a crowd getting behind me like that.”

For van Gerwen there was a bright side. Last year, he got ousted in round one by fellow Wooden Shoe guy, Jeffrey de Zwaan 10-6. In that loss van Gerwen had the higher average – 97.88 against 94.42 for the winner. Durrant would outscore van Gerwen 99.33 to 98.67

For Durrant it was some kind of week.  He would beat James Wade (16-7) only to lose to Michael Smith 17-10 in the semifinals.

For Durrant critics, mostly drunks that have nothing better to do, he proved his bonafides in spades. He proved that he can play and do so at the highest level. The same critics will point out that MvG has been off lately.  Makes no difference. To quote Barry Hearn, “You can only beat the man in front of you.” Durrant punched his card. 

It’s no secret that Gary Anderson has lost interest in darts. One PDC official said, “He’d rather go fishing.”  Anderson has explained his absence from the darting wars as due to a bad back.

But he does seem to show a lack of interest. In the past, Anderson would pile up score allowing him to be an average finisher. It worked, but no longer. Many athletes over the years have said, “It’s harder to stay on top than it is to get there.” That alone places Phil Taylor’s achievements in bold type.

Anderson jumped off to a good start finishing a 130-check on a 12-dart leg for a 1-nil lead. King answered with three doubles from three chances for a 3-1 lead that included a 122-check. King would stretch his lead to 5-1 when the “real” Gary Anderson showed up – taking 6 of the next 7 for a 7-6 lead.

The match would be tied at 8 when King’s 14-dart break gave him a lead. Then King used 30 darts for the 11-8 victory. The win would be King’s first quarter finals of a TV event in 3 years. King would lose to the event finalist Michael Smith 16-11.

Robb Cross was the class of the field – which sometimes doesn’t lead to success. When Cross beat Daryl Gurney 17-15 he did it by reeling off 8 straight legs.  In the final he ran off 9 on the trot to put Michael Smith in a hole. Smith was unable to dig himself out, losing 18-13.

For Cross it followed up his 2018 World Championship with his second major, the Phil Taylor Trophy and £150,000. “It feels amazing,” said Cross. “I’m lost for words – so happy that I’ve won this title.” He also gets credit for not saying “I’m over the moon.”

The drunken Irishman posted that Barry Hearn met with former BDO officials Sue Williams and her husband in Las Vegas. Reportedly the visit concerned a group that wants to break away from the BDO.  Hearn wasn’t in Las Vegas during the PDC visit last month. In a July 23 interview (available on YouTube) Hearn clearly explained that he would do what he could to help the struggling BDO. “There has to be a place for the weekend player. I will do whatever I can to help them.”

Like those that run other sports Hearn is smart enough to know that the BDO is the feeding system to the PDC. For Yanks, dumping the BDO would be like the NFL trying to get rid of college football.

Hearn also answered a question regarding the number of darts rejected by the current dartboards.  “We had people statistically study over 68,000 darts. They found that only .03% of darts bounced out. Is that high? I leave that to you guys. Some darts come out because of the way they’re thrown and sometimes the board is bad.”  My goodness, honesty from a dart official. That alone puts Hearn in the Guinness Book of World Records.

The PDC’s midsummer night dream turned into a nightmare for both Gary Anderson and Michael van Gerwen, while for others (most notably Rob Cross and Michael Smith) their dreams of rainbows with unicorns jumping towards a pot of gold were realized.

Stay thirsty my friends.

 

Column #HR267 Earthquakes, darts and Brits – Par Deux

Tuesday, July 24, 2019
Column HR267
Earthquakes, darts and Brits – Par Deux

Senior Russ Lopez best characterized the US Dart Masters (aka World Series of Darts) as a “Darting Family Reunion.” He was spot on.  The Old Dart Coach and others enjoyed meeting old friends and making new ones while spinning tales, real and imagined, of the “Golden Age” of North American Darts. Fellow darters like most families, share an unspoken bond.

