It was the first Dart Club of 2003 and boy was it going to be a biggy. In fact, it would be the biggest Dart Club thus far. This kind of information is usually reserved for the tail-end of a chapter but dartweek 11 would see an unprecedented 28 darters take part.
Twenty eight. Wow.
Perhaps it was because that very weekend would see the final of the PDC championships at the Circus Tavern featuring Phil Taylor and Canada’s John Part.
Or perhaps it was because only the previous weekend some woolly-minded liberal had posed the following question to readers of the Guardian: “How can darts be made to appeal to the middle classes?”
Pithy responses included: “Change its name to d’arts” – Philip Reynolds (London) and “Take away the dart-throwing bit,” David Prothero (Harpenden).
The trouble with readers of the Guardian is that they are embarrassed about their social status, middle class guilt results in poncy affectations and ridiculous champagne socialism. Well, Dart Club is middle class and it drinks champagne and it doesn’t turn its nose up at darts.
Actually, the real reason Dart Club was so popular in dartweek 11 was because Dart Club London was hosting a grudge match versus Dart Club Leicester.
Cast your mind back two chapters (or scroll down and get yersen a recap) when Dart Club split into two teams at the Whores and Doom and the Finishers played out a match against the Bulls. This was all in preparation for the Dart Club inter-regional challenge match versus a mutual friend of the Finisher and Bull going by the name of the Dreaded.
Leicester, also complete with captain going by the name of the Finisher, would come down from the provinces and take on the capitalists, the losing team’s captain would then be forced to change his name to the Loser – it would be a showdown at the Oche Corral.
The Oche Corral in question would have to be very special, and indeed it was. Going by the name of the City Darts, on Commercial Street, it featured no less than five dartboards, including one championship board on a raised bed.
|More dartboards than you can shake a dart at|
There was just one thing, Commercial Street is outside the Circle Line (just) thus breaking rule seven, which was enforced following the Bull’s booking of the Bull in dartweek seven. However, the City Darts is a veritable Mecca for the City darter, so rule seven would have to be amended.
The seventh rule of Dart Club is, the pub must be within five minutes walk of the Circle Line. Something of a cop out, but that’s life.
Anyway, the City Darts also features a dartboard down stairs and a couple of pool tables. They have live Sky sports, will supply a buffet and allow punters to play their own stereo – which can lead to all sorts of Guns’n Roses type fun. In short, it is bloody brilliant.
The Finisher was in there first, at high noon as agreed, the Bull was slightly later, closely followed by the Clinician, the Aristocrat and his bird, newcomer, the Abstainer, whose lack of games would result in only one Dart Club Ranking System point and a position of last in the ranking table at the end of the day.
Leicester would be some time, they were having trouble finding anywhere to park apparently.
The Finisher and Clinician were in high spirits, particularly the Finisher, because over the festive Yuletide period, he, the Clinician, the Enigma and a Dart Club virgin the Blade were in none other than the Prince Albert on Bellendan Road in Peckham (as mentioned previously in chapter G) when the Finisher in a standard game of 301 versus the Clinician scored a maximum 180.
“Ooonnne hunnndreeeed and eeeiiiightyyyy!!” he shouted at the top of his voice, it was the first 180 he had ever scored, in fact it was the first 180 he had ever seen in the flesh (the Black Bomber scored a 180 but sadly for him he was on his own at home, the board was nowhere near regulation height, and the oche was too close, so some of the gloss is taken off).
The Prince Albert rose as one and applauded this fine achievement (after the Finisher had encouraged them a bit). It is well worth persisting if you have never scored one. Your day will come. On numerous occasions when two treble 20s are pinned the wheels come off and the darter is reluctantly faced with 125 a good score just not sexy, but one day you will hold your nerve, and the endorphin rush can only be topped by pharmaceutical means. No word of a lie.
Leicester still hadn’t arrived, but the Black Bomber had, there then followed a period when the dart clubbers present, with the exception of the Abstainer, proceeded to go into a dart frenzy of 501 warm up matches. And this frenzy was only exacerbated when the Finisher and Bull revealed the London Dart Club kit.
|The Finisher and Bull face the wall|
For the princely sum of £10 each, Dart Club availed themselves of some dazzling white short-sleeved polyester shirts from Primark, purveyors of fine tailoring in Peckham.
|London Dart Club 1st Team|
The Bull then put further ethical issues to one side and went down to Nike Town and got the top eight according to the current Dart Club Rankings name’s placed across the shoulders.
“That’ll be £72,” said the no doubt surly salesman – the Bull gulped, this was turning out to be an expensive bit of fun, he took the shirts over to the till, “That’ll be £3,” said the gormless git at the till, “……..er do you want cash?” said the Bull. The checkout assistant, we presume, had only charged for one of the letters. Still, that was the charge and the Bull coughed up before existing quick sharp in the double.
