Sometime in the winter of 1995, carpenter by day and, now, fanatic darter by night, Charlie McDevitt made a fateful decision.
Not one to frequent the bar scene, Charlie went with friends to a little joint called Cousin's Pub (721 Route #28) in South Yarmouth, Massachusetts on Cape Cod. To the left of the door hung four dart boards. To the right under huge lights hovering under the dark wood ceiling stood two pool tables.
Contrary to his politics, Charlie turned left. From somewhere appeared a set of 27-gram Assassins. He rolled them in his palm, glanced through the smoke at the pool tables, and walked to one of the toe lines. He stroked a few. He liked the feel. He stroked a few thousand more. Four hours later Charlie departed with the Assassins in his shirt pocket. He's never picked up another dart since.
Like so many of us, Charlie was hooked from the moment he felt the sensation of his first release. "I traveled that first toss on the back of the dart" he told me. "I could actually 'feel' the arc ... I could 'see' the dart pierce the bull before it made its way into the board." Charlie McDevitt was hooked.
He joined a team, a "C" Division team, in the Cape Cod Darts League. He played out an uneventful season. He experimented. He practiced. He improved.
He moved up to the "B" Division the following fall. He studied the better shooters and took aboard their advice. More bulls followed. Charlie hit his first 180 and a couple of nine marks. He finished the season among the higher rated players in his division. His Assassins were beginning to feel like an extension of his hand.
Charlie moved up again. He joined an "A" Division team. He subscribed to darts magazines. He mounted a board on the wall next to the television in his living room. He became a regular at the local Blind Draws. He traveled to his first tournament, Witch City. He met Eric Bristow and Larry Butler. His team won the league championship. Charlie finished near the top of the division in All Star Points.
When I last saw Charlie McDevitt his team was headed to the finals of the "AA" Division. He'd just returned from his second trip to Witch City, for which he'd qualified to throw pro. Charlie was proud of what he'd managed to accomplish in the sport in just a few short years.
"I know there are people who think I have an attitude", he confided. "But it takes attitude to move up in this sport. Sure, technique and practice are important. But concentration -- focus -- is what splits the wires. If you don't know where your dart is going to land -- if you aren't certain of it -- then if the dart hits its mark it's an accident. Call it 'attitude' or call it confidence -- if you don't believe in yourself you're going to lose a whole lot more than you win."
I asked Charlie to what he most credits the strides he's made. He corrected my question immediately. "It's not to 'what' but to 'whom' you should be asking about" he told me. "I've been hitting the Blind Draws four or five nights a week for the past two years. Almost without fail, when my partners have been better than me, they have helped me. And I've listened and tried new things. I try to do the same now when I draw someone who is just starting out."
So I asked him what he learned when he faced the pros. His response was as quick and as insightful in its simplicity as most of the bits of wisdom he's imparted to me since we met. "You gotta hit triples," Charlie said. "You just gotta hit triples."
It's been eight months since I last saw Charlie McDevitt. We represented different teams but we warmed up together often. The few times we faced each other for real Charlie came out on top. The few times we were paired together we came out on top together. We won a few bucks.
I've been extremely fortunate during my own handful of years in the sport. I count many of the pros among my friends. They've all pounded me more times than I can count.
But what I consider most fortunate is the opportunity I have had to know and throw with so many shooters who came up the same way I came up in the sport. Uncomplicated sportsmen who are bound together by the feel and the flight of an arrow, and by their unabashed love for the game.
Darters like Charlie McDevitt.
From the Field,