Tag Archives: Darts

Column #587 Seal Boy is REAL – and now throws darts, in the Philippines!

Seal Boy

Wednesday, April 1, 2020
Column 587
Seal Boy is REAL – and now throws darts, in the Philippines!

It’s true what they say, “Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.”

When I was a kid, I was a swimmer, a pretty fast swimmer. My time for the 100 fly (52.6 – short course – in 1971) got me into college. paul-swimsMy career was ended by beer.

When I was even younger, my father began subscribing to Swimming World magazine. I read it cover-to-cover each month and followed the times of the best in the world – names like Don Schollander and Donna de Verona. An annual subscription in the late 1950s and 1960s cost $6. Today it costs $39.95.


Swiming World Cover

In October 1966, the magazine ran a story about a boy my age, called “Seal Boy,” who at 13-years-old was recording spectacular, literally unheard of times – as fast as some of the best high school and even college swimmers in the world. My friends and I were riveted and demoralized at the same time. Were the story true we knew that our dreams of someday being recruited by Doc Counsilman and making the team at Indiana University (Mark Spitz’s alma mater), and maybe even the US Olympic team, were over.

Many times during the past 50 years I have wondered about all of this. So one day I sent a letter to Swimming World and asked if anyone there might remember the story of “Seal Boy” and, if so, might they dig up the issue in which the story appeared and send it to me.

I was surprised about two weeks later when the magazine appeared in my mailbox. There on page 38 was the story I still faintly remembered, including a photo of the boy.



Swimming World – October 1966 Seal Boy Photo

BULLETIN – Noumea, New Caledonia – Officials at the capital say that the ship bringing the amazing “Seal Boy” here for the South Pacific Games reports that “he jumped ship about 60 miles north of here and was last seen swimming at a rapid pace toward the Coral Reef area.” 

Officials in charge of the fabulous “Seal Boy” at the University of Manila have decided to permit coaches to send him to the South Pacific Games at New Caledonia after he made an easy transition to living quarters in the Philippines. 

Reports from the island to Swimming World say the “Seal Boy” is swimming “fair,” and has enjoyed his stay on the campus. The head coach, Francisco Figueroa, was not available for comment, having been called to lecture on the “Seal Boy” at a clinic in Jamaica during the Empire Games.  

The change in the diet of “Seal Boy” shows he still favors fish over other food, with hamburgers running a distant second. The most fascinating revelation of the experiment was his tremendous liking of oranges, lemons, and grapefruit. 

The latest clockings received by Swimming World show the “Seal Boy” in a slow start for the 50 meter pool. His times in workout (time trials) are 50 meters (26.0), 100 meters (57.2), 200 meters (2:06.8), and a push 100 meter butterfly in 1:05.8. The coaches seem to think he has hit a plateau in his quick rise to fast swimming performances and won’t improve much more without competition. 

“When the South Pacific Games come in December we expect this chap to be ready for some top swims against competition which should be just about right for him,” said Simpson Hart, an assistant coach from the British delegation assisting the scientists. 

Dr. Ernst N. Brockmann, M.D., the chairman of the researchers, stated in a release here: “We have pinpointed his age at 13 years and two to three months through close interpretations of his limited speech.”  

Further reports will be available in the next issue of Swimming World.

Now, fast forward to September 2015, just a month shy of 49 years from when the story appeared…

On business in Manila, I was invited to visit a new darts bar called TRESMA. My friend and long-time National Team member, Mon Sabalboro, and I arrived just as it began to turn dark. It was already crowded – a luck of the draw was scheduled. I was pleased to be able to renew acquaintances with several old friends – Errol Magtubo, Logie Estacio and (the always quiet) Chito Pa Forillo Yacapin. I met some new people including Jason Sevilla and Jason Umali, and others, and TRESMA’s owner, Eugine Pioquinto.

TRESMA is a beautiful place. Located on Malvar St. – just behind Philippine Women’s University and in front of Wynn Plaza, it’s exquisitely appointed. There are Manny Pacquiao posters everywhere, announcing various darts tournaments. The tables are made from dart boards and covered with shiny glass. TRESMAThere are dozens of trophies on display. The lighting may be the best I have ever found in a bar (there is even a sort of chandelier that looks like a dart board). The oches are raised. I could go on and on, but I really don’t have the words to describe the quality of this joint.

Mon and I wandered around a bit, threw a few, and then sat down for a couple of San Miguels. Players stopped by our table, wanting my autograph and selfies. I regaled them with stories about all the times I whooped Lourence Ilagan and Christian Perez and made them cry like little girls.

NOTE: It is possible that some of what is stated in the preceding paragraph is a lie.

But Mon and I did gather a small group at our table and after a few bottles the familiar subject of why we throw darts arose. Basically, like so many, we were competitive in our youth. Mon was a professional dancer. Our friend, Steve Dorotheo, was a champion weightlifter (his father, Elpidio, was Mr. Philippines in 1952). received_1283894928304381Darts is a way to still compete without running fast, jumping high, or lifting heavy shit.

Yacapin was at our table. It’s been years since he and I first met and truth be known (anyone who knows him will attest) Pa Forillo is the antithesis of a quiet and unassuming guy. Still, he had been quite reserved, listening to our stories… until I mentioned I had been a competitive swimmer and began to relate the old story about the kid, “Seal Boy,” who swam so fast and ended up in the Philippines.

Almost immediately the room erupted, or at least it seemed that way. Pa Forillo jumped up from the table, waving his arms, yelling, I don’t believe it! It don’t believe it! Others gathered around and Pa Forillo, nearly out of breath, mixing English and Tagalog, continued to shout…

Hindi ako maniwala! Hindi kapani-paniwala! Hindi mo mapapaniwalaan! Ako yan! (I don’t believe it! It’s unbelievable! You won’t believe it! That’s me!) 

