Williamsburg, Virginia

There's a nasty rumor floating around that yours truly has something against the electronic game. That this rumor, in fact, does exist was confirmed recently in a conversation I had by way of another modern invention, the telephone, with Leslie A. Murphy.

Leslie is Executive Director of the Indianapolis-based National Darting Association (NDA). What this means, basically, is that Leslie is a very important dart personwho lives in Indiana. Our conversation went something like this:

"Hey, Leslie. Watcha wearin'?"

"Huh. Who is this?"

"Paul Seigel. You know ... the guy who writes the Dartoid's World column ... the guy who's written to you two dozen times pitching stories for your magazine, 'Throw Lines'".

"Jesus. You just don't give up ..."

"Come on Leslie. Honey. Please ... just tell me why you bozos won't carry my column in your magazine. Just tell me what it is I have to do."

"Well, Paul. Honey. Like I've told you before, our committee has reviewed your copy and it seems you just write about steel-tip. We don't think your stories are quite right for our market." (Translation: "You're an insulting, sexist pig.")

Naturally, I got to thinking ...

So I took a look through my file of old columns and, wouldn't you just know it, I realized that Leslie and her committee just might have a point.

My focus over the years definitely has tended to be about getting out for the night, drinking a beer or two with friends, chattin' up the ladies and enjoying our sport. Obviously I have completely missed the mark of everything that is important to the soft tip enthusiast. Silly me.

I picked up the horn again and called my mixed doubles partner, TammyFisher, who I knew to be an avid soft-tip shooter as well as very proficient in the steel-tip game. The conversation went something likethis:

"Hey, Tammy. Watcha wearin'?"

"Grow up, Dartoid. I'm busy. What do you want?"

"Tammy, I've got some questions about the limp dart game. Can you help?

"I'm wearing a black teddy."

Tammy and I decided to meet in Williamsburg, Virginia. We picked Williamsburg because it's a very famous place that, most important of all, is just a few miles up the road from where both of us live.

It was near here, at Jamestown in 1607, that the first English settlers set up shop and then packed it in a century later, wisely giving up the fight against pestilence. I say "wisely" because only recently archeologists working for the Jamestown Rediscovery Project dug up a number of unusual artifacts. The objects, covered with the soil of the centuries, included varied items such as scraps of copper used to produce simple jewelry for trade with the Indians, a 1602 silver sixpence and a match lock musket. What they also discovered however, and which has since been completely authenticated, were the first ever completely intact remains of the now extinct, but once extremely vicious, three-eyed pestil. Yep, they found a pestil.

It was also near here at Yorktown that the decisive battle of the American Revolution was fought in 1781. As darters everywhere know, this is the reason why it is so uncommon to find John Lowe and Cliff Lazerenko and the rest of the traveling British contingent rushing out after tournaments to buy cherry bombs to take home to blow up on July 4th.

And it was in Williamsburg itself -- in a tavern called Chowning's (which has been meticulously preserved by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation) -- that the late great patriot, Patrick Henry, stood arm-in-arm with Thomas Jefferson and George Washington (who, I swear, is the spitting image of Barbara Bush) and in fiery defiance declared: "Give me Liberty or Give me Darts".

We met at about dinner time at Bones Grand Slam Eatery and Sports Bar (351 York) and threw up some darts. This was truly the first time that I'd played soft-tip with a serious shooter. Any misconceptions that I may have had were quickly wiped away. Those steel tip purists who strut around pooh-poohing soft-tip as if it were some sort of kiddy game are just plain wrong. Those steel-tippers who are convinced that they can step up to any soft-tip line and demolish the competition just plain ought to put their darts where their bravado is.

As the night wore on and as Tammy pretty much wiped me up at the board, I recorded several observations about the soft-tip game.

First, and most obvious of all, is that the machine itself was designed by my ten year-old nephew Danny. For years I have been amazed at this kid's creative skills. One afternoon, while his athletic sister, Krista, was out serving tennis balls at something like 100 miles an hour, Danny built a go-cart out of soda pop cans and a motor that he carefully dissected from a Furby. My guess therefore, is that a large part of the reticence of some to embrace the soft-tip game is simply generational. Those of the erector set generation who were raised before plastic and computer chips were invented are simply intimidated by giant Lego-like, flashing, robots named Scorpion.

Second -- insulting, sexist, pig that I am -- I couldn't help but notice that there is a distinctly erotic vernacular associated with the soft-tip game. There are "shafts", of course, just as in steel-tip, and there are also "tips" -- but they come in varied day-glow colors and sometimes become "limp". This can cause them to "slip out of the hole". I just hope my nephew didn't also invent this language.

Finally, I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that in soft-tip one can close their eyes, grab a dart sideways or backwards, heave it like a baseball at the board, have it bounce out and fly across the room -- and still score points. This innovation alone -- a simply incredible example of modern high technology, will improve my game immensely.

So, I enjoyed my first real soft-tip experience. All that I learned from Tammy was framed at Bones (speaking of erotic vernacular) within an atmosphere as friendly as any I've experienced. I highly recommend the joint to anyone who finds themselves in the Williamsburg area. A word of caution though, Leslie, especially if you wind up your night late and head unescorted back to your hotel. I lied about the pestils. They are not extinct.

From the Field,

Dartoid

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