Hours Of Practice-477
Miles Walked On The Oche-381.6
Good afternoon; as I write, I have one eye on the clock, as it ticks down towards 6pm. At that point I must gather my things and trudge (drive) my weary way down the M1 towards Derby for an appointment I do not wish to keep. Sigh...but more on that later. For now, let your love flow as we delve together into the past month or so in the world of the Straight Shooting One, to find the treasures that lie therein. I can see them. They look like pork scratchings.
Firstly, draw your eyes to the practice hours total above; I've been hitting the Oche hard. That, along with my new promise to myself to attend a minimum of two tournaments a month, has had my feet firmly embedded in the world of darts, and this is a good thing. In fact, since the last blog entry I've entered 5 tournaments, and achieved...well, there's a few stories to tell first. They begin with the realisation of a need for ruthlessness.
Too much friendliness at tournaments from me. Not focused enough. Too much concern over how my game was being perceived rather than just thinking about getting the thing won. And so I'd made up my mind to minimise the banter and maximise the sheer, bloody-minded determination to win.
And so, typically, at the next pub tournament (that shall be unnamed) my opponent (who shall be given the same treatment) was the friendliest, most pleasant chap I'd had the pleasure of playing against, with whom I was powerless to not return the light hearted chit-chat. But then I REALLY let myself down.
After claiming the first throw via nearest bull, by a sheer moment of idiocy, I managed to throw both of my first two darts clean over the 20, landing side by side just above the double. My opponent-a thoroughly nice chap, who even remembered my name-interjected, and said 'Luke, it's not double in you know.'
He'd seen where my darts had gone, and assumed I wasn't aware of the tournament rules and was aiming for the double, thinking I was playing league rules and trying to hit a double to begin my scoring. He was giving me an opportunity to start again.
And, darts fans, I am ashamed to say, that in a moment of confusion and a flash of 'BE RUTHLESS!' running through my head...I said 'Oh! Of course...tsk...' then walked over to the board, AND TOOK MY DARTS BACK. I watched his good-natured, we've-all-done-it smile on my way back to the oche line and realised all I needed was for my head to turn into that of a donkey, Warner Brothers cartoon style, replete with t-shirt saying 'Jackass.' I felt smaller than Jo Whiley's charisma. And for the rest of that game, I couldn't shift the guilt, despite trying to convince myself that I was simply taking advantage of an opportunity to win (ruthlessruthlessRUTHLESS) and failing completely. I had straight up cheated, and I knew it. My game went to pot, and I found myself thinking 'I hope this guy wins,' just so I could get what I deserved. He did. I was relieved.
There is ruthless, and there is ruthless, and then there is cheating. The Straight Shooting One made a judgement of error, and swears it will never happen again.
But now for an update to an incident that regular blog readers (all 2 of them, including my girlfriend) will remember.
At my most recent outing, a saturday afternoon tournament at a social club in Birmingham, I saw a familiar face; the man I'd given a piece of my mind to when I'd felt slighted by his lack of courtesy after I'd scored for him at two separate occasions. The concerningly-I realised, with the clarity of a sober man-large man I'd given a piece of etc etc.
Now, since the first run-in, having given the matter some thought, I'd realised I was in the wrong. I've even nearly forgotten to say thanks to a scorer after a game simply because my head was still in the game, so it's easily done-though not right-and I caused a scene where it wasn't necessary. So I'd decided already, should I ever see him again, to apologise and buy him a beer. Looking at the size of the man, I decided I'd probably better up that to two beers, and full access to my girlfriend should he so wish.
The question was, how to bring about a situation where I COULD apologise, especially when in all likelihood he wouldn't even remember me. However, this would soon be resolved, for the gods of darts proved they have a sense of humour; I was playing in the first round, and it turned out he would be scoring for my game.
Irony, my friends.
So my opponent and I began warming up, and if he recognised me, he gave no sign. Taking a deep breath, I threw my practice darts and addressed him directly at the same time.
"I owe you a pint mate."
He looked at me, slightly confused, and I followed up with a smile and said, "You don't remember me do you?" He shook his head no, smiling slightly himself. I collected my darts from the board and walked over. "I'm the guy who drunkenly moaned at you after-" He interrupted me with a click of his fingers and a point, smiling fully as it dropped into place. "Wolston." He said, naming the venue. "Yeah, that was me. Look, I just wanted to say I was out of order and I'm sorry-" He waved it away, shaking his head. "Nah, don't worry about it mate." "Well, I owe you a pint, so I'll buy you one when I'm done here," I replied, offering my hand. He took it. "Nice one mate, nice one. What was the name?" he asked, meaning for the scoreboard. "Luke."
"Right. You've just lost then!" he said, and laughed, and I felt very good that the whole thing had been resolved.
And, despite going two legs down, and despite being observed by someone who I knew was an excellent darts player...I won my first competitive tournament game.
It was a crap game by both our standards, but the main thing was I was not only the guy who'd kept his head and won it, but I'd had to stage a comeback to do so. I felt like the king of the world.
But I haven't played in a tournament since, as I've undergone a change in employment.
In an industry (entertainment) where reliable, steady income is always at risk, ongoing economic fears have lead to the most lean Christmas and January of my professional life, and so I decided to forgo the convenience of a super-sweet but highly unreliable residency at a bar on the other side of the street from where I live, in exchange for going back with my old agent and going back out on the road around the Midlands. This mainly means one thing; social club audiences.
These can be notoriously hit and miss. Some clubs are brilliant, full of people who have actually come out for a good time, to socialise, to literally eat, drink, and be merry. And then there are those venues whose patrons have come out solely because they don't know-or try to think-what else to do, and to play Bingo. Note the capital B.
In the main, so far, I've been lucky. And, most importantly of all, my diary has gone from empty to full in a matter of weeks, and so I'm delighted with my decision. But the big downside is the hours at which I've been getting home, often on Sunday nights and midweek. This has meant getting up later, and then my whole day is a shambles if the routine is broken. I can't get my head together, can't concentrate; the whole sleep issue thing again. But the main thing is that practice, though affected, has still been pressing on.
And most importantly, improving, thanks to the aforementioned extra hours and two new bits of kit. A new set of darts, and the Winmau SightRight.
Liking the 26g Dennis Priestly darts I'd been using of late-darts with a significant extra weight towards the front end, or 'front loaded' as they say-but unhappy with the grip, I started a thread on double16.com darts forum asking for suggestions of similar, more grippy front-loaded darts. The response was fantastic, and eventually I settled on a set of Hi-Tec Vice in 26g. Not only have these improved my game, but combined with the Winmau Sightright my average is now solidly around the 65 mark, and often in the low 70s (my goal is to have it firmly locked in the 70s by the end of April.) The SightRight is basically a piece of kit that you place under your dartboard, directly under the bull, and look at from the oche line. If the two white lines on it appear to be in line, then you are stood in the right place. If not, you're off centre. To my great surprise, I was actually slightly too far to the left. The idea of the thing is that, over time, you will stand in the correct place naturally.
Many-including myself-thought it might be a bit of a gimmick, but I have to say I swear by it; my general standard and average shooting up to the point where 19-21 darters are commonplace, and the trebles are dropping in all the while. If you want to tweak your game, google it; they're about £20 delivered. Or you could just build your own if you can be arsed.
Apologies for the slightly subdued tone for this month's blog; I started this over a month ago, and haven't managed to get it finished. So I swore to myself I'd get it finished today, as there's actually more news to tell-and more interesting news, thank heavens-but that has to be for another time. Sigh. I'll get it up real soon, as the bishop said to the actress.
The Straight Shooting One