Column #160 The Chicken Was A Chicken
June 27, 2004
The Chicken Was A Chicken
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: Absolutely no animals were harmed while writing this column, although some chicks and two American presidents may be offended when reading it.
As the Cherry Bomb and Bull City Classics wind down and as darters shuffle about airports in Ft. Lauderdale and Durham, and elsewhere across the country and around the world, and begin to make their way to Las Vegas, others (like me!) are already here. Yes, some of us take the Professional Darts Corporation’s (PDC) Las Vegas Desert Classic seriously. Some of us are on a mission.
You can be sure that John Part’s on a mission; he has last year’s loss in the finals to Peter Manley to avenge. Without a doubt Phil Taylor’s on a mission; he’s always on a mission and this coming week it’ll be to stomp everybody who breathes, particularly John Part, who dismantled him in the semi-finals just one year ago. Deta Hedman’s on a mission; she’s here to take it to Stacy Bromberg, who held on in an exciting finals match last year to pocket the big check for the ladies.
I came to Vegas early to take care of some unfinished business of my own — from two years ago. I’ve just returned to my room and, given some thought, find that I’m feeling pretty good. The job’s done and I didn’t even have to pick up a dart…
That’s one of the things about our sport — just like in boxing, the mental game is critical. Muhammad Ali often beat up his opponents psychologically before climbing through the ropes. Sometimes I start shakin’ in my shorts the moment I offer my hand to an opponent and he returns my show of sportsmanship with a friendly “good game, love” in a British accent. So, I wasn’t all that surprised to find that the same holds true for the sport of tic-tac-toe.
A bit of history…
Two years ago I heard about this bird named Ginger who was taking on all comers at the Tropicana. I did some calling around and found out that she hailed from somewhere in the back-woods of Arkansas, the same state that gave America Slick Willie. Don’t ask me why, but I had to have this chick. It wasn’t long before I found myself being escorted out of the Tropicana by security.
NOTE TO BRITISH READERS: the references above to “birds taking on all comers” and “slick willies” are American terms. Just thought I better make this clear. I promised Gayle Farmer that I’d keep this year’s Desert Classic series clean. I don’t want the PDC to ban my column. Again.
Ginger was born, raised and trained in Springhill, Arkansas by someone named Bunky Boger (honest). At the same tender age that most young chickens find themselves on the Last Train to Sam Purdue, Ginger was sold to the Tropicana. She was a smart chicken and destined for a whole lot more in life than to float with so many noodles in a can of soup. For ten hours a day Ginger was commissioned to play tic-tac-toe against tourists and conventioneers.
I first swaggered through the Tropicana’s door just two weeks after Ginger began her gig. Outside the hotel the marquee beamed: “Win $10,000 — Play Tic-Tac-Toe With a Live Chicken.” In the lobby of the hotel, in a small glass booth, was Ginger. She paced. She flapped her little white wings and menacingly bobbed her head the way birds are known to do. She was proud. Confident. Ready. And I was too.
“Good game, love” she seemed to coo. Oh. Oh.
I registered quickly and took my place in line. I was ready. I was gonna go mano-a-claw with a chicken and I was gonna bust a cap in her ass the same way every damn Brit did me at the Oche earlier in the day. The only difference was I was gonna go home with ten thousand smackers. The only darter who did better than that was Manley and he went and got engaged, so his check was spent.
The short story is that the pecker-head took me out in four moves. It was a rout — nutin’ but a routine hen’s night out. Maybe Ginger wasn’t from Arkansas?
I don’t know how she did it. What I do remember, vaguely, is pounding on her booth with a beer bottle. The rest is history. Like Part, Taylor and Hedman I just haven’t been able to get revenge out of my mind. My mission was set…
So now a bit of the present…
I skipped the Cherry Bomb Classic. I’d booked a room and planned to ride over with friends from Tampa and then fly on to Vegas from Ft. Lauderdale after Sunday’s events, in time to get some rest before the first qualifier on Monday morning. But I just couldn’t overcome the embarrassment and humiliation of getting’ whooped by a chicken. I had to get here early.
It was a short taxi ride to the MGM. I checked in, managed to find my room and then a bar somewhere in the cavernous structure and then, relaxed and fortified, ventured into the sultry night to the Tropicana across the way. It was payback time. Tonight the cluck was goin’ down! My revenge was not only gonna be sweet; it was gonna be profitable. And winning was certain; with a cucumber sandwich in hand I was perfectly disguised as a Brit.
I must admit to considerable disappointment, at least at first, to find that Ginger was missing. Perhaps she’d crept into the night to hustle in some other hutch? Perhaps she’d become a Happy Meal? All I know is that the spot in the lobby where she’d fleeced me and thousands of others was absent her little glass booth.
I asked around. A bellhop. A pit boss. A girl behind the registration desk…
“Pardon me, can you tell me what happened to the chicken?” Blank stares.
So I found a telephone on the wall and called the hotel.
“Good evening, Tropicana Resort. Can I help you?”
“Hi, I have a couple of questions about the chicken.”
“Oh.” Silence. “Let me transfer you.”
I called back.
“Marketing Department, please.”
“One moment, sir. I will transfer you.”
Dejected, I headed back across the road to my room and e-mailed the Tropicana’s Marketing Manager, Lisa Keim. Briefly, I related my story about Ginger and explained that, although I was in town for a darts tournament, I just didn’t feel that I could throw well if I didn’t first avenge my defeat.
“Good darts demand concentration,” I wrote. “This has been on my mind for two years. Unless you’ll give me another shot at the chicken I just don’t think I can be competitive at the boards.”
I was surprised to receive an almost instant reply. Keim wrote back that Ginger was part of a successful hotel promotion but that the promotion had recently ended. She “was one smart bird but she’s retired now,” Keim wrote. She invited me to come back to the hotel to enjoy some trapeze act instead. I think I’ll pass…
Then I got to thinking. A “retired” chicken?
Unlikely, my friend…
I know from the work I do in real life (which is essentially to raise money for non-for-profit organizations) that the animal rights group, PETA, complained about the Chicken Challenge, calling it “cruel” and “degrading.”
I know from psychology class in collage that by using behaviorist techniques developed by B.F. Skinner — by applying just the right mix of positive and negative reinforcement — a good trainer can teach a simple-minded being to do almost anything. Just look at what George Bush has accomplished.
So perhaps some group out there stole the chicken, afraid of what was next? Today it’s tic-tac-toe. Then a harmless card trick. Soon it’s crank calls and network hacking. Money laundering and identity theft. Eventually suicide bombings.
But the more I think about it the less likely I think it is that either explanation resolves the mystery of what happened to Ginger.
There’s NO way the Tropicana would retire its chicken as long as the chicken was pullin’ in the green. Vegas is all about money. It just makes no sense, no matter the pressure from advocacy groups, that the Tropicana big-wigs would give Ginger the sack.
No, the only explanation that stands the test of logic is that my disguise worked. Ginger really was from Arkansas, thought I was from England, and flew the coop. The chicken was a chicken!
It is for this precisely reason that I am pretty sure there is hope for me when the Desert Classic kicks off on Monday morning.
And that’s why for the next 24 hours, love, I’ll be practicing my British accent.
From the Field,
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