Column #HR293 CONGRATULATIONS José Augusto Oliveira de Sousa!

Wednesday, November 25, 2020
Column HR293
CONGRATULATIONS Jose Augusto Oliveira de Sousa!

For those in the Colonies may I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving.  It’s the one day of the year that we feast on turkey, a bird that just days ago was yelling “BAHH.”

Can’t fool a darter.  For those into history the recorded first Thanksgiving the Colonies celebrated was in 1621.  The Pilgrims celebrated their first harvest.  The party lasted three days with the Pilgrims, mostly English, inviting the natives – then called Indians – to share in the festivities.  While the exact menu is not available it is known that “Golden Elixir” was plentiful.

After many gourds of “Meade” were consumed the Pilgrims broke out the darts.  What transpired was the first Blind Draw Doubles in American history.  The pairs were drawn with Pilgrims in one hat and the Indians in another.  This event, Pilgrims & Indians, foreshadowed children for years playing Cowboys & Indians.  The format?  301 double in and double out, best of 3.

As today’s Colonists were preparing for turkey, football and family fights the PDC was deep into the 14th staging of the BoyleSports Grand Slam of Darts.  The tournament consists of a 32-player field with the winner walking away with a nifty £125,000.  The group stage players toed the oche in the best of 9, best of 19 in round two, then best of 31 onward.

With more darts than pages in the bestselling book How to Understand Women the Grand Slam went on and on and on.  Two-time defending champion Gerwyn Price, going for the hat trick, got sidetracked by “on the rise” Nathan Aspinall 10-8.  Price didn’t fall without a fight.  Aspinall jumped to a 7-3 lead when Price roared back closing to 8-7.  The next two were in Aspinall’s pocket to move to a decider.  Price missed 2 darts at d4 to extend the match allowing Aspinall to erase 92 on the bull.  He would exit next round to semifinalist Dimitri Van den Bergh 16-15.

It would be up to Simon Whitlock to end Michael van Gerwen’s run for a third Grand Slam title.  Whitlock collected his third TV win of the year over van Gerwen racking up 20 T80’s as part of the 16-15 decision.  Whitlock trailed 2-0, 9-5 and 11-7 before drawing level at 13.  van Gerwen collected a 146-check on his way to a 15-13 lead.  But van Gerwen missed eight match darts and Whitlock marched to victory.  I feel on top of the world, said Whitlock.  It’s incredible – I think this is my best victory I’ve ever had in darts.  To beat Michael when he’s off his game is another thing, but to beat him when he’s playing well – which I thought he did today – is amazing. 

Whitlock would get his comeuppance in the semifinals when Portugal’s Jose de Sousa upended him 16-12.  It looked as though Whitlock would continue his roll with 2-0 and 5-2 leads which included a pair of 12 darters.  Leg eight went to de Sousa as did the next 6 of 7 giving him an 8-6 lead.  Then, when tied at 8 de Sousa took the next 7, including a “brace” (a brace being more than one) of 121 checks, two double tops and two double 18s) and was one leg from victory – and done.

In the other semi James Wade took advantage of a missed bull for the match from Dimitri Van den Bergh for the 16-15 win and trip to the final.  It looked like gloom and doom for Wade as he missed doubles to fall behind 5-1.  Wade would be Wade though and would use d10 to move within 1 at 10-9.  They would level at 14 when Wade then took 4 of 5.  Van den Bergh posted a 14-darter to lead 15-14 but then missed the bull for victory in leg 30.  Wade leveled and then won with T40, T80 and a “goodbye” 76 for 12-darter a trip to his 3rd Grand Slam final.

Oh, baby what a finals finish, but first…

The final began with de Sousa showing all the signs of a 46-year old talented rookie falling behind 3-0, wasting three T80’s with 9 stray doubles.  But he would right the ship with a T30-check to enter the break at level 5.  After leveling at 6 de Sousa took 6 of the next 8 for a 12-8 lead.  Although he dropped 2 of the next 3 de Sousa would get to 14-11 – only two legs from the title.

Wade stayed on stage during the break to little avail – when behind a pair of T80s de Sousa mucked about on the double but still got the leg to move to 15-11.  Wade answered with a 161-check as de Sousa sat on the winning leg.

Would the rookie feel the pressure and choke?

At 15-12 and with Wade at a low 2-dart double and de Sousa on 158, de Sousa stroked 60, 60 and d19 for the title – winning a “major” in his initial appearance!

One announcer called him a debutant.  At 46 he’s a little old for a debutant but what the heck, it’s his day.  Go with it.

The PDC has become so good that to quote Jim “The Bizz” – what “darts, bloody darts!”  The tournaments, Players Championships, this tour and that tour – it all becomes a madding blur.  Writing about a pair 12 dart games has become commonplace.  The focus now is on the drama that is in evidence at every darting event – whether it be the PDC World Championship or a Blind Draw at Joe’s Bar and Grill, mostly bar.

The Grand Slam produced a couple of zingers…

Every so often a darter takes to the podium to proclaim someone the “best ever.” Lately, that person has become called the Greatest Of All Time or “GOAT.”  When playing doubles and missing a double the ODC was called the GOAT.  Different meaning.

On the first day Michael Smith had his way (don’t go there) with Lisa Ashton 5-1.  Smith averaged (averages are for losers) 102, which is PDC good.  After the match Smith called her “the best female darts player ever.”  To set the record straight Smith appears to be a nice gent that made a sincere but common mistake.  Any athlete who tries to equate players from one era with another makes that mistake.

I played Lisa in Germany and she beat me.  Now we don’t play many women but not being rude, I don’t think Lisa is a woman in that sense of fact.  (Michael, you’ll be running that statement back.)  She could play darts better than anyone of us here and when she’s on, she’s on so I’m glad when I got the chance, I took it every time.  Old adage: “When you’re in a hole stop digging.”

I know Trina’s (Gulliver) won how many – nine or ten world titles – but Lisa Ashton is the best ever women’s darts player.  Mensa will never call the Smith household.

Then there’s Gary, Gary Anderson – always good for a little controversy (pronounced “Con-Trav-Is-See” by those who refused the Colonist’s help in improving their language).  The Flying Scotsman with the engaging smile always provides good copy (when understood).  The ODC uses written transcripts to decipher Anderson during his remarks the ODC enjoyed a tray of Eiffel Tower French brie complimented by champagne and, of course, Anderson whine.

Anderson was upset after he saw off young 18-year old Adam Gawlas 5-3.  He went on a bizarre TV rant.   He insinuated the 18-year was “snarking” and “sniffing.”  The ODC understands sniffing (aka, the Biden effect) but “snarking” is a new one.

Any one whose played darts knows that “gamesmanship” is just part of the game.  Anderson doesn’t accept that theory.  He seemed upset that “gamesmanship” raised its head. 

Gamesmanship – PATHETIC.  They’re not dart players, they’re just COWARDS!  This from a guy whose dropped more bombs on the oche than a darter on Sunday morning after two days of beer, sauerkraut, boiled eggs and broccoli.  Please.  Anderson would get hammered by Michael van Gerwen 10-2 next round, not whine or brie.

Of course, if a turkey goes “BAHH” in Scotland it’s in real trouble.

Stay thirsty my friends.

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Howie Reed
The one and only Howie Reed (the Old Dart Coach) goes back decades with the legends of our sport - he knows where the skeletons are buried. Just ask any of the ADO and WDF old-timers! His widely popular column, Toeing the Oche, is a must-read.