The Desert Classic

There seems to be no end to the mess of reasons floatin' around Darts Land about why America should stay home and roast wieners this coming July 4th weekend instead of heading to the MGM Grand in Las Vegas to support the Professional Darts Corporation's (PDC) new Dessert Classic. As best I can determine, America's beefs can pretty much be summarized in one word: WE'RE A BUNCH OF FRICKIN' IDIOTS!

My phone's been ringin'. My computer's been fillin' up with e-mails. "Yo, Dartoid. The British are coming! The British are coming! What do you think?"

Talk about stupid-ass questions! Where are all these Paul Reveres coming from?

Anybody who is a regular reader of this column surely knows that, with the exception of darts and beer and breasts and, sometimes (speaking of roasting wieners), Tommy Cox, I don't much think about anything. This is why each time you finish reading my column, you scratch your head and ask yourself "what the hell was that?" before using it to clean up after your dog.

The truth is I have been thinking about the Vegas shoot. The British are coming and they're gonna stage the biggest damn darts tournament this country has ever seen.

They're bringin' a cool $100,000 in cash. They're bringing the worlds' top professionals. Between Sky Sports and Fox Sports, they've negotiated a guarantee that the public, for the first time in America, will actually be able to watch and learn that our sport is for REAL - that serious darts is about a whole lot more than some wanker in a beer-stained shirt heaving arrows at a wall.

I fail to comprehend what is so incredibly offensive about all of this? I fail to see one single reason why anybody who cares about our sport, regardless of their level of skill, would be less than fully supportive of the event?

Some say the PDC are a bunch of bozos - they screwed up the North American Open in 2000 and left a host of darters holding airline tickets when the 2001 tournament was cancelled. Others complain about the cost of airfare or rooms at the MGM. Others don't like, or don't understand, the format. Others, due to the caliber of talent expected, refuse to plunk down the $150 ($100 for the ladies) entry fee. They figure it's akin to flushing their cash down the loo. Still others, I guess, just don't want to wear shirts and shoes.

Blimey, America. What's wrong with you?

This isn't the old North American Open. The North American Open was a great event, literally the catalyst for what became a wonderful annual "darts pilgrimage" where darters from far and wide could come together to renew acquaintances, compete, and partake of all that one of the most amazing cities in the world has to offer. Tom Fleetwood is a true pioneer and deserves a whopping heap of credit for all he's done for our sport.

But the North American Open was also an event (not that it was designed as such) where a darter could dress like a clown, drink like a fool, or get absorbed gambling at the roulette wheel or ogling topless women in a chorus line or listening to some fat boy dressed like Elvis and completely forget to show up at the oche - and where nobody really much gave a rat's ass.

Well folks, it's time for a change. As participation in league darting continues to decline, tournaments continue to lose money and shut down and sponsorship continues to be as elusive as a legitimate no-bounce out dart, the PDC's Desert Classic is exactly what the sport of darts needs in this country. It is high time that Darts America took a close look in the mirror, smacked its low-life reflection and cleaned up its act.

So what if things went wacko the past two years in Vegas? If the truth be known the cock-ups were hardly the result of PDC's doing alone. The fact is that there were also forces, so-called "friends of the PDC", actively at work trying to make the PDC look bad. They succeeded. What else is new?

So what if it costs a few hundred bucks to get to Vegas? So what if a room at the MGM runs $105? For Christ's sake, book your flight early. Find a roommate.

So what if the organizers are going to enforce a dress code? Find some black shoes. A collared-shirt. And press your damn trousers. If you can't figure out how to coordinate your ensemble, check out Paul Lim or Bob Gargan or Roger Carter. If you're a lady, see Julie Nicoll or Tina DeGrigorio or Lori Verrier. It ain't that complicated.

Which is it: you don't like the format or you don't understand the format? It seems pretty straightforward to me. Men's and ladies 501. Men's and ladies Cricket. Quadruple elimination. Payout down to the last 64 (or to the last 32 for the ladies). What's not to understand? If you don't like it, don't play.

So what if the event costs $150 and the competition is gonna be as stiff as a woody? Quite frankly, if your definition of a "good deal" is to plunk down the price of a few beers to chuck darts against some weak sister in your neighborhood pub, the Desert Classic just might not be the place for you. For my part, the price is more than a fair exchange for the opportunity to play, and learn - and maybe even take a few games - from the best in the business.