I AM SEAL BOY!   Or I was Seal Boy! Ako ito! (It’s me!) Pa Forillo! Chito! Chito (2)

Lahat sila rito alam yon. Napakatagal na panahon na… (Everybody here knows. It’s been so long…) 

Chito went on to explain that he always thought the old Swimming World story was hilarious – and that it was horribly inaccurate. He wasn’t raised by seals… 

Yan ay kalokohan. Sino naman ang maniniwala dyan? Hindi ko tumalon ng barko. Nahulog ako at iniligtas nila ako. Ako ay medyo matulin na manlalangoy nung kabataan ko. Napakatagal na panahon yon.  (That’s absurd. Who would believe that? I didn’t jump off that ship. I fell and they rescued me. But I was a pretty fast swimmer as a boy. That was a long time ago.) 

Lumalangoy hanggang labing-walong gulang ako. Siguro may labing-limang taon na ipinakilalala ako sa larong darts. Di man ako kagalingan, pero nagustuhan ko ito. Ako ay mas mahusay na manlalangoy. (I swam until I was about 18. Then maybe 15 years ago I was introduced to darts. I’m not so good, but I love it. I was a much better swimmer.)

It was surreal and reminded me of another old memory, again as true as it is odd. In college I pretty much lived on Chef Boyardee in-the-box pizzas. After I was married, I continued to occasionally make them for special dinners at home on the weekends. Still do sometimes.

One weekend, I noticed a contest announcement on the back of the pizza package. A substantial prize was being offered for a new pizza to be invented. Entries were to be judged by a panel of Chef Boyardee executives. What the hell, I figured. I spent that weekend “inventing” barbecue pizza – even creating my own barbecue sauce – and sent in my recipe/entry.

I never heard a word.

Years later, I was on a plane from New York to Atlanta and got to talking to a woman seated next to me. She was retired but said she was once the director of marketing at Chef Boyardee. Of course, I shared my pizza invention story. She remembered the promotion and said she was on the judging panel. To say I was astonished would be an understatement. I teased her – telling her I should have won and that she owed me a bunch of money.

So the truth can be stranger than fiction.

Chito and I stepped to the line for a quick game of 501. I won the cork and started with 135. He threw 43. He’s an honest man, that’s for sure. He does throw crap darts. When I closed tops he still had 200+ remaining.

But the bar was behind him. They chanted, Pa Forillo! Pa Forillo! Pa Forillo!

“So, Chito,” I asked, “I know Filipinos tend to have nicknames. I have friends called Boy, Baby, and Bong. I assume Pa Forillo means Seal Boy?”

Huwag, tarantado! Ibahin ang ayos ng mga nihayupang mga letra!, he replied. (No, asshole! Rearrange the fucking letters!)

From the Field,


Column #HR271 Unintended Consequences

Sunday, September 8, 2019
Column HR271
Unintended Consequences

Colin Cunningham is quoted as saying, “Watch out what you wish for, you just might get it.”

The Old Dart Coach’s take on this includes “The Law of Unintended Consequences.” You get 6 wheelbarrows full of dirt from a neighbor. Then place dirt in a planter. Into the new dirt is added tomato and watermelon plants. Two months later: the plants are overtaken by weeds. The Law of Unintended Consequences strikes.

In the UK the PDC has grabbed the spotlight for steel darts. In the USA machine darts has provided an alternative. Saddest of all ladies’ steel darts is waning. Darters wanted more money. They got it. Unintended consequences strike.

A male (with original natural factory equipment) wakes up one day hearing Shania Twain singing “Feel Like a Women.” When she gets to “Oh, oh, oh, Man! I feel like a woman!” he yells, ‘That’s me!” Now he enters the lady’s singles.

The ladies’ singles could become, “The Ladies’ Cisgender Gender Fluid Nonconforming and Non-binary Open” with 54 Genders accepted. In Canada it’d be the “LGGBDTTTIQQAAPP Singles.” Steel tournament directors be on guard!

Last fall, “Miracle” Mikuru Suzuki hit the steel point world at the BDO “Amateur World Championships” like bran muffins at the Senior Center. Lately, she would win the Swedish Open defeating Lisa Ashton. Ashton is #2 in WDF rankings. Ashton and Suzuki met in the finals of the Australia Open finals.

Some argue that women can compete against the men. They can but can they win? The results to date say no.

Take the best of 15 match final in the Australian Open. Ashton would win 8-6 with only 7 legs less than 15 darts. Ashton had the low game (12 darts) on the end of a 139 check which was also the high out. Neither of the ladies would have won on the PDC Tour with those numbers.

Ashton would return to the UK to take home her third BDO world title in 5 years with an easy 6-2 win over Anastasia Dobromyslova. Dobromyslova tried her luck against the PDC guys a few years ago with no success.

After Australia, Mikuru Suzuki took on the men at the soft point world championships (Stage #3) in Japan. She finished top 64. Quite a feat with 256 entries. Paul Lim won the event 3-0 over Hong Kong’s James Law. Lim had a tournament which for some would be a career. Lim won all his matches 3-0 for a combined 30-0. Next time he loses a leg some jerk will cry “Wanker!”

Thanks to longtime friend Babs Evans (The ODC would never write “old friend,” Babs) the ODC was able to follow “Chainsaw” Joe Chaney as he cut his way through the field of the BDO World Trophy. In the quarterfinals Chaney, with the match level at 5, tossed in a T80 only to see his next three darts go awry which allowed Jim Williams to check 120 for the win 6-5. Williams would win the title beating Richard Veerstra 8-6. The BDO failed in their write up to note that Chainsaw had the highest average against Williams at 86.93. Wankers.
Then there are those times you dream for something. It happens with no unintended consequences. Mensur Suljovic probably dreamed of winning his home country tournament…

As Gomer Pyle would say, “Shazam!”