As every Norte Americano realizes we owe a debt of gratitude to our friends from the British Isles for introducing us to the game darts. We gave them tobacco, so they owed us one.  Darts is much more than sport – it’s a lifestyle, a culture with an invisible cord that that binds us together into a closed tight-knit fraternity.  It has its own language albeit no secret handshakes.  For that we will be eternally grateful. The Brits gave us a language which we improved on. They gave us darts, its culture and a lifestyle that will forever be part of us.

When interviewing PDC officials it was clear that they value the North American market and the 364,279,000 TV viewers in the USA and Canada. One official bet the ODC that within 10 years North America will have a player competing successfully on the PDC circuit.  Pretty safe bet for the Brit as in 10 years the ODC will be “pushing up daisies.” (The Englishman’s name is found in the will so someone can collect on the bet – a free beer is a free beer.)

While the Championship Darts Circuit does a good job of preparing players in terms of competition, they can’t do anything to move the UK and Europe geographically closer to the USA and Canada. Gary Mawson has, to this point, been the only North American to compete successfully on the PDC trail.

There can be no argument but that the PDC is by far the best run, most professional and richest organization in the history of darts.  We know it, they know it and sponsors know it.

But therein lies a problem.  The PDC has become in some ways “too full of itself.”

It’s completely understandable as they took lumps of coal and turned them into sparkling diamonds that would make DeBeers jealous.  They took a 1969 Škoda auto, dressed it up and then sold it as a Rolls Royce. (The Škoda is a Czech automobile that came to the USA in 1969 – by early 1970 parts started to fall off it like leaves in winter.)

What’s worked in the UK and Europe isn’t going to work in North America.

Both Canada and the USA have proud darting heritages. Both nations have made immense contributions to the sport. We are not countries that see PDC players as Gods or rock stars. We see them as fellow darters and have respect for their abilities.

This is not to imply that the PDC players or officials act aloof or snobbish. Nothing could be further from the truth. They, as is their custom, are polite, respectful and willing to spend time with the paying customers.

Therefore, it was a complete surprise when on July 4, 2019, as the PDC took the stage at the Mandalay Bay there was nary a mention that the USA was celebrating its 243rd birthday as a nation.

It’s understandable that some in the UK are still a little PO’d that a bunch of Colonists dressed up as Indians (feather, not dot) and climbed aboard their ship to dump tea into Boston Harbor.  Heck, we’re the ones that ought to have the “RA” as it took us 240 years to get the pollution out of the harbor.

There can be no doubt that the decision not to mention the 4th of July, the USA’s national holiday, came from “on high.” It was the epitome of rudeness and self-indulgence.

If this snub was isolated, noted only by the ODC, it might well be ignored.  But it was mentioned by many in the hall that day.

As the PDC’s visits have now reached three years running one fact is clear: The North American audience has declined attend since the very first year. Why?

There may be multiple reasons (and solutions) as there usually are to any marketing conundrum.

The PDC must come to appreciate that holding an event on our national holiday is a bad idea. July 4th is a time for friends and family to gather, cookouts, fireworks and celebration. Commitments are made years in advance of the holiday. While the Mandalay Bay is a beautiful resort/casino on the Vegas Strip it’s way too expensive for the average darter (many booked at less expensive venues). With fans spread across Las Vegas get togethers are nearly nonexistent. And that is or is presumed to be a large part of the allure of the PDC visit.

No one asked but complaining without providing a possible solution is for critics. It’s like the line from the Rod Stewart song that goes, “Some guys do nothing but complain.”  So here goes.

Schedule the event so that it doesn’t encompass the 4th of July. Find an off-strip venue where the darters will feel welcome. That was the magic of the old North American darters took over the Sahara. It was theirs.

Take a look at the Orleans, the South Point, the Rio as all have the space, affordable rooms and would welcome the PDC with open arms. All would hang out the welcome mat for darters.  It would truly become what Senior Lopez calls “a family darting reunion.”

Those who watch PDC events on TV (streaming) have opinions on the commentators.  And if there’s one thing the ODC has in spades it’s opinions. As Robert Half said, “Free advice is worth the price.” That’s what the ODC gives.

Most of the commentators are good and getting better. Then there’s Paul Nicholson. He’s not good but he’s not nearly as bad as those that rag on him.

