Column #HR45 Wankin’ to the Darts at the Temple of Tungsten
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Wankin’ to the Darts at the Temple of Tungsten
According to the Internet from the year AD 30 until the present day there have been “…19 major world religions which are subdivided into a total of 270 large religious groups, and many smaller ones (including) 34,000 separate Christian groups.” It goes without saying that AD stands for Anno Domini which in Latin means the number of years since the time of Christ but, heck, you knew that.
The Old Dart Coach would beg to differ as to the total number of religions. He’s sure that left out in the cold was the religion of those who worship at the Temple of the Tungsten under the sign of the Unicorn. They’re sheltered under the dome of the double where each trip to a triple enhances the faith. Danny2hot, a blogger, agrees blogging that, “darts is religion; get a life.” The Temple of Tungsten membership encompasses all national boundaries, embraces all other religions with no racial or ethnic limitations. They are a strange people.
This past weekend those who worship at the Temple of Tungsten were, as they say down south, in Hog Heaven. They had arrived in nirvana. They were the dog that arrived in heaven to find a “thousands miles of telephone poles with a belly full of pee.” It just doesn’t get any better. If able to receive Sky TV or even Justin TV on computers worshipers were treated to three days of the “best dog-gone TV darts” in the history of the world. The event, the Speedy Hire UK Open, had total price money of £500,000 with £200,000 on the line at Reebok Stadium in Bolton for the 172 who “toed the oche.”
What qualified this event as the “best TV darts” ever was that it had everything of a great TV show? It had heroes, villains, great darts from great players, lousy darts from great players, brilliant comebacks, great collapses, maybe the changing of the guard and of course heartwarming stories. In short a “one off.”
Ever the innovator, the PDC came up with a format that is “different” from the run of the mill event. For the UK Open the final field is made up of qualifiers (32 each from the Speedy Hire and Riley’s Amateur Qualifiers) and the top 96 and ties from the UK Order of Merit. After each round a redraw was done on stage in front of the crowd. The draw was done by Eric Bristow and Sid Waddell with John McDonald pronouncing while “Smiling” Tom Cox did the recording. Nice change from the days of “Mother-in-law” draws done in the back room where the top names drew “nobody or failed to show.” No free rides here. Each round was played on six proper staged boards simultaneously with primary TV coverage on Board #1. There were TV cutaways to matches in progress. Magic. With professionals, the player who starts has a “perceived” advantage. In PDC televised tournaments the “going for the bull” is done in the practice room behind closed doors. We all know what goes on behind closed doors. At the UK Open, early on, “going for the bull” was done live on the stages. Good stuff. Then like Cinderella’s Coach it disappeared from the fans view. Why? NO EYE DEAR. Bring it back.
It would be stupid, to say nothing of boring, to attempt to cover each and every match of the UK Open. James Wade was the eventual winner of the UK Open title with an 11 legs to 8 win over Wes Newton. Wade, winning his 7th major, came through the qualifying process on opening night winning twice, both by 4-2 scores, just to make the field of 64. Following those wins Wade said, “It’s good to have played well and to have come through two matches is a big relief for me tonight. I am feeling good, and the results are starting to come out now, and hopefully I can go on through the UK Open now to Sunday night.” This statement had a lot more meaning than just a casual “I am feeling good.” In past weeks Wade had announced that he suffers from a Bipolar disorder and has sought treatment. The disease affects a person mentality and can cause “episodes of abnormally elevated energy levels and mood with or without one or more depressive episodes.” The game of darts and dart players are poster children for mood swings. Toonfan24 blogged “Bipolar depression is a horrible disease and people who don’t have it don’t understand what it really is.” That was followed by Collywobbles24, “Polar bears are nice.” The ODC, being the juvenile he is, suggested “a Bipolar bear has twice as many chances of getting a date, wears highly colored clothes and listens to Barry Manilow.”
BITS AND PIECES FROM THE UK OPEN
Toeing the Oche wrote, “Pencil in John Part and maybe use the other end for Adrian Lewis” in pre-tournament comments about the UK Open. John Part played very well in taking out Roland Shelton 9-2 with most TV guys jumping on the Part bandwagon. That wagon hit a bump in the road when Part lost to Robert Thornton 9-8 when missing 5 darts for the game to move on. World Champion Adrian Lewis went out early to Terry Jenkins. “The Bull” had early leads of 4-1 and 7-4 with Lewis squandering 3 darts in the 12th leg to narrow the gap to 7-5. At 8-4 Jenkins could afford to lose the next 3, which he did, but won 9-7.