The PDC final mid-summer travels ended in Vienna, Austria. Mensur Suljovic eked out an 8-7 victory over Michael van Gerwen. The match was tied at 2 when Michael van Gerwen used a 10-darter to lead 3-2. Suljovic would level at 3 as MVG missed doubles.

van Gerwen then got serious taking the next three on the trot to lead 6-3 in the race to 8. As he does, van Gerwen got the “walk-a- rounds” (an unintended consequence of leading) missed four doubles to get to 7. Suljovic took the opportunity to take the leg and the next two, with checks of 121 and 86, to level at 6.

van Gerwen got a leg to make it 7-6. Suljović would hold to level at 7. The winning leg came to Suljovic after van Gerwen used a T80 to leave 84 but missing the bull on his next turn for the win. Suljovic erased 70 with his favorite d14 for the 8-7 win, the title and £25,000.

One of the greats from the Golden Age has put away his darts for good. John Kramer was and is irascible, caustic and loud but above all one hell of a darts player. Oh yes, he was also a roomie of the ODC’s on the road.

Among other titles, he won the North American twice (1989 and 1999) and represented his country on more than one occasion. The most famous title came in 1985 at the WDF World Cup in Brisbane. That’s when four Yanks (John Kramer, Tony Payne, Rick Ney and Dan Valletto) defeated England 9-0. What is not generally known is that after each leg won Kramer would jaunt down to the England warmup room asking, “How’d you like that?!” or words to that effect. (The night before in the hotel lobby, Eric Bristow made a comment about how England would win. At that point Kramer suggested that he “urinate up a rope.”)

Kramer was a great winner dismissing a loss as just one of those things which usually included several expletive deleted.

He was predictable mainly because he was unpredictable. There was a period where JK, Kathy Hopkins and the ODC would meet each Friday at the St. Louis airport, they flying in from LA and the ODC from NorCal. It continued to the point that the bartender knew their names.

The ODC arrived once and went to the bar. “Your friends aren’t here yet.” They usually arrived first.

Watching the arrival gate, the ODC saw Kramer walking alongside with a Catholic priest, with Kathy next to JK. As they were late the ODC met them to go straight to the departure gate. To this point they hadn’t talked. Kathy had the look that said, “Trouble coming.” As the ODC approached he saw JK look down at the shoes saying, “Happening shoes, Padre.” The reply: “Thank you my son.”

JK suffered a stroke which involved a long rehab. The last time the ODC saw him play in a tournament was at the Las Vegas Open. They had warmed up together on Budweiser and Miller Genuine. John got called to play…

He returned. “How’d you do?”

“I was doing fine until they decided I needed a double. When did that start?”

Like all true champions John Kramer’s heart is fine but he had to say “No Mas” from arthritis of the spine which made it painful to practice.

You wish for a friend and darter like JK with the “unexpected consequences” just an added plus. As he wrote, “It was a hell of a run.”

Stay thirsty my friends.

Column #CM53 PDC World Championships – day two and the first woman ever on the PDC circuit


Monday, December 17, 2018
Column CM53
PDC World Championships – day two and the first woman ever on the PDC circuit

The second tournament day was more or less “womanless“ but before I share what happened on stage let me present to you a woman who, although she didn’t manage to qualify for this year’s World Championship, nevertheless played and plays a huge part in women’s darts and in the PDC as she was the first woman who competed for several years on the PDC circuit: Deta Hedman.

Before she joined the PDC Hedman had been very successful on the BDO circuit and had been from 1994 to 1997 the ladies #1 in the world. Due to work commitments she withdrew from darts 1997 and reappeared 2002 on the PDC circuit. In the same year, she won the women’s event at the Las Vegas Desert Classic. In 2004 and 2005, she qualified for the UK Open. In 2005, she defeated both Aaron Turner and Norman Fletcher during the tournament and made history as she was the first ever woman who defeated a male player during a televised tournament. In 2007, Hedman for the second time withdrew due to work commitments and upone her return in 2009 she started to play in the BDO again. After she had won several open events she qualified in 2010 for her first BDO Women’s World Championship. Since her return, Hedman once again tops the women’s rankings and has taken part in every World Championship. But despite her winning every year a lot of tournaments until now she never managed to really perform at Lakeside. On three occasions so far she reached the final, but lost every time. Hedman played the UK women’s qualifier fort his year’s PDC World Championship but lost in the semi-finals to Maria O’Brien.

So, back to the players who did qualify for this year’s world championship – in this case to Michael Barnard who qualified by the Pro Tour Order of Merit and to Portuguese Jose de Sousa the South/West European qualifier who opened the afternoon session of the second day with an epic match. Barnard dominated the first two sets while de Sousa took some time to settle on stage and get into the match. Barnard is quite a slow thrower – it might be that affected de Sousa as well. Barnard started with a 180, de Sousa threw his first in the second leg of the second set and followed it up with another one. But he had some trouble to win the leg and that exactly was his problem throughout the match. While he scored really well he had a lot of double trouble – the reason in the end that he lost the match, as Barnard was quite clinical with his doubles. But Barnard couldn’t keep up his performance of the first two sets and de Sousa managed to level. In the deciding set a deciding leg was required – in which de Sousa again couldn’t find his doubles while Barnard hit his to get over the finish line. The match had an unexpected stoppage when suddenly a loud whistling sound filled the venue followed by some king of hissing. Then several times a stormy wind sewpt over the stage such that the players were not able to throw their darts.

Quite similar to the first match was the second match between Alan Tabern and the Australian Raymond Smith. Tabern soon was 2-0 in the lead because the Australian had a very slow start into the match. But Smith managed to level 2-2 and the match went into a deciding set which Tabern won quite commandingly. Nice to see the Saint back on the stage!

