Cameraderie Is The Bullseye At This Darts Tourney
Go to Great Britain, turn on the TV, flip the channels around, and soon enough you’ll come across something like this...
"What a heartbreaker."
"There's your answer, Wade"
Phil Taylor, Against the darts"
Screaming fans were nowhere to be found at the 27th Annual Seacoast Open. But talk to throwers like Jeff Smith, who drove six hours from New Brunswick, Canada, to attend, and it seems like there’s no place they’d rather be.
"Every time I come down here, it's basically a reunion with 500 of my closest friends, so it's been great."
Smith did also walk away with $1000 – no mean feat in field that included some world ranked players.
Few, however, at any level, can make darts their livelihood, even if they travel to tournaments all over the world.
Tom Sawyer is someone who does work full time in darts, at Lynn., Mass equipment company called Dart World. He says that was a long time coming.
"I got into the sport shortly after high school playing pool with a bunch of friends of mine. They were playing darts, they asked me to play one day. I got hooked right away."
Then there's Anne Kramer of Rome, New York, who grew up with six brothers, one of whom bought a dart board and had everybody in the family playing all the time..
"He said one day he was going to go to a tournament, and I said 'I want to go!' And my parents made him take me and I won first place."
Most of Kramer's free time now revolves around darts. It’s been that way for decades. She met her husband John at a darts tournament 30 years ago.
"And we just travel, play darts, and have a good old time. We've been off and on. Obviously you raise a family and do all of that, but we got back into darts when the kid was old enough."
Kramer runs a darts web site and recently wrote "The Ultimate Book of Darts:a complete guide to games, gear, terms and rules". She calls it a how-to for people who have never thrown darts before.
"It's not written by a world champion or anything like that. It's not really intimidating. It's like a grass-roots start for it."
There were 15 prize events at the Seacoast open featuring a variety of dart games. There's cricket, where the object is to hit a series of numbers between 15 and 20, and the bull's-eye, before your opponent. Then there's 0-1, where each player starts with a score of 301, 401, or 501, and tries to count down to exactly zero by subtracting the sum of the darts thrown from after every turn..
With all of the math involved, darts can be a great game for children.
Jason Demers was in charge of the youth tournament at the Seacoast Open.
"When kids play a 301 game, so they have to subtract their numbers down, but then they also have to add their numbers too. When we're playing cricket, you have to add your numbers, so it's completely opposite. And the board itself is circle with all the different pie groups, so it works out pretty good."
High level darts can also involve a good deal of geography.
"It's almost ridiculous how many plane trips I take a year. On the average, in a month, I probably fly three times a month."
Canadian Trish Grzesik, currently ranked No. 20 in the world by the World Dart Federation, was one of the highest ranked players at the tournament.
She flew in from Toronto. She says the only way she can afford to do the all the traveling is because she flies for free thanks to a companion pass from a friend who works for an airline.
"So the Vegas tournament I went Vegas-Newark, Newark-Chicago, Chicago-Toronto, and finally met up with a couple to drive me the rest of the way home that left the day later."
For competitors like Grzesik darts is really a labor of love; and for those who do love it, like Anne Kramer, the woman who met her husband at a darts tournament and wrote a book on darts, part of the reason why, is, it’s a game open to all comers.
"Anybody, whether you're male, female, if you have a disability or anything, you can still compete in this game. We all step into the line, we're all the same person, basically, when we compete."