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Off Nights
by Fred Everson
 

No matter how well you play, or how much you practice this game, nothing will erase the seven feet nine and a quarter inches between the toe line and the face of the board. That distance is more than enough to separate a select group of legitimate pros from all of the rest of the players in the world. So, whatís the point? Simply this; the board is far enough away that nobody Ė not nobody Ė can be perfect, or even good all of the time. Coming to terms with poor play is essential in any competitive sport. I am not saying you should settle for less than what youíre capable of, only that sometimes you need to settle for less. Nobody throws good darts every game of every night. Dart play is no different than any other sport -- if you dwell too much on your poor play one evening, or even over the course of a slump, the game wonít be fun anymore, and that could cause you to give it up.

Winning is important, and it would be hard to continue to play darts if you never, ever won against decent players. But what I have seen happen to some dart throwers is that they get in a groove where they play very well, and then they fall out of it. Anything that seems too good to be true usually is. If you expect to play well all the time, you wonít last in this game. I think itís a lot like streak hitting in baseball. For a while a batter sees the ball very well, regardless of how well itís pitched, and he pounds it all over the field. Then a month later, the same batter canít hit a hanging curve ball. The good players recover and hit for average, the others get shell shocked and sent to the minors.

Mercifully, when you fall out of the groove in darts, you can often straighten the problem out with practice. A dart thrower can spend a few hours practicing by himself trying to analyze whatís gone wrong with his game, and the solution will usually come Ė unless ego gets the upper hand, and anger replaces analysis.

In a recent match I played poorly, but had a couple of good hits and hung in. My opponent played about the same. He was just on the wrong side of the wire a lot, and he let it get to him. On a good throw that bounced off a wire on a trip, he kicked his dart across the floor, and then it took him a while to find it. The game was about even when we came to finish on bull, but my opponentís concentration was blown. It was a long, painful finish, but I outlasted my adversary, mostly because I never got mad at my poor play, whereas my opponent did. Lose your cool in a thoughtful, competitive game like darts and youíre beat. Some nights you take your lumps. Itís never pleasant or fun when you donít play well, but if you love the game, playing poorly for a while is a sight better than not playing at all.

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