Column #198 MORE on the World Series of Darts!
October 25, 2005
MORE on the World Series of Darts!
There’s SO much going on in the world of darts right now that a fan has to have arachnid eyes to keep up with it all. I’ll bet you didn’t know that many spiders have eight eyes. I’ll bet you don’t give a rat’s ass either.
Last week, Raymond van Barneveld won the World Masters. Yesterday, John Part was dumped in the first round of the Sky Bet World Grand Prix while, hours later, Dennis Priestley produced some of that “old time magic” to send Roland Scholten packing.
Three weeks ago, the legendary John Lowe published his fourth book, Old Stoneface, his autobiography of thirty years at the pinnacle of world-class darts. News surfaced that Wayne “Hawaii 501” Mardle is due to publish early next year, as is “Mr. Glitter” Bobby George.
But it was Sunday in a small article in the New York Times that the most exciting (though, oddly unceremonious) news of all emerged – news that could soon introduce all of these names and more, and YOURS, to millions of households throughout America. As this story slowly seeps its way into the thousands of smoke-filled darts bars across this land, it is the possibilities – the spectacular and highly personal possibilities – that will begin to dominate conversation.
The news, of course, is that this summer ESPN will carry an event called the World Series of Darts, patterned after the wildly successful World Series of Poker. Eight hour-long segments will highlight the tournament featuring the 16 top-ranked world professionals and 32 of American’s best. The competition will be held at a casino somewhere on the East Coast.
Except in vague terms, how the combatants will be selected has not been announced. Some sort of regional qualifying competition will be organized.
But the prize fund has been determined. A cool $100,000 will be presented to the winner, if the winner is not an American. If the winner is an American, an extra zero will be added to the check. It doesn’t take a spider with eight eyes to calculate that that will buy a whole hell of a lot of beer.
For whoever is putting up the money, this million-buck risk must seem like a good bet. As of this date, no American is ranked among the Professional Darts Corporation’s (PDC) or the Professional Darts Players Association’s (PPDA) top one hundred. And only three Americans (Ray Carver, John Kuczynski, and Darin Young) are listed among the top fifty by the World Darts Federation (WFD).
But then, does it matter?
How this competition will play out and who in America truly has a chance to knock off the best in the world will be determined by format. Just as a dusting of snow is, temporarily, the great equalizer among neighborhoods on either side of the railroad tracks and just as electronic darts can even the battlefield for those throwing against the generally more skilled steel-tip darter, the choice of format could make the Word Series of Darts an exceedingly more exciting affair than might otherwise be anticipated.
If the game is 501 and the format is long, the odds decrease that one of the world’s best will not pocket the prize. But if the game is 301, double-in/double out – like the old days of the North American Open – and the format is short, the odds will shift dramatically. Throw in a bit of cricket and, hell, I might enter myself!
But then, does any of this matter either?
This event isn’t so much about who wins as it is about what it means for darts in America and the world. Already it is having an impact. Just last night, I was out with throwing with a friend and we discussed nothing but this competition.
All of us had had spectacular runs on the board. All of us have been GREAT, briefly. All of us know that, for a moment, on that one given night, our darts were just good enough…
…to win a million bucks!
Could it be? Is it possible?
Probably not for most of us. Maybe for Johnny. Maybe for Ray. Maybe for Darin. Maybe for a few dozen others in America.
The thing is, for the rest of us, never – not ever before – have we even had reason to ponder, to dream.
This has now changed. It has changed forever. And it has not just changed for you and for me. The World Series of Darts will change the way millions of people, including millions of children, will view the sport of darts in the decades to come.
I don’t know who is really responsible for this…
Like thousands of others, I signed the petition to ESPN (started a couple of years ago by someone named Brian Bennett), urging ESPN to throw darts into its programming mix, along with bowling and poker. Who knows if it had any impact. Perhaps it did…
I’ve watched Glenn Remick of the American Darters Association (ADA) as he’s pushed tirelessly to move darts out of the bars and into churches, YMCAs and respectability in America. It was not by accident that Glenn was the only American darts authority quoted in the New York Times story on Sunday.
And I’ve championed all that Barry Hearn, Tim Darby, Dick Allix, and Tommy Cox have been doing to take the best of the sport to the four corners of the earth. Sure, I’ve poked fun at Tommy, but it’s most definitely not been for lack of respect.
What I DO know, what I remember so well, is that years ago when I picked up my first dart and began throwing at the board on the back of my bedroom door, things were different.
Darts was mysterious. Darts didn’t matter.
But it struggled on.
From baseball and widdies and wooden boards to steel-tip money games in the smoke and din of neighborhood bars, to money-losing local tournaments from coast-to-coast, darts in America fought the good fight.
But it never quite won.
Now my friends, thanks to the hard work of so many people, the brilliance of England’s Michael Davies, and the confidence of ESPN, it no longer matters who wins the World Series of Darts.
The sport in America has finally made the big time. And there’s no turning back.
Damn, I can’t wait until summer!
From the Field,
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