Match number three was between Paul Nicolson and Kevin Burness and it didn’t look good for the very tense Nicholson from the start. Fronm the outset he was not able to throw reasonable scores. The first leg was almost over when it suddenly got dark in the venue and players and officials left the stage. Luckily it didn’t take long until the players could get on with their match and, strange enough, Nicholson – for a short time – threw really good darts starting with a 180 as his first throw after the break (perhaps evidence that his problems are more in his head). Burness could celebrate a 3-0 win and Nicholson left the stage without his darts…

The last match of the afternoon was the Second Round match between Jamie Lewis and Cody Harris, an astonishingly evenly contest. Lewis dominated at the start but Harris came back and levelled 2-2. Another deciding set was necessary which Lewis won. It was the best match of the afternoon with good performances from both players.

After the break, Danny Noppert vs. Royden Lam opened the evening session. And this first match set the tone for this session – which was quite different from the afternoon session as most of those matches were rather one sided. Danny Noppert played to a 96.32 average, the highest of the day and had no problems at all to steam roll Royden Lam. Should Noppert play similarly against Max Hopp it will be a rather hard match for the German #1.

The next match ended 3-0 as well – for Ted Evetts, though the statistics don’t show the reason for it. And it didn’t feel during the match that Ted Evetts was so dominant, as Simon Stevenson played quite well too. Probably as so often is the case the doubles made the difference – Evetts was just a little bit better.

Match number three between Chris Dobey and Boris Koltsov was a clearly one sided one – both statistically and felt. Koltsov didn’t play good and had no chance at all against a solid playing Dobey – Koltsov won only two legs.

For the last match of the night Gary Anderson walked on stage to face the impressive playing Irishman Kevin Burness. Burness had won 3-0 over Paul Nicholson and he didn’t look like he was intimidated by Gary Anderson. I suppose it is not by chance that his nickname is Ironman. And so… Anderson had his problems – after he had won the first set in his usual express-train speed he lost the second set to Burness. One could almost see how Anderson started to think – that possibly he had underestimated his opponent. So, he decided to gear up a little bit and conclude it, perhaps not spectacularly but effectively. A solid 3-1 win for one of the favourites.

Anderson had overcome his first hurdle of the tournament.

Column #555 The First Philippine Open Darts Tournament, Tacloban City

Philippine Open Darts Tournament

Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Column 555
The First Philippine Open Darts Tournament, Tacloban City

Until October 2015 when Hurricane Patricia slammed Mexico, the strongest such storm ever recorded in the world was super typhoon Haiyan, locally known in the Philippines as Yolanda. With sustained winds of nearly 195 miles per hour (and gusts up to 235 miles per hour) the monster storm made landfall in Eastern Visayas on November 8, 2013. For reference, Hurricane Katrina hit maximum sustained winds of 173 miles per hour. Harvey reached winds of about 130 miles per hour.

Tacloban City (the capital of the Philippines for four months in 1944 and today regional center of Eastern Visayas) was demolished. At least 6,300 lives were lost (some accounts suggest the number is closer to 10,000) and 4 million people were displaced. Remarkably, this was the third such disaster to strike the area. Similar storms lashed Eastern Visayas in 1897 and 1912.

In the immediate aftermath, “…after taking a helicopter flight over the city, US Marine Brigadier General Paul Kennedy was quoted as saying, ‘I don’t believe there is a single structure that is not destroyed or severely damaged in some way – every single building, every single house.’”

But Filipino resilience prevailed and the area recovered. In 2015, Pope Francis visited Tacloban and held a mass at Barangay San Jose and then another at the airport which 30,000 people attended.

What is not widely known is that in the early 1980s the Darts Organization of Tacloban (DOT) was a hotbed of darts activity in the Philippines. The first ever Tacloban-based tournament was held in conjunction with their fiesta activities. Singles was won by Peter Kairuz and doubles by Benjie Araos and Steve Dorotheo. Yes, that Steve Dorotheo!

Early patrons included Rudy (deceased) and Gina Ruiz together with DOT officials (then President Benjie Araos, Nick Gagampan, Ding Urbano and others). But there was also the Noel clan and the most enthusiastic of them all was the then 14-year-old Bem Noel – who now at 50 is a congressman representing the An Waray Party.

Thanks to the efforts of many, but founded on the generosity Congressman Noel, on April 19-22 darts will return to this one time center of strength. The Congressman and the festive and prideful people of Tacloban and the rest of Eastern Visayas will host the First Philippine Open Darts Tournament. This tournament is being organized by the Darts Organization of Tacloban under the auspices of the National Darts Federation of the Philippines. Significant credit is due Vic Erwin Buling, Manny Go, Amado Rex Bautista, Cesar Lee, Erwin Amago and Butch Solidor.

Tremendous credit (not that he seeks it) must go to Congressman Noel – and frankly, Senator Manny Pacquiao. Pacquiao has set the standard for generous local support of darts worldwide. This time it is Congressman Noel who has made the $100,000 payout possible.

Through high school Congressman Bem Noel (who, again, seeks no credit – he told me he just “loves darts”) attended the Divine Word University of Tacloban. He started playing darts while still in high school in the early 1980s. He is one of the founding members of the tournament host organization, DOT. At just 14 years of age he became the youngest member of the Darts Organization of Quezon City (DOQC) headed then by national artist Ben Maramag and Steve Dorotheo (DOQC metamorphosed into the Darts Council of the Philippines).

Elected to Congress in 2004, Noel spent some time away from the sport he loves until returning to host the 2017 PDC Philippine qualifiers and then opening the HQ Food Park Tacloban – which is now the official home of DOT.

A couple of months ago, I had the privilege of spending some time with the congressman and others (long time good friends Steve and Dada Dorotheo and Mon Sabalboro, and Lourence Ilagan) at Amber’s Best in Makati. Also present were Filipino legends Flor Aldon, Renato Mauricio, Baby Villanueva, Joel Songsong, Joey Bacani and the owner of Amber (the best darts bar in the entire 7,000-plus island archipelago) – Frida Morelos!

I could only stay a short time (time enough for a tasty serving of one of Amber’s specialties – milk fish). Excitement was palpable in advance of the upcoming tournament.

