It's Halloween! Or Punky Night, if you live in Somerset, England.
This evening, as we in America toss Tootsie Rolls into sacks thrust at us by sticky little children cleverly disguised as sticky little children in sheets, across the pond in Somerset, the Brits are handing out goodies to kids wandering door-to-door as ... blimey, who the hell knows? They could be dressed up as cucumber sandwiches for all I know.
Sorry. That was unfair. This column isn't even isn't about Halloween. Actually, I haven't decided yet what I'm writing about. I do that sometimes.
What I'm definitely not writing about is those blighters at the Professional Darts Corporation (although, I do hear that the PDC is finally about to announce a new date and venue for next year's really big shoot). Formally known as the "Tom 'It's My Damn Tournament' Fleetwood North American Open," the tourney will be staged at the Mirage this coming August 3-6. Isn't that wonderful news?!
NO! WAIT!! NEWS FLASH!!! Certain information in the paragraph above might be incorrect. Don't book your flight yet! You might get screwed. From a high-placed darts source I have just learned that the North American Open may, in fact, not be held in Vegas this summer. According to my source (and it is not Tom Fleetwood) discussions are underway deep within the PDC inner sanctum about rescheduling the tournament for late next October in Chiselborough. It's gonna be called the "Tommy Cox Punky Night Mother Country World Grand Prix Really Big Whopper Extravaganza."
Where DO these blokes dream up this shit?
Okay, what this column is about is Thanksgiving. No. Sorry. That holiday has passed too.
What this column is really about is John Part and the excellent six-part series on dart practice routines that he's been posting on the PDC's web site (www.planetdarts.co.uk) for the past few months. Since the first segment appeared in September I have been unable to tear myself away from my computer screen. Part has just one article left to go and the thing is a cliffhanger. I am hoping it will answer the one burning question I still have: WHO exactly at the PDC branded him with the nickname "Darth Maple." It sounds like something Obi-Wan Kenobi might dribble on a stack of pancakes.
If you haven't been following Part's series you would be well-advised to go out, get a job, buy a computer and a modem, figure out how to make it all work and then click immediately to "babes.com." Oops. I meant that you should go to the PDC website. The effort will be well worth it.
In Part's first installment he builds the foundation for his series. "It is commonly held," writes Part, "in virtually every sport, that competitors must practice or train to increase performance levels." In other words: practice makes perfect. Well, I practice damnit, and I can't hit shit!
That's because when it comes to the sport of darts this time-worn logic just makes no sense. I can prove it. Think about it. Think back to the days BEFORE you spent hours in front of a board working on your stroke. I ask you: once upon a time, when working on the triple twenty, did you or did you not have the almost supernatural ability to nail the triple eighteen and triple twelve? Now, after years of practice, just try to tell me that you do not NOW have the uncanny ability to fill up the triple one and triple five instead. Let me ask you another question. When you're looking at a 76 close, how many times out of ten can you knock off the triple twelve with your first stroke? Not too often, eh? Well, think about it. BEFORE you started PRACTICING, you could set up the final double by ACCIDENTALLY hitting the triple twelve!
My point is that practice COSTS us points! Practice HURTS performance. Compound this with matters like mechanics and distractions (the subjects of Part's second installment) and a 24-gram dart can cause more damage than some dude named Mohammed with a box-cutter.
In Part #2 of Part's series, Part (whew - that's a LOT of Parts) encourages his readers to seek out books and videos and to watch better players in order to "educate" themselves on "good dart mechanics." Part qualifies this advice by warning us not to "just analyze Phil Taylor and then copy him." The nine-time World Champion, says Part, "... may have some bad habits." Well Part is absolutely correct. It is near frickin' impossible to get your darts to find their mark while running at full speed through a motor home with a six-pack under one arm and a couple of topless women under the other.
In installment #3 Part addresses the setting of goals and marking progress. What this is about is establishing your performance baseline and figuring out, over time, if you are improving. For example, if last night you threw a hundred darts at the bull and stuck thirty of them and, after much practice, tomorrow you throw a hundred darts at the bull and kill your dog, well, you are not improving. But you could still probably beat me.
Part's fourth installment deals with the very critical issue of pressure which, miraculously it turns out, can be effectively managed through the purchase of an egg-timer. Writes Part: "Using the clock creates a form of pressure that simulates the stress of playing in a competitive situation. A sense of urgency is created and you learn to play with that sense of urgency hanging over you." In other words, we should all rush out and buy egg-timers. As good as this advice must be - after all, John Part is listed way up there in the world rankings -- I would respectfully submit that there is a less expensive way to accomplish the same end. Personally, I find that there is no better way to "simulate ... a sense of urgency" than to drink a half-dozen beers and then step to the line BEFORE hitting the toilet.
Part #5 of the six-part series is the best of all, so far. In fact, Part's advice in this segment is so riveting that I'm only going to reveal a small piece of it. Otherwise I'd spoil it for the rest of you. This segment is about pre-tournament preparation - how to get ready for the big tournament when, for weeks, you've used your egg-timer to make breakfast instead of to turn yourself into a lean, mean dart-throwing machine. Part's killer recommendation: "Prior to a tournament is a good time to practice against a LIVE opponent." Part elaborates upon this concept at some considerable length and, although it is written in Canadian and I may have missed something in translation, it makes pretty good sense to me.
As already indicated, Part's final installment in what (all joking aside) is truly one of the most informative pieces I have come across on how to actually improve one's accuracy at the line, has - at least as of this writing -- yet to appear. Unfortunately, since it hasn't appeared, this column can't technically claim to be about be Part's series.
So, what this column is REALLY about is Christmas. Or St. Knicker's Night, if you live in certain parts of England.
This explains why my next article will be posted from London.
From the Field,