Column #164 Still Watch Out for Ricky – and Darin!
July 1, 2004
Still Watch Out for Ricky – and Darin!
I write today with a heart that’s both happy and sad. I know that sounds corny and dramatic. I just can’t find better words to use. To be honest, I really don’t’ feel like writing at all. So this column will be short.
The happy part is about something American darters care about.
The unhappy part is about something all darters should care about.
The good news for American darts fans is that just after noon today Hazelton, Pennsylvania’s, Darin Young, closed the deal on England’s Lionel Sams to advance to tomorrow’s top 16 second round here at the Professional Darts Corporation’s (PDC) Las Vegas Desert Classic. Despite valiant efforts by three of the four (Paul Lim, Johnny Kuczynski and Bruce Cottrell) other Americans still in the tournament, Young now remains the only Yankee still in contention.
The tragic news is that the other American, Filipino transplant, Ricky Villanueva, now from Lubbock, Texas, never had a chance to show his form. In an absolutely stunning decision (however correct that decision may have been in principle), Villanueva was disqualified from play by Tournament Director, Tommy Cox.
I’m not going to go into all the details. In fact, I’m not certain that anyone truly knows the entire story. The bottom line is that the PDC has rules and Villanueva was found to have violated one of them. Hence, his right to play was taken away.
Rules are important in darts and the PDC runs a pretty tight ship. There’s a dress code, no-smoking policy and limits on what sort and size of logos can appear on the backs of shirts. There is a also a requirement that darters who have reached today’s point in a tournament show up two hours before their scheduled time to play. Without rules there would be chaos.
Villanueva was scheduled to face England’s Steve Coote at noon. Villanueva appeared in the hall at approximately 11:45 a.m. Due to a late start, the match, had it been played, would have seen the first dart thrown at about 12:30 p.m. Still, the decision was pretty much automatic. Despite the pleadings of Lim, who argued adamantly to Cox on Villanueva’s behalf, the decision was final.
Word of the decision spread rapidly throughout the hall. Suffice it to say the Americans were outraged and they remain angry. The British expressed similar dismay. Even Coote, the professional that is, didn’t want to take a free walk to the top 16. Villanueva, of course, was crushed.
As I have said, rules are essential in darts — at any level. But sometimes when a rule is broken there are extenuating circumstances. Sometimes a strict policy of zero tolerance needs to be set aside. Sometimes the technically right decision is the wrong decision for the moment.
In my opinion (and I have talked the details of what occurred over with Cox), in this situation the right decision was the wrong decision.
One must recognize that for someone — Villanueva — whose first language is Tagalog, not English, clearly communicating with someone who speaks in a different language and with a different accent — Cox — is difficult. Understand also, at least as far as I can discern, that the rule Villanueva broke was not provided to him in written form.
Understand still further, that while the rule is well known to regular players on the PDC circuit, Villanueva is new to the circuit.
Nonetheless, he was — and freely admits that he was — completely aware of the requirement. He discussed it personally with Cox yesterday.
But here’s the extenuating circumstance…
It appears (and I say “appears” because neither Cox nor Villanueva agree on what was said) that what Cox told Villanueva was his match would start at 12:00 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. and he should report two hours prior to the start. What Villanueva “heard” Cox say is that his match would start at 2:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. and he should report two hours in advance. Again, the one thing that is not in dispute is the two-hour rule.
What Villanueva did was exactly what he understood he was supposed to do. In fact, based on what he understood Cox to say, he arrived at the hall well over two hours ahead of schedule. While in reality he was late, the fact must not be dismissed that, due to the initial delay of play, he was in the hall nearly an hour prior to when he was to step to the line. The match could have and should have gone on.
No great harm was caused by the misunderstanding. Today’s round was not televised so no sensitive broadcast schedule was jeopardized. Small children and innocent animals were not endangered.
So, with all due respect to Cox — he has a tough job and does it well — the technically right decision was the wrong decision today. Nothing was gained by disqualifying Villanueva.
So back to the beginning…
My heart is happy — I am SO proud — of what Darin Young accomplished this afternoon. There can’t possibly be a soul who was in the hall today who would argue that the skill he demonstrated was anything but world class. Lim, Kuczynski and Cottrell also did America and darts proud. This is the part of this column that “American darters care about.”
My heart is sad because a decision was made today that did not need to be made. The decision hurt somebody who did everything right and did not deserve to be hurt and it cost America and the world an opportunity, at least in my opinion, to see the debut of darter who has as much or more raw talent than anybody in the world. This is the part of this column that that “all darters should care about.”
Just 16 darters now remain in the 3rd Annual Las Vegas Dessert Classic. Eight second round matches get underway bright and early tomorrow morning.
Pennsylvania’s Darin Young faces an unenviable pairing against Wayne “Hawaii 501” Mardle. I know he’s up to the task.
Sadly, so would have been Ricky Villanueva.
From the Field,
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