Column #HR322 The snake BITES and pockets a cool half million (POUNDS!)
Wednesday, January 5, 2022
The snake BITES and pockets a cool half million (POUNDS!)
As Peter Wright lifted the Sid Waddell Trophy for the second time it marked the end of the 2022 PDC World Championship. The words of Waddell, the articulate one, rang true. “It’s a funny old game.” Funny “peculiar” for some, funny “ha ha” for others and for many “not funny.”
The game of darts played at the highest level sometimes evolves a scenario that, were it a movie, no one would believe. This tournament has good and evil, human interest with angles more complex than a megagon, stories of personal success and failure, comebacks from the jaws of defeat, tears of joy – and defeat, with the final salvo of “wait until next year.”
The final between Peter Wright and Michael Smith had everything, plus a little more. For Wright it capped off a year that had him annexing three PDC TV majors – the World Matchplay, Players Championship and now the World Championship. For Michael Smith it was yet another chance to erase the label of “can’t win the big one.” In his 8th TV final Smith came out on the short end, unable to capitalize after coming from 2-3 down to 4-3 up. The Dart God, aka Tungsten Tilly, can be and is a cruel mistress. She takes great delight in offering her charms only to reconsider at the last minute.
One negative result of the final was that so many outstanding performances during the previous days were lost. The Old Dart Coach, aka the Chalk Eating Weasel, tabbed Gerwyn Price’s to repeat as champion (after stating that “no champion repeats”). Michael Smith eliminated Price in a contest where Price had a 9-darter while also missing 2-match darts.
What of Gary Anderson? He’s the last back-to-back World Championship winner whose darts were way below his usual standard entering the Championships. He reached the semi-finals, coming from 1-3 down to defeat a red-hot Rob Cross 4-3. Anderson’s comeback saw him winning 11 legs on the trot and a 170-check. Anderson would fail to reach the final when Peter Wright averaged 104.38 added by an historic harvest of 15 T80s.
The ODC wrote, “James Wade has his moments but when down loses interest.” The ODC apologizes to James for being stupid. Wade fell behind Smith in the semis 5-1 in the race to 6. He could have tossed in the towel but fought back to win 2 of the next 3.
With a 7-5 final score one can imagine that the Championship match itself had more twists and turns than an amorous encounter in the back of a Volkswagen Beetle…
The opening set was a precursor. Wright won (3-1). Smith’s winning first leg was in 28 darts thanks to Wright missing 13 doubles. Wright would move up 2-1 with a 148 to break then a 124 (on the bull) to win.
Smith won his first set thanks to a 167 break along with 3 T80s. Wright missed a T70 finish, then leveled with 117 as both held which gave Smith the set.
Smith would gain his second set to level at 2 after Wright missed 2 darts to break with a d10.
After the match, Wright spoke of the atmosphere in the venue that made his darts “not go like they should.” Wright changed darts prior to the 5th set, which resulted in an opening T80 along with two legs on the trot. Smith answered with an 11-darter, then 65 to level. Wright prevailed for a 3-2 lead.
Wright’s lead would disappear when Smith, after losing the first leg, would take 3 on the trot and a 3-1 win with the finale leg a 13-darter. Wright had switched back to his original darts to no avail with the match now “even Stephen.”
Smith continued to roll with a snyder (3-0) win in the 7th set when Wright ran into double trouble leading to a 4-3 deficient.
The eight set was one of “could ‘aves” in that Smith “could have” taken a 5-3 lead but for a couple of missed double tops and a bull. Wright used 72-out for the set.
The 9th set was a missed opportunity for Wright as, with the throw, it was even after 4 when Wright missed 4 allowing Smith the steal the set and a 5-4 lead.
Wright was in danger of falling behind 6-4 when Smith followed a T80 with d15 to break, forcing Wright to break back – which he did to force the decider. Trailing, Wright used a T80 to set up 84 which he erased to level the match again.
The 11th leg showed a noticeable change in Michael Smith. His energy needle tilted towards Low while Wright’s steely-like countenance shined like a beacon. Wright was masterful, taking 3 on the trot which included legs of 12- and 13-darts. Smith had a shot at the bull that went “a rye.” (Editor’s note: “a rye” is a measurement equal to approximately 2.5 acres.)
Leg 12 had the “flat lady preparing to sing” when a 12-darter broke Smith’s throw with an 81 bull finish. With Wright just one leg from victory Smith got a leg but was denied renewed life as Wright landed d8 for the win.
To the winner (7-5) go the spools – a nifty £500,000 which in real money (USD’s) is $673,778 and a meaningless 58 cents. But the final score doesn’t reflect how close this match was…
Smith had the best average (99.22 to 98.34), threw more T80s (24-17) and had the highest check at 167 to 148. Besides winning the war, Wright topped legs won 27-23 and check out average. Post-match, Write mentioned to Smith that he should “practice doubles.” This was not an unkind statement.
Dart players everywhere might have some sympathy for Michael Smith. He once again proved that “the big one” remains elusive. He’s still “the best player never to win the worlds.” Only the Bully Boy can remove the tag. The answer probably isn’t found on the practice board but on the couch of a sports psychologist. “Calling Doctor Batten.”
Peter “Snakebite” Wright may dress like a clown but there’s nothing funny about the way he mows down opponents like ten pins. He’s an emotional man. He feels for his competitors with the same professionalism that wills him to win. His championship winning dart provided a restrained response. There’s no doubt he was thrilled to win he also empathized with Smith’s plight, thinking “I’ve been there.”
Wright was both “good and evil” being good to win but evil to some by denying Smith a victory. Both players came back on various occasions from the “jaws of defeat” with enough “tears of joy” and “defeat” for another Anne “Sleepy” Kramer tear-jerking novel like Cally’s Dream.
The ODC was right that, “The winner will come from one of the 11 seeds.” Captain Oblivious rules.
Stay thirsty my friends.