One wrote of Nicholson recently, “He told us how the Pittsburg Steelers was ‘his team’ – after all, everyone knows that a Geordie who thinks he is an Aussie has to have some affiliation with an ice hockey team from the USA.”

Slight correction: the Steelers are a football team. If you’re going to rag on someone your facts should be close to correct.

Stay thirsty my friends.

Column #HR266 Earthquakes, darts and Vegas – Par Uno

Tuesday, July 16, 2019
Column HR266
Earthquakes, darts and Vegas – Par Uno

WOW, what a week!

The Red Socks played the “Yang Ees” in London at the home of West Ham United.  The President of the USA met the “Boss” of North Korea on the DMZ. The Brits invaded Las Vegas.

Las Vegas felt two earthquakes and the SLS (Silly Little Slogan) Hotel and Casino reverted to the much beloved (by darters) name of the Sahara.

Now, if only some dart entrepreneur (calling for Barry Hearn!) would approach the Sahara and persuade them to bring back the old North American Open. Encourage “weekend players” attendance by running singles and doubles (ladies and gents) on Monday and Tuesday (301 double/double). It would be like Christmas in July. In the old days as many as 2,000 players used to attend the North American Open.  But back to reality, at least for the time being.

The four North American Qualifier winners were Leonard Gates (USA), Jeff Smith (Canada), Elliot Milk (USA) and Danny Baggish (USA). The scores were 4-2, 4-3, 4-0 and 4-0. They were joined (by points) on stage for the North American Championship by Gary Mawson (USA), Jim Long (Canada), Shawn Brenneman (Canada) and Darin “Big Daddy” Young (USA). After Q-3 Senior Lopez told the ODC that “Danny Baggish “will win it all.”  This, after Baggish dismantled Chris Lim (who deserved a better fate) 4-0.

Prior to the North American Championship, the 8 Norte Americanos would face the top 7 from the PDC Order of Merit and a kid named Nathan Aspinall. Last year’s North American champ, Jeff Smith, had a chance to beat Peter Wright but missed doubles to lose 6-5. Overall the PDC outscored the North Americans 48-24. There were chances to break on occasions, but the dastardly double seemed to always get in the way (along added with some “dodgy” play by van Gerwen, Price, Smith and Anderson).

Barely an hour after getting trounced by the PDC the North Americans took the stage for the North American Championship.  USA’s Darin Young escaped with a 6-4 win over Canadian Jim Long in a match that was an “I got it you take it” (Big Daddy grabbed it). Leonard Gates, a former minor league baseball player and one hell of a dancer, took out Shawn Brenneman (6-3), Danny Baggish ruled over Elliot Milk (6-2) and defending North American champ (aka NAC) Jeff Smith had little trouble with Gary Mawson (6-2).

Baggish emerged from a slugfest with Leonard Gates (6-5). At one point, Baggish was down 5-3. The comeback was aided by a T40 check.  Jeff Smith won 6-4 over Darin Young.  Baggish was then up 3-0 against Smith on checks of 71, 97 and 82. Smith got off the snyder with a T40 check but still trailed 4-1, then 5-2. With a bull, d16 Smith avoided a 6-3 loss taking advantage of a missed Baggish double. At 5-5 Smith missed a bull as Baggish took a 3-dart out for $10,000, the North American title and a place in the PDC World Championship.

Baggish returns the title to the USA for the first time since 2017 when “Big Chief” Willie Bruguier got it done. In wining, Baggish was as much of a gentleman as was “Chief Willie.  Heck of a 4th of July present for America (which, by the way, the PDC failed to mention).  Boy, talk about carrying a grudge.

More Senior Lopez: “To be the champ you got to beat the champ.” Baggish did.

A little before the events started, the Old Dart Coach told Las Vegas Review Journal star sports columnist, Ron Kantowski, on Thursday, “Watch the young gun Nathan Aspinall – he could win it all. He’s hungry. The rest of these guys are on a paid holiday.”

Interviewing van Gerwen, Kantowski, asked, “What sights have you seen in Las Vegas?” “None,” the Dutchman responded, “this is a business trip. I’m here to work.”  The ODC checked. van Gerwen had been practicing at the Crown & Anchor one of the only great dart venues in Las Vegas.

