It was in the embarrassing instant after I tossed up my second three in as many trips to the line and as Steve Brown completed the calculus required to determine I was still 495 points away from finishing, that the image of the "Man With No Name" invaded my memory. That's what we called him in junior high school anyway.
It was an odd moment really. Entirely out of place. "Definitely" would say the Rainman that was Dustin Hoffman.
Seriously. There I was. I'd plunked down twenty hard-earned bucks to enter the singles 501 at the Virginia Beach Classic. My third round opponent was a guy I knew and he sucked. Standing two feet from the board was one of the best shooters in the world. And I wasn't just throwing in threes ... I was daydreaming about some weirdo that used to wander the streets of Flint, Michigan thirty years ago, talking to his duffel bag. Yep, definitely, this was a beam from beyond. But then again, perhaps it was not ... My buddies and I used to walk the five or six blocks from Whittier Junior High School to the 2nd Street YMCA each day after school. We'd shoot pool. Race slot cars. Throw snow balls at the girls in the wintertime. And, occasionally, we'd quiz the Man With No Name. We'd see him most often around the swimming pool, where he'd walk to the end of the diving board and stand, often for many minutes, mumbling to himself before cannonballing in to make a big splash. He was a harmless soul. Lonely, I'm sure. He was also a genius. The Rainman could count cards. The Man With No Name could tell you, instantaneously, how many days had passed since any given point in time. Tell him your birthdate .. the date the Declaration of Independence was signed .. and he'd nail the correct passage of time to the day, each and every time, just like a computer. And in those days there weren't computers.
Anyway, as Steve was subtracting three from 501 and then another three from 498, I just couldn't clear my mind. And though I still worry today that if Steve peeled down he'd bear a striking resemblance to the Man With No Name in a bathing suit, it isn't the potential, and downright frightening, physical similarity that plagues me. The fact is the Man With No Name could calculate the impossible faster that Steve -- or damn near any of the rest of us --can do elementary arithmetic. Fascinating. And that's what got me to thinking ...
So I pose to you the same question that I have been trying to sort through since my vision in Virginia Beach. Which is worse: chalking for a pro, being chalked for by a pro or eating a big, juicy plate of beets? In my view, particularly following my destruction before Steve's beady little eyes, being chalked for by a pro is not the correct answer. I don't normally throw back-to-back threes. Usually I throw back-to-back twenty-sixes. Obviously, the pressure of having someone who can pick flies out of the air with 24-gram Hammerheads hovering, and probably chuckling inwardly, alongside the oche is more helpful to becoming one's fart than becoming one's dart. I do, of course, plan to confirm this with Fundartmentals authors Frank Pratt and Mike Harris.
Chalking for a pro is clearly not the way to go either. This I know from personal experience. I chalked for Paul Lim one time in Chicago and he popped in two triple twenties and a triple nineteen. I stood at the board baffled, thinking perhaps, that he was throwing Cricket. Paul himself explained that he'd just taken down the 209 he had remaining to 32. Duh. Another time while I had the chalk in my hand Roger Carter hit a 135 with his first three darts. Seriously now, what's a common recreational darter like me supposed to do with that? I can subtract 41 and 45 from 501 'till the cows come home. I've got those babies memorized. But 135 from 501 ... 177, for Christ's sake, from 209! Give me a break! These are complex calculations requiring the services of an idiot savant!
So, as much as I loathe beets -- and I used to stuff them into a hole in the leg of my mothers' kitchen table to avoid puking on my brother Kenny at dinner -- the answer to the question just has to be: SUCK DOWN THE BEETS. You may, of course, be of a different view and that is quite all right. The way I figure it you can make a fool out of yourself at the line to your heart's content but at least you won't be spewing on my family.
From the Field,