Come on – we’ve all been there. “CASH BACK!”
The new game to be sampled at the City Darts was darts decathlon. The Olympic sport made famous by the highly wicked, national anthem whistling hero Daley ‘backflip’ Thompson.
The decathlon is ten individual events split over two days. Athletes are awarded points for their performances in the individual events, so like in darts, they are really playing against themselves. So it seems obvious that the world needs a darts decathlon all of its very own. Particularly because as an athletic event it has slipped somewhat out of the nation’s conscience.
Maybe darts is just the thing to bring the two-day test of athletic prowess and endurance back into focus, for was is not the Geordie voice of darts Sid Waddell who said “most top darts players these days are fitter than Premiership footballers”? Or something like that at any rate.
Let’s face it, this is the only Olympic event that is worth winning. And until the Olympic committee wakes up, smells the fags and booze, and finally concedes the point and makes darts an Olympic event, the 100m will remain everyone’s favourite. In darts 100m it is simply case of counting how many darts it takes to reach or break through the 100 mark. Points are scored as follows:
Aside from Bob Beaman and Carl Lewis name another long jumper, go on (and the latter was more famous for his 100m achievements). Although, jumping a long way after a short run up is more impressive than the hop, skip and jump (unlike darts this is a triple not a treble). Darts long jumping sees athletes of the oche try and score as big a score as possible with just three darts, and scores points accordingly.
….erm didn’t Geoff ‘budgerigar breeder’ Capes do this? Since the stone throw was removed from the Olympic portfolio of events, throwers of heavy stuff are limited to shot put and hammer throw. So spare a thought for those anonymous putters of shot. Take one dart and see how high you can score.
This vertical representation of the long jump was made famous by an American called Richard Fosbury, who in 1968 invented a style of jumping that involves going headfirst and backwards, sounds like it would be a something of a flop. In darts, players get three lives and have to clear heights going up in units of ten with three darts. If you fail to clear a height you forfeit a life. Everyone starts on a height of ten – it is bloody easy, but hilarious if someone fails.
Michael Johnson, he runs funny and looks like Eddie ‘get the fuck outta here’ Murphy, but he is damn fast. Nobody else springs to mind for this event. It is simply an extended version of the most explosive Olympic event, and consequently the excitement is diluted somewhat. The darts version mirrors real life, darters score points according to how many darts it takes them to reach a score of 400.
This is a case of athletics over egging the pudding, making the best event a bit longer and throwing in some things to jump over. It is surprising that the Olympic committee hasn’t introduced something to throw at the end, maybe the 120m stone throw hurdles would be good, who knows? I guess we’ll never find out. So like in athletics this darts game takes an element of one other popular darts game and makes it a bit complicatederer. Darters play round the clock moving from 18 clockwise to 20, only landing in the black segments, hence ‘hurdling’ the white bits. Counting how many darts it takes to do so.
To discuss the discus is disgusting. Try saying that after a heavy night on the pop. Yet another variation on the throwing stuff games, but a classic nevertheless. It is a macho version of seeing how far you can throw a Frisbee. So the darts version is also macho and is case of seeing how close to the bull’s-eye you can get. One dart, one go.
|Out of bounds||150|
Like the high jump only using a big bendy stick to propel yourself over the bar, pretty damn impressive, but totally contrived. So you would think that it has very little to do with darts and you’d be right. Poor old Daley’s pole once snapped when he was halfway up, which was as nasty as it sounds.
This event should be a favourite of the Bull’s since he was Berkshire schools’ under 15 champion pole vaulter. He was also Berkshire schools’ only under 15 pole valuter at the time, scaling the massive height of 5’11” – lower than the winning high jump that year. Genius.
The darts version is like the high jump only using six darts instead of three. You might as well get everyone to start on 30, not even a bird could fail anything less with six darts.
This is the classic throw something event, and since it is the Olympic event that most resembles darts you would expect the British to be good at it. And you’d be bloody right, Tessa Sanderson, Fatima Whitbred and more recently Steve Backley are three renowned UK world record beating spear chuckers. In athletics the idea is to throw your giant dart as far as possible. In a pub, with any sort of dart, giant or otherwise, this would be highly irresponsible. And Dart Club condones it wholeheartedly, however, this is darts decathlon and not extreme darts, so in darts javelin the idea is to get as far away from the bull’s-eye as possible without actually going out of bounds. One dart, one go.
|Out of bounds||0|
|The outer wire||1000|
|Bullseye||lose all points accumulated so far|
By the time Daley was trudging round the track in this epic slog he was probably pretty knackered, but he had usually already sealed victory so would trot around with his famous moustached Cheshire cat grin beaming out.