There were some memorable collapses. Holland’s Co Stompe is one of the more interesting guys on the PDC tour. He plays in a long sleeved shirt and for the UK Open was wearing a cross between granny and grandpa glasses. The very tall Dutchman, after a 9-7 win over Simon Whitlock, stood on one leg like a giant stork in a long sleeved shirt and glasses. He would need that sense of himself and humor after he blew leads of 6-0 and 8-4 losing to Andy Boulton 9-8. During the meltdown Stompe missed double digit darts for the match win. Then there were those games where the arm was working but the mind when into “sleep mode.”
In any church there are Cardinal rules. The Temple of the Tungsten is no exception. High Priest Eric Bristow explained, “When your opponent doesn’t have a three dart out set up your favorite double rather than go for the big out.” Some will recall, and some won’t, that Bristow passed up a bull finish to set up 32 against Keith Deller in the 1983 Embassy World Professional Darts Championship when Deller was at a 3-dart out. Deller then hit triple 20, triple 18 and double 12 for the title. A few weeks later the ODC was with his pal the late John “I’d Murder a Pint of Lager” Markovich, Deller’s manager, when he was giving the “mickey” to Eric about passing up the bull shot. “I would do it again.” “Yes and Keith would beat you again,” answered Markovich. Seems even a High Priest can revise his Cardinal Rules.
In an early round of the UK Open the veteran Swedish player Magus Caris was cruising along leading Peter “The Rock” Hudson 3-0 in the race to 4. During the 4th leg Caris landed a triple 20 and triple 18 to leave the bull. Hudson not only was not in the three dart zone he was about 6 or 7 back at 203. Caris went for the 164-out with the bull and missed hitting 25. On the next two Caris trips to the Oche he busted 25 with triple 9 and triple 14. Meanwhile Hudson got to and hit a double. At 3-1 Caris missed a flock of doubles as Hudson made it 3-2. A flock? That would be double 12, double 6, double 3 and 6 darts from 3. That would be a flock! With the score tied at 3 Caris went first. His trips resulted in 140, 140 and 135 to leave 86. Before Caris could work on 86, which is bar talk for “you’re out of here” and he soon would be. Hudson had strung together a leg of 140, 180 and 165 to leave 16. Caris went 18, then triple 18 but missed double 14s. Hudson used one for the win in 10 darts. Eric Bristow, “Caris has only himself to blame.” Then, one never to pass up giving a person or two the “mickey,” Bristow continued. “Caris lost to Bobby George in 1994 in the semi-finals of the 1994 Embassy. Not many people can say that – that they lost to Bobby George.”
Phil Taylor didn’t make it to the finals. In fact Phil Taylor didn’t make it to the semi-finals. This of course brought out the “Taylor is finished” crowd. It’s been 10 months since his last major win and tongues will wag as tongues will wag. Yes, a Taylor loss brings out tongues like the bell did for Pavlov’s dog. Taylor actually started the competition is good fashion with a convincing 9-3 win over Mark Frost. The ODC is critical of some of the nicknames on the PDC Tour. Frost though has the best ever – he’s called “Frosty the Throw Man.” Now that’s good stuff. Throughout the UK Open players mentioned time and time again about the amount of heat in the venue. There were six boards all rigged with intensely hot TV lights which at best are stifling. When Paul Nicholson and Phil Taylor met on Board #1 on Saturday it was a fact that there was enough chill on the stage to hang meat. There were no “man hugs” (thank God) or chuckles and grins or any of the “Buddy, Pal, Amigo” moments we so cherish.
Nicholson had warmed up for Taylor with a comeback from 5-1 and 7-4 down to defeat Gary Anderson 9-8. Up 7-4 Anderson had doubles to go up 8-4 but misfired. Given life Nicholson turned things around with outs of 124, a big 88 on the bull and an 83 with double 9 to close the deal. Taylor looked vintage when he disposed of Dennis Priestly 9-3 with a 105 average. Nicholson has never been timid. “It doesn’t matter to me that I’ve drawn Phil and I’ll relish the challenge. I’m not scared of anybody and I never have been.”
Nicholson held leads of 7-3 and 7-4. After one double Nicholson removed his darts, turned left and “winked” at someone off stage left. Following another double Nicholson performed the same maneuver and stuck out his tongue. The ODC, being the rather infantile old codger he is, thought this was a code for “meet me at the Tesco car park later.” It was later revealed that he was making these gestures at the PDC’s and TV’s Rod Harrington for reasons never discovered. Taylor had not played particularly well but did pick it up when down 7-4. Taylor made it 7-5 with his second best leg of the match. Three 140s were followed by a 19-12 then bull out. Taylor’s best got it to 7-6 when he followed a pair of 140s with a 137 to leave 87 which he erased with a triple 17, a marker and then double 18. Going first Taylor missed doubles to level. Taylor would level at 8 setting up the decider where he had the darts. Nicholson rode a 180, along with a couple of Taylor trips to the oche that yielded only 88, to miss and then hit a double for the win.