News that America’s David Fatum and Alex Reyes are likely to attend, and also Paul and Harith Lim inspired talk of the prominence the tournament was taking on. It was noted that many others, including Yong Thanawat from Thailand were actively spreading the word. Hopes are high for outstanding attendance and the opportunity not just for a great tournament but to show off the wonderful city of Tacloban.

There was also a great deal of discussion (and speculation) as to who to watch out for, who could take the title…

Among the men the likely names include Monster’s Lourence Ilagan, One80’s Gilbert Ulang and Alexis Toylo, Robson’s Ian Perez and Noel Malicdem, Dynasty’s Prussian Arceno and Accurate Dart’s Alex Tagarao. Specifically from the host city there’s Jun Buling, Rex Bautista, Wilmer Ong, Melvin Kent Pelona.

For some reason my name wasn’t mentioned.

Among the ladies One80’s Angelyn Detablan and Bebang Orbeta are certain to set the standard.

The First Philippine Open Darts Tournament is a can’t miss stop to experience darts at the highest level (if you doubt this you simply don’t have an understanding of the level and depth of Filipino talent) and to enjoy the tremendous hospitality of Tacloban City and the Filipino darts community. This landmark tournament dovetails neatly with the PDC Asian Tour and could serve as gateway to the biggest ever dart tournament – the PDC World Championships in December 2018.

Congratulations Philippines!

From the Field,

Column #550 Steel-tip ain’t no Olympic shoo-in – there’s (plastic) competition!

Thursday, December 21, 2017
Column 550
Steel-tip ain’t no Olympic shoo-in – there’s (plastic) competition!

They call him the “Dragon” and he’s a former world champion. He has basked in the glory of his ‘sport,’ one that some describe as “just the right mix of skill and intellect.” Growing older and with a family, he is still highly regarded, puts in the practice and travels frequently in his quest to add another world championship to his resume. And he’s currently one of the most well known and popular promoters of his game.

But who is the Dragon? And with recent rumblings of a push to see his ‘sport’ added as a demonstration activity at the 2012 London Olympics one must also ask: Why the hell is the Olympics in London? Was Toledo booked?

This Dragon is not Rob Heckman, although he does fit the description of everything and more mentioned in the first paragraph. He’s actually a three-time Medalist world singles champion. He is also, according to Stacy Bromberg, the “perfect man from the neck down.” And he’s a chicken-shit. I asked him for an interview and he ducked me like a little boy on a dodge ball court. Possibly he’s been talking to Dave “Boy” Green.

The Dragon I’m talking about is Dave Lockwood. He’s from Silver Spring, Maryland and currently ranked fifth in the world. And yes, there is – according to Winking World, the magazine that covers tournament play, strategy and technique for his ‘sport’ – a campaign to have it included as a demonstration event at the 2012 Summer Olympics. But the ‘sport’ ain’t darts. It’s Tiddlywinks.

Yep, you read that right. Tiddlywinks. Except for the last column I published, I’ve never in my life come across anything so frickin’ absurd.

Of course, there are a lot of fringe ‘sports’ out there and they all have their nut case followers and ‘world champions.’ There’s extreme ironing, conkers and even wife carrying. But none of their practitioners or fans are delusional enough to think such simpleminded activities are worthy of the legitimacy that comes with Olympic acceptance.

extreme-ironing-04What, you might ask, is extreme ironing? According to the official website it’s “the latest danger sport that combines the thrills of an extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well-pressed shirt.” Competitors climb a mountain or snowboard or parachute and iron articles of clothing.

Conkers? A conker is the hard brown seed found inside the prickly green casings that fall each autumn from the horse chestnut tree (or Buckeye tree as they are called in America). The nuts are collected from the ground, holes are drilled into them and they are threaded on a length of string.

Two contestants then pair off like gladiators, just as in darts. One suspends his conker from one hand, to a length of approximately a foot, while the other contestant uses his nut on a string to try to smash his opponent’s nut to smithereens.

2385382504Wife carrying? In this ‘sport’ male competitors race the clock through an obstacle course while carrying a female teammate. The fastest time wins. Apparently the ‘sport’ is “…quite dangerous and can result in a slipped disk, broken legs and arms, spinal damage, facial injury, skull fractures, hernias, and other sundry injuries, including death.” The victor wins his wife’s weight in beer.

Then there is tiddlywinks, or (my apologies to those of the female persuasion) “tiddies” as it is sometimes affectionately called…

When most of us think of tiddlywinks we recall the old Milton Bradley game with the little pot and colorful blue, green, red and yellow plastic disks (winks) we played as kids and then stuffed away in a closet to collect dust bunnies because it was silly, boring, stupid and dumb, just like it still is. Little did we know (and had we, would we have given a rat’s ass) that the game was a really big deal in late Victorian times and Prince Philip himself, who looks like he was born in Victorian times, was a tiddlywinks aficionado.

Certainly never would we have imagined that had we practiced hard we might as adults someday lay claim to the title “Top Wanker” (correction: winker) and compete for fame and glory in the Olympics.

TiddlywinksNope, instead, being wise men (and women) and true sportsmen – former baseball, basketball and football players, and bartenders – when we grew up we took up drinking, smoking, darts and an occasional jalapeno popper. We’re real athletes.

Yet real tiddlywinks combatants – those who flick about little slugs of plastic at the upper echelons of their ‘sport’ – insist that what they do is serious business too, as well as rough and tumble. As the Dragon puts it, “Sometimes it’s hard to stand up and take the ridicule that comes when you say that you take tiddlywinks seriously. But it does have a physical element.” Oh my.

Just like in darts there are standard rules, detailed specifications for the color and size of winks, the squidger (the circular disk used to propel winks into the pot), the pot and the felt field of play.