Initially, the 1500m of darts was just a long version of the 100m and 400m, but when tried down the pub and it took about an hour and a half with only four players, so instead the idea is to score 150 in as few darts as possible using only the 15 and 10 segments (doubles and trebles count).
The winner of darts decathlon is the person who scores most points after the ten individual events.
Dart Club was preparing to play darts decathlon, the Bull, Finisher and Aristocrat had trialed the game at Doyle’s Bar over the Xmas period and the Bull was the current champion, but what then followed was yet another first for Dart Club – it would be the first time that Dart Club didn’t play the new game, but don’t let that put you off darts decathlon, it really is jolly good.
|Doyle's Bar is Veron Kaye's favourite||The Aristocrat likes it too...!|
|The Bull at Doyle's oche||The Aristo and a well-refreshed Specialist|
The reason Dart Club didn’t play the new game is because Leicester arrived – they were (Frankie) Finisher, the Dreaded (name later changed to Judge Dreadful), Jon Cank and Poke Out (Palmer). They had darts shirts, and they looked quite tasty at the oche. Darts decathlon took a back seat.
The intended format for the big game would be the same as the one played at the Whores and Doom, and indeed the same as the one that the Finisher and Clinician learned when they joined the Doyle’s Bar darts team. Two fours, four pairs, straight eights and 1001 all in!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Nice.
Leicester had only four team members, however, that mattered not because Dart Club would happily loan them some players, players who had not made the Dart Club top eight first team and had a massive point to prove.
|The New Look Leicester|
|Warming for the main event|
The Teams looked like this:
|Poke Out (Palmer)||Bull|
|The team line ups|
|Jon Cank||Black Bomber|
|The team line ups|
The first four from each team took to the oche in a game of straight in 701, it was highly unremarkable game with absolutely no sexy darts, taking 60 darts, an average of just under 12 per dart (or 35 per turn) and was won by Leicester.
First blood the east midlands.
London Dart Club’s top four had been turned over easily, things didn’t look good, the Finisher looked worried, his name was at stake after all.
London’s next four took to the oche for the next game of 701. All round this was a better game taking just 48 darts (14.6 per dart, nearly 44 scored per turn – pub darts standard), the London four racked up a sexy darts 100 and a pub score, but it was not good enough, because Leicester still won comfortably, checking out on a double five with London still requiring 73.
Two games down and London Dart Club was already on the ropes, it was time for the doubles.
|Leicester are already looking good|
First up it was the Finisher and Danny Boy versus (Frankie) Finisher and the Aristocrat. Averaging 17.6 per dart the London pairing were victorious. The match was now 2-1 in Leicester’s favour.
Next up the Bull and Fist would be playing Poke Out (Palmer) and the Hammer. Averaging 15 points per dart the London duo maxed out, with a double top exit. Leaving Leicester requiring 173 at check out.
|London are coming back||Black Bomber says 'COME ON'|
It was two apiece when the Clinician and Black Bomber played Leicester’s all dartette glamour pair, Jon Cank and the Anaconda. However, it was not a pretty game, the gentlemen darters won averaging a woeful 7.3 per dart, they finished in the madhouse.
However, a win is a win, it was now 3-2 to London going into the final doubles game of the match, the Dude and Sting would play Judge Dreadful and the Wire. And the Londoners would prove too strong yet again, exiting on double top they averaged just over 12 per dart.
|The Sting and Dude (aka Frodo Baggins)|
London were 4-2 up going into the singles sessions. First up were the two team captains the Finisher and (Frankie) Finisher. The Finisher averaged 12.5 per dart and took the tie.
At 5-2 this was turning into something of a procession. And Danny Boy did nothing to upset the apple cart beating the Aristocrat exiting on double top averaging nearly 18 points per dart was pretty impressive stuff.
It was looking unlikely that Leicester would make back the difference, until Poke Out (Palmer) defeated the Bull averaging 16 points per dart she was on fire, the Bull was left on 125 at check out.
The score was now 6-3 to London, could Leicester come back. Could the Hammer beat the Fist in the next match. Of course he couldn’t. Both darters were left requiring double one after 39 darts, but the Fist held his nerve checking out with an average of 12.5 per dart.
With the score at seven to three, London needed just one more game to seal victory.
Next up was the Clinician versus the Anaconda. And averaging 13.5 per dart the Clinician checked out first. London had prevailed. And quite right too, bloody provincial bumpkins.
For the record, and to complete the match, the Black Bomber beat Jon Cank, the Dude beat Judge Dreadful and the Sting beat the Wire making the final score 11-3 with no need to play the 1001 final match. A rout.