SEMIS AND FINALS
James Wade was a man on a mission. He had to overcome more than any player in the field. On his way to the semis Wade had a match against Welshman Richie Burnett who showed great form early on. Wade seemed to be motoring along when Burnett made a run at a comeback. With Wade up 8-7 Burnett had three darts to level the match at the Reebok and force a deciding leg. Burnett looked nervous as he missed the three. Was it pressure? Was it nerves? Maybe, but blogger “Pauleee” entered his opinion, “Burnett tense ‘coz there’s a farmer’s field next to the Reebok with sheep in it. You can take the man out of Wales?”
Lost in all the “hoopla” was one Denis “The Heat” Ovens, a pal of the ODC’s. Very quietly and with little fanfare Ovens found himself on the semi final stage for the second year in a row. He made a splash in an early round, not necessarily for playing great but for donning what was called a “Don Johnson shirt” while defeating Mark Hylton. To be honest it was the kind of shirt that the ODC would wear when dressing down but for the understated and very serious Ovens it was splashy. TV commentators, being catty, made fun of the fact that Ovens supposedly rarely smiles. “Not so!” yelled the ODC to the computer. “I saw him smile in 2009 when I bought him a beer in Las Vegas.” For his semi-final engagement against Wes Newton, Ovens chose not to wear the “Don Johnson” shirt. He forgot another Cardinal rule, “Dance with the one that brung ya.”
Ovens moved to an early 5-2 lead in the race to 10 thanks to some steady play aided by Newton missed doubles. Newton connected, winning the next two legs with a 127 on the bull and a 14-darter. Newton would level when Ovens missed tops. Newton moved to a 7-5 lead following a 170-check on his way to a 10-6 win. Yes the “Heat” was turned off in the Oven. Ovens had a great run and the £10,000 is a nice weekend’s work. In the other semi it was “what if” for Mark Webster. Webster erased 139 in leg 1 and then struck back-to-back maximums in the second on his way to a 7-3 lead over James Wade in the race to 10. Welcome Mr. What If. Tossing his 6th 180 Webster missed the bull to go up 8-3. At 7-4 Webster missed double tops while Wade didn’t. At 7-5 down Wade took out 115 to get within 1. Up 9-7 Webster put on a scoring show missing the bull-out which Wade punished with a 120-out. Even with his 8th 180 Webster was forced to the decider when Wade checked out on 61. Wade’s final leg was a masterpiece: 137, T, 180 which left 84. 60 and double 12, thank you very much and hello finals. Webster was “flummoxed” to say the least.
The final between James Wade and Wes Newton, which Wade took 11-8, played on a day by itself, would have been a stand-alone classic. On a Sunday at the Reebok James Wade had bested Paul Nicholson (10-7) & Marl Webster as Wes Newton had taken out rookie Dave Chisnall (10-8) and Denis Ovens. The semi-final between James Wade and Mark Webster had taken a lot of the oxygen out of the venue which the following Newton-Ovens match didn’t replace. The crowd was spent to the point that no amount “liquid enthusiasm” could elevate them to anything close to fever pitch. The final went “back and forth” and then “forth and back.” Wade broke out to an early 4-3 lead which Newton turned into a 6-4 lead obliviously taking 4 out of 5. Along the way to this point both players missed doubles which can only be expected at the end of a long day. At 6-4 Wade took control winning 5 of the next 7. With the darts Wade’s winning leg of 180, 83, T40 left 98. Wade next got it to 40 with 20-18-20 then 40 went away. The winning leg made up for the previous leg when Wade had a dart to seal the deal only to misfire and give Newton another chance.
SHIFTING EYES (AND A WILLY)
All eyes will now shift to the World Matchplay July 16-24 in Blackpool, the next PDC TV Major. Played in the cathedral-like Winter Gardens it will be the next opportunity to see if there is a changing of the darting guard or move back to the future. One blogger will surely be in front of his computer, as will the ODC, in wild anticipation…
During the UK Open ******* blogged. “My missy just caught me wanking. I had time to turn the porn off, but didn’t have time to put my **** away. Now she thinks I was wanking to the darts!!!!!”
The Old Dart Coach? He has Swamp People and Ice Road Truckers to watch and – oh yes… no wife.