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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything


[From 2007] In my yute, I spent a lot of time in bars.

Of course I was occasionally drunk in them, that’s true; but not all that often. I worked in them, mostly. It’s a different animal, working in bars. People imagine that show business is the same, only better, if you’re on a stage. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Anyway, you had to find a way to pass the time in a bar, without getting loaded, if you were working in there but idle for a time. I learned to play darts. I got pretty good at it. It never hurt that I was six-two with long arms; to the short fellows I appeared to just be leaning over and inserting them in the bulls-eye. I was so very much built to do it that the tip of my nose is exactly the height of the bulls-eye from the floor. When I worked constructing nightclubs, we used to hang dartboards using me for a ruler. Darts were a fun way to pass the time.

My son found my darts, in a little velcro pouch, and was fascinated by them. They have the appearance of weapons to a grade schooler, which they always find compelling. Dad, what do you do with these?

It’s been 15 years since I played at all. I used to like to play a game called Cricket, which has lots of strategery possibilities because you can rack up penalty points that your opponent has to overcome. Any game that allows you to simply win, or crush your opponent to taste, is the game for me. There’s almost always hope in such a game, as there is always a way to change tactics to suit the situation.

The real players don’t play that, they play 501. In 501, you have to simply throw the darts into the little slivers of the board marked with the numbers 1 through 20, with the thin outer ring counting double, the thin ring toward the center triple, and the bulls-eye rings counting 25 or 50 for the very center. You subtract the total of your throws from 501. To finish, you have to end on a double; so, for instance, you could subtract the sum of your throws down to 40, then hit the double 20 at the very top of the board to win. It seems counterintuitive to most onlookers, but the center bullseye is worth less than a triple 20. In 501 you essentially ignore it.

I was good at this game, but I found it boring. It’s the reason you see a list of arithmetic posted next to dart boards, outlining various combinations of throws that will lead to an “out” based on your remaining score. It’s too much like work.

My son wanted to see what playing darts was like. YouTube to the rescue. Here’s a World Championship in 1974. Look at the size of the crowd.

Well before my time, of course. But I tell you, with God as my witness, I would have murdered either one of these guys. I was shocked at how bad they were, even taking into account their rather old-school darts. How could they be competing at such a level?

Like many things, as soon as there’s enough interest — and some money– that which is casual becomes very, very serious. And so, thirty years later, look at how good you have to be to win:

I’m out.

13 Responses

  1. This is another one that reminds me of being a kid across the pond. Saturday morning cartoons were all too brief, and tended to be replaced by things such as football matches, horse jumping, and pub dart tournaments.

    The cry of "Onnne hunndredd and EIGHT-ty!!" was part of the background noise of my youth. As a kid, I always assumed it was a bulls-eye, since I wasn't actually watching, but of course it's what you get when you throw three triple-twenties in one turn.

  2. When I was a kid, in order to make it more challenging, we played fastball darts at a distance of about 60 feet, across the backyard, throwing overhand, as in baseball. We had no way of knowing that we still lacked the one ingredient to make it truly interesting: booze.

  3. Julie- Good work.

    That was quick. I mean, I just told you a minute ago.

    G Bob – Jarts, baby. Jarts.

  4. Darts still on national tv here and Jocky wilson still a legend, I could never drink the required gallons of beer to be deemed proficient.

  5. I ain't goin' nowhere near that conversation. Don't know the players, don't know the rules; do know the the "Achtung: Minen" sign is true.

  6. I had a period of a rather misspent youth that was solely redeemed by the time I spent in pubs, throwing darts and drinking some rather dark and strong beers.

    I think the best 3 darts I ever threw was a 130-something. Next highest was around 80.

    Never was as good as I wanted to be at darts.

    But I will admit to being past-master at the beer drinking.

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