Thursday, 8 April 2010

Day 93-A Hated Sabbatical, The Mystery Man, The Dartmate, The Summer Gauntlet, and of course, The Future Of Darts XI

Hours Of Pratice-130

Average Number Of Darts To Checkout-31

Miles Walked On The Oche-110.5

Far, FAR too long in between updates; this is because I record the number of darts taken to checkout for EVERY game of solo practice I play, and when it comes to add all the scores up and work out the average, it takes a long, long time. I hate the idea of doing an update without it, and so it was one of those things that kept getting put off. I think the answer is to maybe not update the average EVERY blog; we'll see.

That the last 8 weeks, as you can see, I've shaved 6 darts off the average. Not too shabby. Getting it below 26 darts is slowly becoming a possibility...

So what's changed in the last 2 months? Well, for starters, I've left my old practice haunt in The Plough, Cramlington, simply because my girlfriend and I are now living in Derby whilst we find a house to hopefully buy (the pain of a stiff gazumping has not yet left us.)  This is a double edged sword; not having a nice boozer close by with an often-free board has meant I've had to sort out a home darts set-up (more on that later) which has lead to an increase in practice hours (more on THAT later)  but it's also meant I'm not really getting out of the house in the week. This is...troubling. Cabin fever and I have never been the best of friends. I need to address this somehow, and soon, especially as Captain Howdy keeps whispering to me in my sleep that I need to redruM Angela before she tells all the bad people all my special secrets...maybe thinking about strapping the old stomach-injury protecting belt and getting back in the gym might be a good idea after all.

Most annoyingly, shortly after the last blog injury, I caught an illness that laid me low for a good two weeks, during which time not one dart was thrown. When I nervously made my comeback on the dartboard, my average was shot. Badly. It took a long, depressing further two weeks to get back onto winning ways, and annoyingly, my encounter with Steve The Mystery Man came just before I'd really corrected my form.

One evening, upon arriving at The Plough, one of my two pseudo Plough chums (two guys that came in and sat at the bar every day I practiced there. Casual grunted hellos turned into brief conversation and saying bye upon leaving as the weeks progressed, and then questions-"Do you play for a team of something?") turned to the man I was surprised to see on the Oche (normally always empty) and said, "How, Steve, this fella'll give you a game", pointing to me.  I had no idea who Steve was, but even though Steve seemed a bit reluctant to play, we shook hands and started playing, during which time he got more into it once he realised I was reasonable competition. It did become clear, though, after a few games that Steve was a better player than me; if he needed to correct an uneven score, 50% of the time he could hit a treble to correct it in style. I couldn't do that; even now, I'd say it was about 25% of the time that I manage it. But what made it really interesting was that throughout our marathon (19 games in total) three separate people asked Steve, as they entered the pub, questions along the lines of "Oh, Steve, right, you've taken up the darts again?" with mildly excited tones. Every time, Steve dismissively waved his hand and looked at the floor. "No, no..."

Who was this Steve? Why was his comeback to darts a minor league big deal? My mind raced with the possibilities. Former local darting hero? A FALLEN hero perhaps, maybe one who left the sport after killing an innocent spectator with a wild dart thrown in a rage...either way, the final score was 7-12 to Steve. A respectable score for me, I though, against a superior player. I'd love to play him now, see how I'd do.

Anyway, since temporarily moving home, realising that four hours a day (a hard target to hit at the best of times) is next to impossible at home without a dart board and a Mother terrified of even the smallest changes to her home, and also realising that generally I wasn't getting enough practice in when away on weekends working on gigs, I decided it was time to consider investing in a mobile setup. And so I bought a Dartmate (The F.O.D.atron 4000):

One of the best investments I've ever made, frankly. The difference it's made to my practice is phenomenal. Being able to walk into your living room and throw as opposed to heading to the pub speaks for itself, plus being able to take it anywhere for a game is a big blessing. As you'll see, the number of hours practice I've racked up is nowhere near four hours a day; until I bought the Dartmate I was averaging about an hour a day. The only reason it's as high as it is the amount of extra hours I've gotten in since the few weeks I've had it.

Practice is going well; I've moved on from Round The Clock Doubles to Round The Clock Ledgendary Endurance. I won't go into the rules today, it'll take too long, but I've only done it twice and it took an hour and a half each time. You bust out so much I had a light sweat by the end from the constant pacing. 

I know I said I was going to explain this time why I'm a PDC man through and through, but that's gonna have to wait agai; there's more important news to say. Well, important news, and VERY important news.

Important news first. I have a list of my first tournaments for this year, all throughout the summer. Here it is:

April 5th-Lincolnshire Open

May 2nd-UK Open Regional Qualifier

May 16th-Welsh Open

June 6th-Worcestershire Open

June 20th-Nottinghamshire Open

26th June-England Open

Not too unrealistic, I think; the UK open is particularly exciting. Get tothe last 32 in that one, then I get to play in the Pro qualifiers...unlikely, but hey, fuck it. And yes, the Lincolnshire Open was last week. I paid my £10 entrance money...and forgot it was on. 

But anyway...the BIG news. This saturday is The Future Of Darts World Championships XI. My first tournament test of any kind, and something I want very, very badly to win. 

On paper, it's sewn up. I've practiced 20 times as much as everybody else involved, I was arguably the best player in it even before all this (4 titles, 5 finals, 9 semi-finals. My nearest rival has two titles) and I'm playing the best darts of my life, being easily three times the player I was before.

But then...but then...

Played a few saturdays' pratice with Craigy and Briggsy, and yes, the constant banter and chatting doesn't really allow for a true, focused, competitive game of darts, but the results have ranged from me whitewashing them both, to a draw, to even me taking a loss. Don't underestimate the important of silence and concentration on a proper game, but just knowing that those days weren't always one sided weighs on me a tad.

But then...but then...

The record minimum number of darts taken to checkout at a Future Of Darts World Championships is 15. This has stood for many years, being equalled once but never broken. In the eyes of FOD players, 15 darts is eye-poppingly good, as in everyone in the room screaming drunkenly good. It's usually more like 35-40 darts. Tonight, just for the purpose of this blog really, I played 21 games of FOD Rules darts (can't score until you've hit a double, then 301 down to a double finish) then worked out my average. It was 24 darts, including a 16 and 17 darter.

A few people have said "If you lose the Future Of Darts thing, are you just going to quit?" No, of course not. I'll be gutted, humiliated-and make no mistake, it can happen; it's been a long, long time since I played any deadly serious competitive darts, and all it takes is for the head to go and it's all in the shit-but I'll simply have to see what went wrong and fix it. And then save F.O.D. retirement for another year :-) But if I DO win, one thing I WILL quit will be being a competitive F.O.D. player...a genuinely sad thing.

That's it; if I lose, it can only be self-sabotage. That's it.

Either way, needless to say, I cannot fucking WAIT for saturday, and happily, I'm definitely not the only one. It's been too long since the last F.O.D, and the boys are pumped. It's just a shame that I'm going to have to fucking crush and mangle them all into whimpering little bitches. Pressure? Yes. I've waited-and you could argue-trained for this for a very long time, and this is-again, arguably-my first proper step on the road I've taken. It's a tournament, and for all the fun and hilarious, wonderful nonsense that comes with it, the actual darts played is deadly serious. It's a perfect day for me, and I say that genuinely. Come on boys.

I'll let you know how I did next week.

Stay Hungry,

The Very, Very Excited Straight Shooter.