There are formal governing organizations – the English Tiddlywinks Association (ETwA), North American Tiddlywinks Association (NATwa) and the “supreme ruling body,” the International Federation of Tiddlywinks Associations (IFTwA) which, not surprisingly, all seem to be better run than the British Darts Organization. The centers of tiddlywinks strength have long been those legendary bastions of athletic prowess: Cambridge University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Also just as in darts there is an insiders’ lingo – but Bobby George can’t lay claim to having invented any of it. A “doubleton” is a pile in which two winks are covered up by a single ememy wink. A “squop” is to play a wink so that it comes to rest above another wink. A “scrunge” is when is when a wink bounces out of the pot. And a “gromp” is an attempt to jump a pile onto another wink. So if you were one of the 80% who in the most recent Dartoid’s World poll thought these terms applied to ballroom dancing, quidditch or soft-tip darts you can take comfort knowing you’re not alone in your ignorance of useless ‘sport’ trivia.

Estonian_Carry_styleAlthough the Finnish rule wife carrying, as in darts – and extreme ironing and conkers – the current world tiddlywinks champion is British. When his teammate and former world champion, Dr. Patrick Barrie of Cambridge University, was asked how he rated the chances of his ‘sport’ gaining a nod from the 2012 Olympic Committee he replied, “I would cross my fingers but I can’t risk an injury.” Actually, this was his answer to some other question but what the hell…

Recently the 2011 World Tiddlywinks Championship was held at St. Andrew’s Church Hall in Hull. Those of us who hope for darts to be accorded the respect it deserves should take note of what transpired – and hope that the Olympic Committee does too. Here is a first-hand (and slightly shortened) report from NUSE International so it’s technically fictional but, again, what the hell…

In previous years, the World Tiddlywinks Championship has been a calm yet exciting event attended by families from across the world. However, during this year’s championship, rather unorthodox behaviour and violence was shown towards match officials and opposing spectators.

This has caused outrage among the tiddlywinks community and has meant that several matches during this year’s championship were boycotted by veteran players. Despite the relaxed nature of the game, the rise in popularity and skill amongst youth recently has caused a great deal of distress for players who are more advanced in years.

The first incident occurred in the opening ceremony of the 2011 World Championships, when tour rookie Dale Mac, 19, threatened the tiddlywinks tour veteran Nigel Simmons, 74, with verbal abuse, including offensive phrases such as, “I bet you like tiddling winkies, granddad!” causing Simmons to walk out of their fixture during the games, after first assaulting Mac with a chair and a half-eaten apple in front of a packed crowd consisting of almost twenty people – the largest attendance of the games since they began.

The International Federation of Tiddlywinks met in Brussels to discuss the recent incidents. However, the discussions were interrupted by Mac, who burst into the room brandishing a sharpened metal tiddlywink and a half-empty bottle of Frosty Jacks. Mac, who had been celebrating his world championship victory, was removed from the proceedings; however, a fight ensued in the corridor between Mac and Simmons, each unhappy with the conduct displayed by their opponent during the recent championships.

Both players have now been suspended by the International Federation of Tiddlywinks until the issues have been resolved, which is not likely to happen before the next tour event. This has produced a tremendous surge of division between both competitors and fans who have taken sides in this battle between Mac and Simmons.

As a result, extra security precautions have been put in place to oversee the smooth running of the upcoming tiddlywinks tour event, which is to be held in Portsmouth in August. The precautions include the hire of a security guard: Dave, a bag packer in the local Tesco. The Federation are hopeful that the nature of the event will continue normally as the most historical and lucrative event on the calendar with a prize purse of nearly £20.

So there you have it…

Tiddlywinks, as played by the Dragon, is a simpleminded child’s game played by dysfunctional adult geniuses who are violent.

Darts on the other hand, as played by another Dragon, is a serious sport embraced by gentlemen – role models for the next generation – who, while we may not have the grades to get into Cambridge or MIT and despite our need for an occasional nip, are smart enough to know that tiddlywinks is just frickin’ stupid.

And never, not ever – you can be damn sure of this – has a world darts championship been marred by one player assaulting another with a chair and an apple.

Tiddlywinks does not deserve to be showcased at the 2012 Olympics.

Darts does.

And the Olympics should be moved to America.

From the Field,


Column #536 The Junior Dart Association

Monday, May 1, 2017
Column #536
The Junior Dart Association

There’s so much positive going on in the wide world of darts these days. At the top of the list for many is the recent announcement that yours truly will stop writing about our sport – just as soon as my 1001st column hits this space. Extrapolating from 1995 when my first column appeared this will occur in approximately May 2038, by which time the ADO may have published a proper financial statement. Perhaps not. Buster Douglas knocked out Muhammad Ali, so anything’s possible.

Uppermost among other positive developments are the return of the PDC to Las Vegas and launch of the CDC’s third season. Every player in North America should take full advantage of all that is on offer.

There’s more but lesser known news which deserves to be widely broadcast – and I’m not talking about RedEye Rhino’s rumored pending announcement that they are now “full partners” with the MGM and have “sold out” the fourth Ali vs. Frazier fight and Elvis’ return later this summer.

Nope, what I am talking about is the Junior Dart Association (JDA) way up north in the state that fields pee wee football players against Ohio State each November. Check out the feature photo at the top of this column to get a sense of the excitement. The photo was taken at the 2015 Meijer State Games of Michigan and featured in a story by Peter Wallner (who was contacted to authorize it’s use).

The cool cat and certain to be future lady killer with the fedora and snappy shirt is Nickolas Osmolinski, son of Christi and Steve Osmolinski. Nicholas is one of the original youth league members. He has a scholarship fund and has a string of victories under his belt already. Although only in the 4th grade he’s proficient at a 10th math level – an achievement credited in large part to his participation in darts. Nicknamed the Wizard of Fries, it’s no surprise that his favorite player is Simon Whitlock.

Scratching his chin hair at Nicholas’ left is Brody Offutt, Willy Doit’s nephew. Brody’s a professional football “fanatic” (his favorite player is Odell Beckham Jr.) and Phil Taylor fan.

