Column #361 The Freddie Prinze Memorial Darts Tournament
Thursday, June 11, 2009
The Freddie Prinze Memorial Darts Tournament
Yah y’betch yah!
There really is a Freddie Prinze Memorial Darts Tournament, named after the real live (well, not any more) star of Chico and the Man fame and it’s in Nor’Dakoda. That’s somewhere near Canada, which I am told is due to be recognized as a civilized country – just as soon as it stops bashing baby seals in the head.
Perhaps also someday they will give long overdue credit to John Part, one of their great sports heroes.
Naturally, when I was invited by Bismarck’s Jeff Doppler into the wilds of Hankinson, near Fargo, to partner with him in the annual Freddie Prinze Darts Tournament this past February I responded immediately and in the affirmative. I’d never been to North Dakota and had a real hankering to freeze my ass off. Plus, being kind of a history buff, I had long thought it would be interesting to actually see the famous ship the British chased and sunk in 1941 and which was then discovered and recovered in 1989 by Dr. Robert Ballard (who also found the Titanic) and moved to its namesake, the Sioux State’s capitol city – and a hotbed of darts.
Doubt me? Check out the Bis-Man Steel Dart Association’s website here: Biz-Man Darts.
Kind of like Missouri’s Chicken COOP Open, the Prinze was coined the Prinze for unlikely but logical reasons. The COOP began, nameless, 28 years ago in an actual chicken coop. The second year it was held it needed a name and, well, the rest is history – and it makes sense. The North Dakota tournament also began nameless, 33 years ago, and when in the second year an identity was contemplated it was realized that Freddie Prinze died the same day the tournament was held and, well, the rest is also history – and it also makes sense, kind of.
The founders of these two tournaments – the COOP’s Chuck Gideon and the Prinze’s Robert “R.C.” Stein – have never met, but should. They are marketing geniuses and the brains behind two of the longest running tournaments in the country. Plus, I have it on good authority that Gideon could use dance lessons and I know from personal observation – from the sidelines in the bar at the Dakota Magic Casino tournament venue – that Stein’s got the moves! Uff-da!
They do darts just a little different up this way… but the way they do it fantastic. The Prinze is a one-day all doubles competition. Partners team up, pay a $75 registration fee, and compete in a long randomly drawn round robin preliminary round. Depending on a team’s win-loss record in the preliminaries they are then bracketed into one of four divisions for a finals double elimination knockout. The first four finishing teams in each division divide the cash. The winner of the lowest division wins the same amount as the winner of the top division. It’s fun, fair, and crazy!
They game played is one I’d never heard of before – called “chase” which is sort of a long form of cricket. It’s played on the numbers twenty through ten and without the bull – but the strategy is different, not that I quite understand it. One of the unique features is if one of your opponents throws a nine-mark it is considered acceptable to go outside, scoop a handful of snow, and then rub it in their face.
Doppler is a hell of a shot – a far better shot than he gives himself credit for. We swept through the preliminaries without dropping a leg and were placed in the top division – the Gold – for the finals knockout. After a long day and a series of intense battles, we finished fourth, pretty much entirely because I suck ass.
Finishing just ahead of us were Jim Collins, Jr. and John Christopherson. But in the end it was Jamie Hoynes and Randy Roesler (the team who ended Dopper’s and my quest) who took the top honors by defeating Mike Nelson and Ryan Loch, the 2007 champions.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that while the only connection to Freddie Prinze is the date of the tournament – he wasn’t even from North Dakota – the tournament is nothing if not respectful to the comedian and his legacy. The hall is plastered with posters of Prinze, dating back to the early years of the shoot – all signed by attending players. I asked if Prinze’s family, in particular his son, the well known actor, Freddie Prinze, Jr. and his wife, Sarah Michelle Gellar, were aware of the three decade-long tribute and no one knew.
To a person however, it was unanimous that all would be honored if a representative might someday attend the tournament. Certainly I have no doubt that the greeting line would be long and that R.C. would be at the head of it and itchin’ to Two-step, were it just Gellar who stopped by.
Finally, I’d also be remiss if I did not emphatically state that this tournament is NOT for everyone. It just isn’t, damnit. For example Johnny Kuczynski should not attend. Neither should Ray Carver or Darin Young or Brad Wethington. No one from England should attend. This is not because the Prinze in not a great tournament…
This is because Doppler and I finished fourth and we ain’t a damn bit pleased about it!
So beware Hoynes, Roesler, Nelson, Loch, Collins, and Christopherson – Doppler and Dartoid are coming back in 2010, and you’re all gonna be rubbing snow in our faces.
Yah y’betch yah!
From the Field,
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