Column #HR 317 Nicknames abound in the PDC!

Saturdat, October 20, 2021
Column HR317
Nicknames abound in the PDC!

Salzburg, Austria, played host to the 2021 “How’s Your Old” Cazoo European Championship.  The prize fund of £500,000 included £120,000 for the winner, an increase from the recently concluded Grand Prix.  More importantly, the irritating double start was gone which meant the pros would have to find something else to whine about, as they usually do.

The quality field was missing the red-hot Johnny “The Ferret” Clayton.   A “ferret,” as we know, is able to eat anything it kills which lately has been fellow players.

The weasel is a close cousin of the ferret.  Recently, the Old Dart Coach referred to himself as a “chalk eating weasel (CEW).” The term refers to a person who always bets on favorites.  The ODC is in the CEW Hall of Fame along with pal and sometimes contributor Russ Lopez.  Being a “CEW,” the ODC picked #1 seed Gerwyn Price to win.

Nicknames mean something.  The Old Dart Coach got his when he successfully coached an ADO Pacific Cup Gold medal team to a bronze finish.  He was summerly fired, all visions of glory gone.  Peter Wright’s nickname “Snake Bite” has bit him in the backside for the second tournament on the trot.  German Florian Hempel sent the defending champ packing in the first round 6-3.

The “Gentle Giant” #2 seed Mensur Suljovic plays the game with more emotion then anyone in any sport.  Being the hometown guy he, with a little singing fluid, energized the Salzburg arena crowd.  Against snake killer Florian Hemple Suljovic opened a 6-3 lead which shrank to 7-5 then 9-7.  With the match there for the taking Suljovic missed 4 match darts (seemingly using an egg timer before throwing his last missed dart).  When he finally hit the winner, he hung on to Hempel like the ODC does a giant Miller Genuine, then fell thanking the crowd.  “I couldn’t see if the last dart was in but it’s a brilliant feeling,” said Suljovic.  “I gave it my best and I played good darts.  I’m feeling good and I’m so happy.”

A snake that was slithering his way through the draw was Nathan “The Asp” Aspinall.  In Egypt the Asp was a symbol of royalty used for execution of criminals (and Liz Taylor when she played Cleopatra).  Aspinall got to the semis when he sent Danny Noppert home 10-9.  Noppert used a T80 to get close at 143 but missed fired on his next trip allowing Aspinall to erase 52.

For a brief time, less than an hour, the old Michael van Gerwen returned in all his glory to the oche.   First, he would take out #1 seed Gerwyn Price in the quarter finals.  They were closer than “2-bugs in a rug” after Price opened a 4-1 lead.  They would level at 4, 5,6,7 and 8.  van Gerwen would gain a lead at 9-8 then cash with the 10-8 win.

He had the Asp in his sights as he raced to a 7-1 lead using 4-T80s, 2-T74s, 2-T40s and 2-T31s.  Then the current van Gerwen returned as Aspinall grabbed 5 of the next 6 to narrow the gap to 8-6.  van Gerwen won the next leg, with the darts, for 9-6.  The Asp would level at 10 as van Gerwen had the “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” look on his face.  That looked disappeared with an 11-dart leg of T, T80, T80, 9 d16.  Finally, a van Gerwen appearance in a final, which lately has been as rare as hen’s teeth.

On the other side of the draw Rob Cross was moving along like a finely tuned darting machine, reaching the semifinals winning legs 26-12.  Cross trailed in only his opening match against Barry Keane 0-1.  Never trailed again.

There is not a single player with a better sense of himself than Joe Cullen.  He is genuinely a nice fellow.  He needed all his talent when he faced hometown favorite Mensur Suljovic in the quarter finals.  After building a 3-nil lead which muffled the crowd only for them to become reenergized when Suljovic led at 5-4 and 6-5.  At 8-7 (Cullen) there was some hope which was dashed as Cullen closed it 10-7.

In sports it’s often not the match you’re in that matters most but rather the events before.  Joe Cullen obliviously expended a lot of emotion against Suljovic.  Add to that running into a fire hot Rob Cross – and the scene was set for the “fit to hit the sham.”  Trailing 9-nil Cullen could only smile looking at the crowd with that “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” look.  Playing leg 10 Cullen took out 126 with t19, t19, d6 looking at the crowd as if to be saying, “How about that?”  The crowd loved it.  Cullen would bring the house down when he got to 10-3 with 20, d18, d18.  Cross would move on with an average of 96+ winning 11-3.

The final between Rob Cross and Michael van Gerwen promised to be a high scoring affair.  It wasn’t with final averages in the 92+ range.  van Gerwen took the first leg with a nifty 106 finish of 20, t18, d16.  Then van Gerwen would miss 13 darts doubles, falling behind 4-8.  Cross for his part didn’t miss meaningful doubles – those that cost a leg.  Up 9-4 Cross went into the “pucker zone” as van Gerwen started to score and hit doubles closing to 9-7.  van Gerwen had shots at 9-8 but missed 3 as Cross extended to 10-7.  With a T80 van Gerwen stopped the Fat Lady from singing for the moment.  What would be the final leg was a classic as Cross answered van Gerwen’s 9 darts leaving him at 75 with 12 that erased 81 for the win.  Sing on Sweet Lady.

After a slight break the PDC will return to action October 29-31 when they gather in Amsterdam for the £300,000 Jack’s World Series of Darts Finals.  Who’s Jack?  Could be a gentleman who owns a large number of window-shopping establishments along the canal in the De Wallen District.  Then again, maybe not.

The usual suspects will attend along with an unusual suspect in Fallon Sherrock.  She’s called the Queen of the Palace.  The ODC would prefer “The Femme Fatale” – as a maneater and seductive woman whose charm and ability destroys male darters.

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.