It was just a couple of months ago that the best game I could find in Toronto was against a fine young homosexual fellow ("not," to quote Jerry Seinfield, "that there's anything wrong with that") named Kevin who dove for his bounceouts. Suffice it to say that I packed it in early.
Tonight I returned to Toronto. By the time the evening ended I had to seriously consider Kevin's strategy. It's not that thrusting my face at Powerpoints (note the pun) turns me on. It's just that last night anything, absolutely anything, would have helped my game.
I arrived early at Sailor's Dickie (3391 Younge). Located on the border of Toronto and North York, the Dickie is one of the more popular bars participating in the Metropolitan Toronto Area Dart League (MTADL). I set up at the table closest to the two boards in the rear, ordered a Molson and loosened up my arm. Tonight was gonna be different. Tonight I was gonna show these Canadians a thing or two.
Sailor's Dickie is a sort of neighborhood pub. There's a long rail bar on the left. To the right are tables. A cozy wood burning fireplace flashes licks of orange and yellow from along the table-side wall. The place is richly decorated with handsome pitch-colored wooden beams, glistening brass and soft, velvety-like crushed maroon seat covers. A well-placed array of orange lanterns picks up the warmth of the fire and casts a comforting glow throughout the room.
It was at exactly 6:30 pm -- just as we'd planned and just as I was finishing off my third beer -- that John Part ambled in the door and made his way along the bar and to my table in the back of the pub. This 1994 Embassy winner and current Canadian ranked number one and World Darts Federation ranked number six was gonna show me the difference between recreational darts and the big leagues.
Tonight Part's team -- Tal's Dickies (named in memory of Taleem Mohammed Khan, once one of the real gentlemen of the sport and one of the toughest shooters in the MTADL) was throwing a league match against none other than Doug "Wuggles" Scanlon's team. Tonight the current and former Canadian National Champions were likely to face each other at the line.
It goes without saying that I was way out of my league. Part and I teamed up for a set of 501 against two of his teammates -- Charles "China" Menezes and Fred "Boom Boom" Sedore. Part started off strong with a 180. Boom Boom popped in a ton. I missed the board with my first dart and stuck the next two in the number one pie. And this was the highlight of my night!
Somehow we prevailed ...
At some point it occurred to me that nicknames were important to these guys. Maybe its a Dickie thing. Maybe its a Canadian thing. It was sometime shortly following my two mark that I realized my nickname had been twisted into something hurtful. I think it was Boom Boom who exclaimed after one of my stronger efforts: "Looks like a 41, eh Hemorrhoid". Still, I'm sworn 'till death or until I take a game from Part, whichever comes first, not to reveal his lovable little moniker.
League play began at 8:00 pm. In between matches and a concurrent series of cribbage games (which served as the primary focus of the evening for Wuggles and Boom Boom) Part and I tipped a few more beers and sorted out his future in the sport.
Behind us the others -- Steve "Red" Dennis, Craig Tomlinson, Marty Cook, Don Leslie, Brian Taylor, Al Fitspatrick, Dave Hall, Jaan Lepp, Harry "CB" Carbraint, Steve and Suzanne Cochrane and Nina Corcoran -- methodically set down their drinks and made their way through the smoke to take their turn in the lineup.
Besides collecting frequent flier miles as he dashes back and forth from Toronto to compete on the European Circuit, planning a trip to the Far East with yours truly and, possibly, writing a book, Part's plan for the future is pretty simple. His aim is to guard against complacency (his self-described weakness) in a bid to become the dominant player in the sport before he turns 45.
"What are your goals?" he challenged. I replied that I had just one: "to set the world record for hitting the most consecutive 26's without really trying. I'm pretty sure its within reach."
A Hemingway fan, Part asked if I'd read The Old Man and the Sea. "That old guy had a goal and he hung in there for days, baking in the sun and nearly dying, to land his dream. You've gotta have goals."
I thought about it a bit. I'd never really considered this in such terms. I rambled a while, talked about the "Dartoid's World Collection" -- a line of products (shirts, flights, cases and a couple of books and videos) that will be on the market soon. I told him my goal was to ditch my day job and to write about throwing darts in every country of the world and, eventually, to franchise "Dartoid's World" pubs in several American cities.
"But what's your goal in the sport?" he challenged further. "To be the best on your team? To be the top shooter in your league? To place at a tournament -- to beat the best?"
So I pondered the question more deeply. Somewhere in the spongy fabric of my mind I recalled the image of an old friend dancing the Macarana shirtless on top of a wine crate in a bar in Patpong 2, somewhere in the bowels of Bangkok. And then it came to me.
"I know this place. Cosmos its called. In Thailand. I can see us together on our trip to the Far East, taking turns at the line. You're dressed pretty much as you are now. I'm in cutoffs and a billowy Hawaiian shirt covered with brightly colored parrots."
Part sipped his beer and listed further, a blank look in his eyes.
"I can see you pounding me all night. But I know your weakness. Complacency. You told me so. You've just wasted three darts on a 32 out. My eyes look past the skimpily-clad chalker and I see 170 remaining. I step to the line."
"Yeah, I take it out. The crowd roars. The music changes."
From somewhere appears a wine crate. I step aboard. An old Don Ho song finds its way to the turntable. And I singthe night away.
It was 11:00 pm that I passed back through the door at Dickie's and into the night. And when I did John Part no longer had a doubt as to my goal.
From the Field,