The adult in the photo is Alex Worthington (I believe from Battle Creek), one of the many members of the Michigan Dartsmen Club. I am told one of Worthington’s claims to fame is that he lost 5-0 to John Part in one of last season’s CDC qualifiers (after getting by Russ Lyzak in the first round). While a loss isn’t usually something to brag about, losing to a three-times world champion may well be the exception to the rule. And it’s damn well a credit to Part that he’s giving back and helping the CDC bring Big Time darts to North America.

While the JDA is the brainchild of David and Kerry DePriest in Grand Rapids, the youth darts concept – and what eventually became the JDA – was and continues to be enthusiastically supported by the Grand Rapids Dart League (GRDL). For a solid two years the GRDL funded and supported the concept, even adding youth events to their tournaments (these were the only available youth events available in Michigan until the JDA became official). Also supportive every step of the way have been super-promoter Doit and many others from the Michigan Dartsmen Club.

In short, the JDA is a shining example of what can be done to inspire kids and families to embrace the sport of darts – and much, much more. In fact, in many ways darts at the JDA is just a pathway to far more important aspects of life. Below (“Scholarships, Competition, and Community”) the DePriests explain the JDA philosophy…

Scholarships. The JDA is a vehicle parents can use to open important conversations with their children about the future. Financial planning and setting educational goals early are invaluable assets to any child. But a child that is highly involved and takes ownership of their financial and educational planning is much more likely to continue their education.

In this way we seek to not only provide scholarship funds, but to also create a culture where education takes priority and builds self-esteem. Many children are excited to save up their allowance to buy the new game system etc. We want to help children get excited to save and buy an education, an experience, a degree, put simply a lasting advantage in life.

Competition. At the JDA we believe in healthy competition and sportsmanship. We don’t believe in participation awards or that everyone deserves a trophy. Instead, we want our young men and women to learn the value of hard work and be awarded for their accomplishments appropriately. In this way, we harness the competitive fire to forge a much more formidable and capable mentality.

It is important young people understand in order to excel in life you must work hard and be determined. Developing this work ethic at a young age is a major advantage not only in darts but throughout one’s whole lifetime.

The JDA Scholarship Program gives children the platform to succeed and be rewarded for their accomplishments. As the children gain self-esteem through competition and attaining goals, they realize the possibility of attaining even loftier goals. In the end, we hope these advantages will create a more confident, determined, educated, and ultimately successful adult.

Community. At the JDA we believe in community and building a culture that stresses education, financial planning, and the setting and achievement of goals. Like any youth sports organization our real strength lies in the families, parents, coaches, staff, and volunteers. As we grow we hope that the culture will also grow as well.

Imagine hundreds and then thousands of junior dart players earning money for college and being excited to further their education which they have earned with years of hard work! It is our dream to build a better future for our young people and to build a better sport for all of us.

I first “met” David DePriest in 2006 when I interviewed him after he qualified in Chicago for the World Series of Darts (defeating Joe Slivan who qualified a couple of weeks later in Houston). We then formally met at the tournament at the Mohegan Sun Resort in Connecticut and again at the Shoot the Rapids tournament just a couple years ago. So, we don’t know each other well – but I was impressed from the start. Surely anyone who does know him well is not surprised that he’s developed the JDA. He’s one incredibly motivated guy.

DePriest first picked up a dart at home at just 9 years of age, was tutored in the mechanics and mathematics of the sport by his mother Carol (who in 1982 helped form the GRDL and competed locally and nationally), and progressed and achieved considerable success in the ADO system. This was long before the IRS revoked the ADO Memorial Scholarship Fund’s (for kids) status in 2010 after multiple years of not filing required reports (although as of this writing the ADO website still, illegally, promotes donations to the program as tax deductible). This plus the fact that the fund was originally established as “a permanent memorial to friends of the sport who have passed away” and that the ADO has not published the awarding of any scholarships since 2014 only adds to the disgrace.

DePriest’s story is remarkable and every step of the way it foretells the foundation of what is today the JDA.

Darts “game night” with his mother on a board she hung on the living room wall quickly replaced DePriest’s interest in watching television and video games. Although he was involved in baseball, basketball and football – and martial arts – “darts night” with his mother was a constant in his life. By age 11 he was competing in the men’s division and achieving success and by age 13 he was ranked in the top 10 in the Michigan men’s division state rankings. At 17, he qualified for the $100,000 Lucky Strikes Challenge of Champions on ESPN but was excluded because he was not yet 18.

Martial arts is mentioned, seemingly in passing, only because it deserves to be highlighted. With many state and national championships under his belt, in 1995 DePriest placed second at the ISKA world championships. This is a dude not to be screwed with!

As time advanced and his sons Alex and Greyson joined the family “darts night” became a staple for a new generation of DePriests. In 2015, before his third son Gideon was born he of course joined “darts night” in utero.

As some are aware, years ago DePriest took a young 12-year-old under his wing. The rest as they say is history. In 2009, in Stamford, Connecticut, Robert Ham won the US National Youth Championship and the Youth World Cup Qualifier – and went on to take the bronze at the World Cup (the highest finish ever by a US youth player).

What most people don’t know is that DePriest did not agree to coach Ham without conditions (and just like the family aspects of “darts night” the conditions sort of forecasted one of the underlining principles of the JDA). “I agreed to personally coach Robert and teach him what I knew about darts. But there were conditions. His grades were not in the best of repair. He had to maintain at least a B average and complete his darts homework and turn it in before each lesson. Robert’s grades immediately improved and he never failed to turn that homework in to me.”

There is more history. Ham has gone on to win several national tournaments and owns back-to-back Michigan men’s state singles championships. Last year, he made the quarter finals at his first go on the CDC circuit. As partners, Ham and DePriest have won the Michigan men’s doubles three years in a row.