Practice, practice, practice didn’t do van Gerwen any good as he would exit stage left 8-6 to Michael Smith (on a 128-check). Also, in the interview with Kantowski, van Gerwen said, “Everyone knowns that Michael is weak mentally. I’m strong.” (The score should have been 8-2 for Smith as he shot a miserable 8/24 on doubles which included 7 on two turns.)

The first round was also unkind to “sleepwalking” Gary Anderson as Gerwyn Price sent him packing 8-6.

(As an aside, the following week the World Series of darts moved to Germany where both van Gerwen and Anderson got the boot in the first round. Martin Schindler won 6-5 over van Gerwen and the ever-popular Nico Kurz eliminated Gary Anderson 6-4. Is it an aberration or a glimpse into the future?)

Nathen Aspinall took out #2 Rob Cross as Peter Wright advanced 8-6 over Daryl Gurney.

On Friday, July 5th, Michael Smith reached the final with an 8-4 defeat of Price. Aspinall came from 2 legs down three times, finishing 161,126 and a missed dart to defeat Peter Wright.

The final was a humdinger!

Aspinall took leg 1 in 10-darts. In leg two he had back-to-back T80s but never got an out shot as Smith erased T30. After being level Aspinall got to 4-2 using checks of 70 and 120.  To this point Aspinall had averaged 111.  Smith would answer to draw even a 4-all with outs of T18 and 87.  Aspinall got to 5-4 and then 7-4 on checks of 85 and 80 – closing the deal with tops for the title and £20,000, averaging 107. Afterwards, a very humble and pleasant Aspinall said, ”7 of the best players and me. I won.”

There was an elephant in the room however as there were an inordinate number of bounce outs that neither hit a wire or another dart.  In addition, after just one match the sisal on some boards looked like the players had been tossing hatchets.

On one occasion a double bull shot hit dead center and didn’t go in.

The “almost official PDC story” is that first the darts hit wires or another darts.

The appearance of the sisal suggests a more believable explanation: the players are using darts with knurled points and when a player pulls out the dart sisal comes with it.

The ODC has the solution: ban knurled dart points!

One would guess that this would anger dart manufactures and sponsors.

How bad did the boards get beat up? They retail at anywhere from $75 to $100 dollars but after just one match they were selling for $10.

To borrow from Hall of Fame sportscaster Barry Tompkins, “Who’s a thunk it?”

Stay thirsty my friends.

Column #HR265 The British are coming! (Paul Revere was a loudmouth!)

Friday, June 28, 2019
Column HR265
The British are coming! (Paul Revere was a loudmouth!)

In just days, the PDC invasion of Las Vegas will be in full swing. The Old Dart Coach’s pals and palettes will be there in all their once remembered glory. On the 4th of July (which may be America’s 243rd birthday depending on the ODC’s math, which is questionable) old timers will be wearing either old darts shirts or just grand old red, white and blue.

DK (Dave Kelly) and the ODC have their outfits picked out.

The fact is that while independence was declared on July 2, 1776, it wasn’t until July 4th that Congress approved the final text – and it wasn’t signed (by 56 delegates, not all of whom were present on the day) until August 2nd. Why then, one might reasonably ask, do we celebrate on the 4th of July and not on July 2nd or even August 2nd?

Indeed, in his writings, “John Adams even noted that July 2nd would be remembered in the annals of American history and would be marked with fireworks and celebrations.”

The answer: the final document was dated July 4th – the date of the final text – and just never changed to the actual date of declaration.

In the days leading up to the North American Championships and U.S. Darts Masters starting July 2 at Mandalay Bay, social media has been alive with opinions about “what’s wrong with the ADO.”   Darts in America was even a subject of an unattributed story in the UK’s Guardian Weekly.

The article stated that, “the ADO has 100,000 players and 700 dedicated (players) with total dart players in the USA at 17 million.” The 17 million figure comes from the National Sporting Goods Association. The number is as phony as Elizabeth Warren being an Indian (feather, not dot).

