It was another scorcher of a day here in Las Vegas at the Professional Darts Corporations (PDC) Desert Classic darts extravaganza. Play started off on time but just a bit uneasy, as these are uneasy times, when PDC event emcee, Phil Jones took to the microphone just moments before the start of the third qualifier.
"There's nothing to be worried about mates however, we have just been informed that there is a bit of a security problem in the hotel. You can not leave the area. If you go up the escalators security will not let you return. Apparently there's some smoke upstairs."
Fortunately, whatever the problem was it wasn't serious. Any concerns were replaced with the necessary focus on the final two qualifiers and anticipation for the grand show that will unfold over the next three days. Play began promptly at noon and 7:00 p.m. and moved forward crisply.
As the day worn on and as Lee Palfryman, Roland Scholton, Dennis Priestly and Simon Whatley rounded out the final sixteen for the men and Deta Hedman (the first ever black PDC finals contestant) and Chrissy Howat earned the last of four spots on stage for the ladies, a crowd gathered around the Control Booth to learn the match-ups for the first stage round.
LADIES DRAW: Chrissy Howat vs. Deta Hedman; Carolyn Mars vs. Stacy Bromberg
MENS DRAW: Alan Warriner vs. Wayne Mardel; John Part vs. Richie Burnett; Dennis Smith vs. Simon Whatley; Phil Taylor vs. Kevin Painter; Andy Jenkins vs. Ronnie Baxter; Colin Lloyd vs. Lee Palfryman; Dennis Priestly vs. Roland Scholten and Denis Ovens vs. Peter Manley.
As the participants prepared for the night's one-of-a-kind Las Vegas Strip fireworks display -- I sat down with ten-times World Champion, Phil "the Power" Taylor for a little interview. I was a little apprehensive about this because I've slagged on him some in the past. "Slagged on him" (for those of you out there who don't speak a foreign language) is the British way of saying that I've "given the bugger shit." Anyway, since Taylor is considerably larger than me and is known to carry sharp, pointy objects, I cleaned up my act and asked only nice questions. Also, just to be extra safe, I attended our meeting incognito. I dressed up as a giant condom.
DARTOID: So Phil, you're gonna be standing on the stage soon here in the MGM's Grand Arena, pretty much in the same spot where the likes of Mike Tyson and George Foreman and Evander Holyfield have thrilled the world. I imagine that even for you -- a ten time champion of the world -- this is a bit intimidating. My question, and it's a biggie -- what inquiring minds across America want to know is: does England consider Lennox Lewis a Brit or a Canadian?
THE POWER: Ha! I'd have to say fifty-fifty. What kind of an interview is this again? .
DARTOID: I threw you a game of 501 on Tuesday night at Stacy Bromberg's Make-a-Wish charity shoot and, although you didn't realize it, I probably tossed the most brilliant darts of my life. You left me with 389 points on the board. What I want to know, damnit, is: WHY?
THE POWER: I apologized, eh mate? (Translation into American English: "Obviously you don't know the proper definition of the word 'brilliant' because you suck.")
DARTOID: Stacy's shoot raised something like $10,000. Do you do many exhibitions like this? Is there a particular charity you favor?
THE POWER: I try to do a lot for the causes I favor, like special care babies and cancer research. My wife and I had two premature babies and my father died of cancer.
DARTOID: So it's July 4, kind of a special day in the United States -- and actually, sort of an odd day to be holding a darts tournament. You've got the inside poop. I mean you're buddies with all the PDC big wigs, right? Tell me honestly, was the selection of the date for the Desert Classic designed as some sort of "pay-back" for America for kicking ass and winning it's independence?
THE POWER: Definitely!!! (Another translation: "And if it was the blokes on stage here fightin' the war all over again you'd be fixin' me a cucumber sandwich instead of asking stupid questions.")
DARTOID: Ten times world champion... that's probably earned you millions?
THE POWER: It has. It has. It's earned me $3. But I've spent $5.
DARTOID: Can I have a few quid for the slots?
THE POWER: Of course, mate. (Special interpretation: "Sure, I'll give you a few bucks. But personally, I wouldn't be seen in the casino dressed up like a six foot rubber.")
DARTOID: How many championships are enough? When are you going to pack your darts away for good and, when you do, what's next?
THE POWER: Hmmm. Well, I'm enjoyin' it at the moment. Thirteen is my lucky number so I'll at least looking that far ahead.
DARTOID: Considering how many people in darts look up to your game and your accomplishments, I'm curious: who in the sport do you particularly admire?
THE POWER: I'd have to say everybody. Many people don't realize the practice that all the players put in. Like any sport, darts requires tremendous dedication. I admire this in everybody involved in the sport.
DARTOID: How about in America? I admire Brittany Spears, though I don't know if she throws darts. Is there a shooter in the States who you admire in a similar way?
THE POWER: Ha! In a similar way to Brittany Spears? I'd have to say Paul Lim. (IMPORTANT NOTE: In the interest of journalistic excellence, I must immediately clarify Phil's response here. My question was poorly worded. I do not think Paul Lim reminds Phil in any way whatsoever of Brittany Spears. However, I could be wrong.)
DARTOID: A handful of America's top shots were unable to make this tournament. Guys like Roger Carter and Luis Martinez, for example. Luis stood up pretty well against you a while back in Saskatoon. Were you looking forward to a rematch here in Vegas?
THE POWER: It's a shame Luis wasn't able to be here. I think he'd have qualified. He's got a lot of bottle.
DARTOID: You've met some of our young-bloods this weekend, guys like Ray Carver and Shane Meeks. Perhaps you've met Tim Cherven and Tim Grossman. Maybe John Kuczynski and Jason Jarvis (who was mentored by Larry Butler). What do you think: do any of these young guys have the package, the goods to someday be the next Phil Taylor?
THE POWER: The next Phil Taylor! Well, I don't know most of these names. I played Ray though, in Saskatoon. He's very steady. Very dangerous.
DARTOID: I've got just a couple more questions for you Phil. But some pretty serious stuff. You know I can sometimes be a bit controversial. You ready? Okay. First off: I hear you stole Tommy Cox's shorts, right off his ample bum. Tommy was kind enough to chalk for me earlier, though I think I nearly killed him "by subtraction." Anyway, do you think he was wearing his shorts while he was chalking for me? I missed a lot of shots just contemplating this image.
THE POWER: Huh?
DARTOID: Okay, forget that. Second to the last question: Can you get me a date with Gayle Farmer?
THE POWER: That's an easy one, mate! Everybody's been out with Gayle. It's nice to see her on her feet again.
DARTOID: Outstanding! Okay, last question, but probably the most important one to me personally. Can you tell me in simple terms that I, as just a regular old American dude can understand, what exactly the British term "bickie" means? It's a weird, kind of icky sounding little word. I'm just incredibly curious about this.
THE POWER: That's an odd question. A bickie is a biscuit, what you would call a cookie, I suppose -- like the Cookie Monster. Does that help?
DARTOID: I think it does. Indeed, that was a very visual response. What you're saying -- correct me if I'm misunderstanding here -- is that "bickie" is not a negative term? So it would not be offensive, and certainly shouldn't be considered offensive, if from now on I were to refer to American Darts Organization (ADO) president, Roger Bick, as Mr. Bickie?
THE POWER: A Cookie Monster?
DARTOID: Let me put it another way. Would you be offended if I called you Mr. Bickie or (oh horrors!) Mr. Potato Head?
THE POWER: Potato Head?
At this point the interview concluded because it no longer made any sense. Also for some reason we were both feeling kind of hungry.
From the Field,