If you're looking for the best darts bar in Miami, and possibly the whole of south Florida, all you have to do is fly into Miami International Airport and drive around the corner. Tom's NFL Club (5001 NW 36th Street) is so incredibly close to the terminal that, with but a few hours to spare between flights, you can easily hop a taxi and get in a few games before connecting with your next flight.
It was last Tuesday night that I strolled into Tom's to meet up with Dorothy Filley of the Miami Dade Darting Association (MDDA). Although Tuesday is league night down this way (Tom's Luck of the Draw is on Friday) I figured I might be able to get some time at the line before climbing aboard my connecting flight to Bogota.
At first glance the twelve-year old Tom's appears to be exactly what it bills itself to be: a watering hole for those who regularly gather to watch 300 pound fat boys crush each other each Monday night at 9:00. The joint is absolutely plastered with Super Bowl pennants, Budweiser posters and assorted bits of paraphernalia touting the superiority of the hometown Dolphins, Heat and Marlins, even though none of these teams have accomplished anything of note to anyone's recent recollection. In the center of all of this stands the most humongous big screen television I've ever seen. This, of course, suggests that Tom's non-darter regulars are either hyperopic or they actually enjoy watching their local teams get humiliated.
It's around the perimeter of all this hoopla that the darts action is found. Three boards line the front wall just to the inside left of the entryway.
Another five boards overlook the four pool tables in the connecting room in the rear. The set up is excellent, particularly in the front. Well lit. Carpeted. Behind the oche is a slightly raised area with tables, separated by a small railing, where onlookers can grab a beer and a bite while they watch the play.
As Dorothy sorted out her lineup for the evening -- a match between the creatively named home bar "TC-1's" versus the "TC-2's" -- she set me up to shoot cricket with one of her teammates, Sonny Flohr. One of the better shots in the MDDA, Sonny and his Cher-like mane quickly took the first two games. Somehow I fought back to even up the score just as league was about to begin. I am pretty sure I was saved by the cork.
So I took a seat at one of the tables behind the line to be clued in by darters Paula Burdelsky, Billy McClish, Gabe Soler and Lenny Sanger to some of the lesser known factoids surrounding the south Florida darts scene.
According to Paula, who happens to be jeweler Kevin Burdelsky's -- of Kevin's Creations -- sister, darts in south Florida is on the rebound. Apparently Hurricane Andrew did more than sweep cows into trees when it blew through Homestead and points north in 1992. According to Paula, the monster storm also leveled many of the established darts bars, reducing league participation from a high of some 300 members to what is presently just a third of this figure.
According to Billy, the MDDA's statistician, this means that there are "about 100" shooters currently. Billy also explained that according to MDDA rules a triple twenty counts for sixty points and a triple nineteen earns a shooter fifty-seven points. This clearly confirms that, just as in most leagues, the statistician is not just a math whiz. He's also the only person who will take the job.
It was Gabe and Lenny however, who -- over an excellent bowl of Tom's award-winning chili and some jalapeno poppers -- provided the most serious insight into the goings-on inside the MDDA darts scene. It was Gabe who let me know that it was not just Hurricane Andrew that ravaged the steel-tip game in these parts. "Soft-tip is really big down this way," he advised.
"But that's not all bad. All the guys shoot 'cause it's mostly found in the strip clubs."
But without a doubt it was Lenny who offered the most worthwhile tip of the evening. "I saw you shooting with Sonny," he said. "Yep. Tough shooter," I replied. "Nice hair -- like Cher. Like Elvira!"
Lenny's eyes sort of focused. His reply was very deliberate. "Sonny's our captain," he said. "And he's a hell of a shot. The only thing worse that you can do than take a game from him is make fun of his hair. Whatever you do, don't write about it. And if you do, you're well advised not to come into Tom's again."
So now, at least the way I figure it, I have two reasons to throw soft-tip the next time I'm waiting for a connecting flight in Miami.
From the Field,