The PDC is bringing a class act to America. They've teamed up with one of our home-grown class acts, Glenn Remick and the American Darters Association (ADA), with an eye towards implementing the ADA's bar coded championship software at next year's Desert Classic. Indeed, as extraordinary at this year's tournament is certain to be, an integral part of this year's plan is to plan to make future events even better. These guys aren't stuck in the past or the present. They are flat-out committed to ensuring that our sport "survives and thrives" and they have the common sense to understand that this simply ain't gonna happen if we all don't embrace a bit of change.

Indeed, the Desert Classic is but a mere launching pad for what the PDC envisions to become an annual stop on a sort of world tour designed to increase recognition for darts and to open it up to players across the globe. It's about competition, camaraderie, showcasing the skill and excitement of our sport in the best possible light and, most fundamentally, encouraging the growth of darts from the grass roots.

Honestly, I just can't fathom why anybody would take issue with such intentions.

I'm a boxing fan and I've got to tell you that I often find the moments before the fight, as the music pounds and as the fighters and their entourages weave their way through the crowd towards the ring, as electric -- as exhilarating -- as the bouts themselves. If I wasn't a 5'9" white dude who's afraid of spiders I'd seriously think about lacing up some gloves just to be a part of this kind of experience.

This is exactly the same kind of glitz - the same kind of raw enticement -- that the PDC is bringing to the MGM Grand and the American darts scene. Imagine, as the PDC's media manager, Gayle Farmer, recently did (and I paraphrase) as ten-time world champion, Phil Taylor, enters the arena. To his theme song, "The Power," and amidst billowing smoke and high-tech sounds of thunder and lightening bolts, he edges his way through a raucous sea of the vanquished. Taylor steps to the stage, acknowledges the fans to a mighty roar and then turns to shake hands with his opponent: ME!

Well, I can dream.

The thing is, most of us have no more chance (or desire, probably - at least in the case of the sweet science) of stepping into the square circle with Lennox Lewis than we do of being one of the last two standing at the PDC's Desert Classic. But if you're at all like me, when you're feeling good and everything's come together just right, sometimes, just sometimes, you imagine...

You're jogging. There's a slight drizzle in the cool, late-night air. The moon is bright. Your steps are effortless. That's when the music starts. You glide on. Home is in sight. The music builds. You fly 'round the final bend in the road and head back up your driveway. Arms raised to the sky in exhilaration, you celebrate to the theme of Rocky.

We can dream or imagine ... because we can hear the beat. We understand darts. But we are very much alone ...

Darts in America needs what the PDC is bringing to town. As a package and as part of an ongoing plan the PDC is seeding a new generation of darters.

An unknown face. A board on a bedroom door. A missed shot. A better shot. The music starts. Another dart begins its arc. It pierces the sisal. Thud. BULL! Into the air shoots a child's fist as the rhythm of 'The Power' resounds in his mind.

This is what the Desert Classic is all about. By increasing the recognition and respect for our sport through television the Desert Classic is about helping others to hear the beat.

The Desert Classic provides something for each and every one of us.

It offers the chance for some to be the BEST, either at the end of the day on stage or for just a single game along the way.

For others, who would rather not throw, it offers the opportunity to be a part of a spectacle, an extravaganza, and an integral part of the fundamental force that will drive the growth and future of our sport in America: the "beat" ...the motivation for a new generation.

For everybody, the Desert Classic will provide the same chance the North American Open did, for darters to come together as a family in the wildest city on earth.

With typical British reserve, the PDC diplomatically surmises that America "may yet need to be convinced of the virtues of the PDC, but we're working hard to make sure that the Desert Classic is an event worthy of the North American scene ...".

No doubt, the PDC is correct, in part. Clearly there are those in America who need to be convinced of the virtues' of what the PDC is doing. While exactly why is a complete mystery to me, reality is reality.

Where the PDC misses the mark, though I suspect they know it, is in suggesting that their Desert Classic somehow needs to prove its worthiness to the American darting community.

The sad fact is that it is the other way around.

From the Field,

Dartoid

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