Leicester were sporting to the last and accepted that they had been beaten by the better side, the Londoner were irritatingly smug. No surprises there.
Dart Club is not a completely exclusive animal, there were plenty of other eager darters present, it was time for the 22 player strong 301 Open Tournament. It would be an unseeded straight knock out challenge, not unlike the FA Challenge Cup played out on dartweek five. E is for evenin’ all at the Archery Tavern (Bathurst Street).
|The Cyclops||A friendly Judge Dreadful|
envelops the Cyclops
The first round would look like this (with those in bold being the victor):
Specialist v Bubble
Striker v Poke Out
Bomber v Sting
Double Top v Jon Cank
Bull v Clinician
Fire v Fist
Wire v F.Finisher
Anaconda v Growler
Cyclops v Hammer
J.Dreadful v Finisher
Dude v Aristocrat
There were very few sexy darts during the first round, in fact quite hilariously the Dude managed to bust when he was left on 120, thus losing his tie. The Specialist managed to win on penalties, quite remarkably he required double top after only 15 darts, then threw a further 33 darts without checking out. Nice.
This left 11 players, so the losing players had a play-off to round it up to 16, it looked like this (again the bolded names were the winners):
Aristocrat v Hammer
Specialist v Bull
Sting v Wire
Bubble v Finisher
Jon Cank v Striker
Fist v Clinician
J.Dreadful v F.Finisher
Anaconda v Poke Out
Again nothing especially exciting happened, although it interesting to note that the Wire, the Bubble, Judge Dreadful and Poke Out (Palmer) would progress to the quarter final, despite losing their opening games. The quarters would look like this:
Hammer v Poke Out
Specialist v Bubble
J.Dreadful v Striker
Wire v Clinician
A highly unremarkable quarter final, the only thing remotely interesting is that the Wire progressed, the only player who failed to win his opening game, the semi-final would look like this:
Specialist v Wire
Striker v Hammer
The Specialist narrowly lost out to the Wire, his finishing let him down once again, after only 15 darts he needed double five with the Wire on 180, sadly he took too long, throwing 21 darts he allowed the Wire back into the game to finish. The other semi was more straightforward, with the Striker overcoming the Hammer, it could have gone either way – but it didn’t.
The final would be played out by the Wire and the Striker. Both darters had been to Dart Club only once, the Wire picked up 26 Dart Club Ranking System points at the Archery Tavern and the Striker picked up 17 points at the Angel – so the Wire would have to be favourite.
And .....averaging 13.5 per dart the Wire was the winner of the 301 Open, with the Hammer beating a very upset Specialist in the third place play off.
|Striker congratulates Wire||Specialist congratulates Hammer|
It had been a long day, and the Finisher was pretty a tired and emotional individual. He was also smashed out of his mind, and despite being the captain of the victorious team, and despite actually beating Frankie Finisher during the match, his decision to have a dart-off for the right to use his name was perhaps a little misguided.
When Frankie Finisher checked out on double eight, the Finisher was left on 239 seemingly unable to make out the board, hurling his darts irrespective of whether they had flights. “I’ll take your money, but not your name,” said Frankie Finisher, but a bet is a bet. He retired to the bar, tried to sit down and missed his stool. He was the completely Finishered.
|Elvis has left the building||The Finisher and the Finishered|
|Judge Dreadful helps the Finishered|
back onto his stool, while Jon Cank mocks
There had been a lot of darts and the Dart Club Ranking System table would see some pretty major alterations.
|1 (1)||Finishered||418 (363)|
|2 (4)||Fist||368 (219)|
|3 (3)||Bull||328 (221)|
|4 (5)||Clinician||219 (188)|
|5 (2)||Danny Boy||271 (222)|
|6 (6)||Black Bomber||255 (186)|
|7 (11)||Aristocrat||228 (73)|
|8 (8)||Sting||153 (87)|
|9 (7)||Dude||129 (107)|
|10 (9)||Specialist||105 (81)|
Despite being completely finished, the Finishered managed to maintain his top spot, both the Fist and the Aristocrat made some massive gains and Dart Club’s number two, Danny Boy, really let himself go at the City Darts, slipping to fifth place – for the record the Wire, winner of the 301 Open lies in 11th place with 97 Dart Club Ranking System points.
If the top ten were sorted in terms of points earned on the day it would like this:
He was man of the match at the Blue Posts and to some degree he was the best darter at the City Darts. Despite not winning the 301 Open or being on the winning team in the big match, the Aristocrat will go down in Dart Club history because he nailed a120 Shanghai exit in a game versus the Clinician. Treble 20, 20, double top. “It was a thing of beauty,” – the Fist.
|The Aristo's Shanghai finish|