Then we’re told that “the PDC itself is featured on ESPN.”  That of course is untrue.  ESPN does show Cornhole (an ancient Greek sport) so maybe darts is next. The final “pork pie lie” is that US leagues also generally play cricket, which is true but not so much these days with steel darts.

Back to social media, one person posted, “It’s the old timers that wrecked steel darts.” As a certified “OT” the ODC had to answer…

“If you really want to know when the ADO went south look back to the late 1980s.  At a dart tournament in Schaumburg, Illinois, three or four of the ADO executives took a short morning trip to meet with a soft-tip group (American Darters Association – ADA) in Wisconsin run by a former ADO VP, the late Glenn Remick. Remick had brokered a sponsorship with Anheuser-Busch. He made his pitch that his ADA players join the ADO. The ADO executive answered with the equivalent of ‘Go pound salt!’” They reasoned, ‘Why do we need you?’ The rest is history. What was the ADO executives’ motive?  Prue conjecture, although many opinions are correct.”

With entries still open when this was written, the North American Championships have more than 150 entries for each of the four qualifiers. The total North American prize fund is $60,000. That’s real money.  The entries are an increase over the previous year.  This indicates the increased popularity of the event. Heck, it pays more than most ADO tournaments and there’s no cricket. Each stage winner will pocket $2,000 and the runner-up $1,000. The 8 that make the stage are assured at least $1,250 with the winner taking home $10,000. If you make it to the top 128 in any qualifier you get $100, which is the entry fee for each event.

It gets better for the top 8 Norte Americanos as playing in the U.S Masters assures them of $1,250 even if they lose first round against the PDC professionals. The U.S. Masters winner gets $20,000.  Winner-winner chicken dinner.

Included on the entry list is someone who qualifiers as an old timer – and who is one hell of a dart player. Last July, Larry Butler suffered a heart attack shortly after competition in the PDC World Cup. Recovery has been difficult but that hasn’t deterred Butler.  Facing adversity and overcoming is in his DNA. His competitive spirit has never been questioned. Joining him will be his best friend, fellow Dayton resident Timmy “The Stache” Nicoll. One of America’s top players for several years, in late June Nicoll was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Recently released from the hospital, he begins his toughest fight on July 17 when he begins chemotherapy.  Expect to see a lot of “staches” in the crowd at Mandalay Bay.

With more than 150 entries there are more well-known names than this column has space for.  Notable though are former three-time world champion John Part joined by fellow “hockey puck fans” father-and-son duo Dan Lauby and Danny Lauby. Toss in Chuck Puleo, last year’s winner Jeff Smith, Dawson Murschell and America’s aces Jim Widmayer, Roger Carter and Chris “The Great” White.

Yeah, the ODC knows that White is Canadian. The ODC traded the rights to White for not posting nasty comments on Canadian PM Justin Trudeau. That plus the fact that White lives in the Peoples Republic of California which is also known as “Más alto de California.”

The top 8 have a high hill to climb when they face last year’s winner Gary Anderson, current world champ Michael van Gerwen, Rob Cross, Daryl “The Chin” Gurney, Peter “Snake Bite” Wright, Gerwyn Price, Michael Smith and upcoming star Nathan Aspinall. All but Anderson and Cross have taken a pass on the 2019 Czech Darts Open the penultimate week before the Las Vegas invasion.

There’s always one upset against the professionals. Well, sometimes. Most would point to Aspinall as the weak link in the PDC chain. The ODC’s leans toward either Daryl Gurney, Peter Wright or Michael Smith. All have at times shown the “ICGAS” attitude. Anderson and van Gerwen will approach Las Vegas as a well-paid exhibition while for Aspinall this is a big deal with him coming loaded for North American hides.

A couple final notes…

The 4th of July means red, white and blue. That’s an order, not an option – got that Seaman Deane?

In one of her books mystery writer Tami Hoag has a woman saying, “Men, you can’t live with ’em and you can’t open a pickle jar without them.”  The pickle reference is for pal Timmy Nicoll as he beats the hell out of cancer, just like he does the treble 20.

Stay thirsty my friends.