And now, Ham has taken a lead role passing on lessons learned from DePriest to a new generation of kids. Observes DePriest, “The advice and perspective he brings to the JDA program is invaluable. It is such a benefit to the youth players to have a national champion and world competitor as a personal coach. As Robert’s coach I couldn’t be more proud seeing him give back to the community and sport in such a meaningful way.”

There is SO much more and so many people who have been a part of this story…

There’s Steve Roper who early on in DePriest’s career ran a VFW hall and welcomed the kids to play and compete in a safe and family environment. Says DePriest, “Steve’s gesture illustrated to me at a young age what a difference a little kindness and patience can make to a young person. I ran into him at darts just the other night. It was a warm feeling to thank him as a man for the support he showed me so many years ago. And to tell him about our program and our goals.”

There’s Jay Tomlinson, who in 1990 made the decision to feature youth players, including DePriest, on the cover of Bulls Eye News. “I was fortunate to be one of those players and later that year was given a full color 3-page interview as well. It was a powerful gesture to feature youth players at a time when that had never been done before. Jay deserves so much credit for promoting youth darts in the early days.” .

Recently, DePriest committed to be ready to again compete at the highest level against the best in the world when the PDC returns to Las Vegas in July. He’s going to surprise a lot of people.

When I interviewed DePriest more than 10 years ago there was a comment he made that has stuck with me, nearly verbatim, for all these years: “At the end of the day, I believe the man who thinks he can and the man who thinks he can’t are both correct. I’m a man who thinks he can.”

It is this same attitude that the JDA is instilling in the kids.

The JDA was officially formed in May 2016 and plans to hold the first tournament began in earnest. A non-profit organization was set up with the help of legal and accounting consultants. Details of the scholarship fund were sorted out. Sponsors were recruited.

Key to everything was transparency and ensuring the money kids might win for college was under the control of their parents and there when they needed it.

So besides competition and community, at the heart of it all are the scholarships.

After considerable research, the JDA chose to embrace the Merrill Lynch “MerrillEDGE” 529 College Savings Plan (NextGen Option). This is the plan parents are asked to set up for the kids.

Named for Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code and established in 1996, 529s are basically tax-advantaged savings accounts for college expenses. “Withdrawals, including any earnings, are tax free as long as the money is used for qualified higher education expenses. Funds can be used for tuition and fees, room and board, books, required supplies and equipment, computers or peripheral equipment, computer software, or Internet access and related services, and certain services for special needs beneficiaries.”

There’s no risk of loss. The JDA pays out the scholarship right away – and the accounts can be added to at any time. They just earn interest until needed. If a kid gets a full ride the funds can be used toward books, room and board, and things of that nature. If a kid doesn’t go to college the funds can be used for a trade school or other certifications. If a kid goes directly into the work force the funds can be transferred to another person, a sibling perhaps.

It’s a winner all the way around.

The JDA established two basic divisions for the kids – 12 and under and 13 to 17. There are singles, doubles, and mixed doubles events. All events are 501, cricket, choice.

So far, the JDA has held two tournaments (the next one is June 3 at the Northfield Lanes in Grand Rapids) and 15 kids have won scholarships totaling a little more than $2,400. Sponsorship/advertising opportunities are available at three levels. For details about sponsorship (or to discuss any questions you might have about organizing a similar program in your community) contact:

David DePriest at davedepriest@gmail.com
“It’s a great little family we have,” Kerry DePriest told me in one of our last communications. “I’ve had so many parents thank us and express to me this is the part of their lives where they feel the most comfortable and accepted and they look forward to playing darts every week and hanging out with their friends. It’s a very accepting and inviting group, a really great bunch of kids.”

I fired back one last message…

“Great. What a fantastic program. Thanks for all of your help. I have two last questions: 1) if I screw this up will you please not let Dave karate chop me in the eye, and 2) I’m 60 – but I throw like a 6-year-old so… can I enter the next tournament?”

She reiterated the under 18 age limit. And closed with, “DON’T screw it up!”

I hope I haven’t. And I hope youth programs all across the country can benefit from the Michigan experience. Maybe even the ADO.

From the Field,


Column #527 Some excitement. Some disappointments.

Friday, December 23, 2016
Column 527
Some excitement.  Some disappointments.

As readers may have gathered, Dartoid’s World experienced another hack of some kind November. All is now resolved and we’re back to normal, or abnormal, depending on your perspective. The hack has been traced to either the Russians or the ADO.

Of course, all attention is on the PDC world championships. The combatants are sorting themselves out in the early stages. After the three-day holiday break action is certain to move into high gear. It’s great stuff, albeit disappointing and grossly unfair that North America is provided just one spot in the competition. I’m tipping Phil Taylor to win the thing for the 17th time. He’s the greatest ever. He’s the most experienced.

And I am just worn out looking at Michael van Gerwen’s bald head.

As exciting as it is that the PDC is returning to Las Vegas in July, it is equally disappointing – an insult – that they have chosen to partner with an organization that has monumentally less experience, contacts, and long-term credibility (in both the steel and soft-tip arenas) than so many others. Had the PDC asked for my advice (as the ADO often does) I’d have recommended Rob Heckman or the CDC boys. This is not to suggest I will not attend, and play. The event is a fantastic opportunity for darts in North America and should be embraced by all.

Of course, it’s also disappointing – but not surprising after all these many years – that we are now just eight days away from again not having a proper financial report from the ADO.  December 31st will mark 14 years since the ADO has shed light on how it spends league dues and tournament entry fees.

Coming during the next three days will be a series of columns written by Charis Mutschler who has been hobnobbing with the players and journalists from the press room at Alexandra Palace. It’s insightful, inside commentary and will hopefully help fill the void in play from Christmas Eve through Boxing Day.

Finally, from yours truly, appearing in this space in early January will be a column about darts in Cuba. All I am able to say, or clarify, at this point is that the rumor I played Fidel and beat him, causing him to mortally stab himself with a dart is categorically false.

Merry Christmas to all.

From the Field,