Saving The Kingdom

I originally wrote this story for the NAPDA website in 2012, but after reading it again, I still believe that almost everything applies and wanted to post it as a blog for further discussion.  

Hello everyone and welcome to the OcheBuzz darts blog. In the blogs I post, I hope to reach out to everyone in an effort to start dialogue, initiate conversations and get people talking to each other about the good, the bad and the ugly of darts in North America. I will continue try to bring you topics of all sorts for discussion. I have always felt that an open dialogue generates ideas and sparks creativity. We all are here with one simple thing in common. We all love darts.

I remember when I first started playing darts. My brother joined a league and needed someone to practice with. All of us joined in and we all had to beat each other. Finally we found something we could all do on an even level. There were no physical aspects that would give one an advantage over the other. There were no age limits that would limit ones abilities. It didn't matter if you were a boy or a girl. Then I went to my first blind draw tournament. The drive and desire to succeed was a determined beast and I was hooked on the game for life. Where is this type of drive and desire in the players of today?

A couple years later, I went to my first big tournament. My friends pointed out all the top players to me. These were the players you wanted to watch. These were the players you wanted to play. These were the players that you wanted to be. These were the stars you wanted to follow. These were the players that you wanted to beat. What happened to that mentality in the players of today? Why is their response to the challenge more along the lines of "Oh, I just play to have fun"? Why is there no desire to be the best that they can be? Is it a product of their upbringing? Did they grow up playing baseball or soccer where there was no score and everyone got a trophy for playing? Was there no one to push them to be the best that they can be in anything they tried? Is it this culture of the people of today why participation in the game has declined so much?

It is a tricky situation full of lots of thoughts, ideas, discussion, debates and arguments in all kinds of online forums and tournament trails. Just where did the path of darts take a turn in the wrong direction? Who is responsible and who should be the ones to fix it? What fixes need to be made or what things need to be improved or undone? Can we continue to hope that the organizations that we put all of our faith in will be able to fix all the problems? Or do we need new organizations and fresh blood to revive the entire process? It is interesting to hear the debate and how some people will think one opinion and many will agree, yet there are many who will disagree. What promotes all these people partaking in the same game and going through the same motions to think on such different levels? I picked up a few things from a recent quality program that I needed to complete for work. In it was the comment "it takes only one bad part to turn a good product into a bad one." So the debate continues as to just what are "the bad parts"?

As this old English nursery rhyme shows: “For want of a nail, the shoe was lost. For want of the shoe, the horse was lost. For want of the horse, the rider was lost. For want of the rider, the battle was lost. For want of the battle, the kingdom was lost. And all for the want of a nail.” Just what is the nail that we a looking for to keep from losing our kingdom?

Some of the concerns that have been brought forth are whether we should focus on the professional game or the amateur game. If we create stars, will it draw a fan base of players or if we create a better amateur foundation, will that grow the game as a whole at the base level? Another aspect of focus has been seeding and the lack of any real credible seeding format for the country. We all know how easy it is to get points at tournaments these days, but it leaves many to wonder whether the players that are highest ranked on this list are there because they are the best players, or is it because they merely have more opportunity to travel and garner the points to keep them high on that list.

Tournament formats have been a point of contention for years with many tournaments opting to have 12-14 events on the weekend. When did this happen and why? Was it a trend? And why is there no governance on it?  Was it a cult following because someone did it, achieved some success and everyone thought it was the way to go? Or was it, in fact, a saving grace for many tournaments that were losing money and needed this new concept in order to be able to sustain and maintain hosting their event every year without too many losses and repercussions to their league membership.

Currently, the players in Canada, when participating in an NDFC event, play a round robin format and the winner’s progress to a knock-out stage, however, the seeding process of the players also seems to be a point of contention. It was noted at the time of writing the original story, that Canada is also suffering losses in participation over the years, and those in control do not seem to know or understand where everything went wrong and what can be done to fix it. I do not know if that has changed any over the last five years.

Based on information from both countries, it leaves me to wonder, is this more of a global problem then we realize? Well of course, other than the PDC, that is. They seemed to have found the golden ticket to what it takes to take the game and its players to the highest level. Most are quick to point out though that this is because darts is part of the culture in the UK, people are more familiar with the game and the area to cover is a lot smaller. We all wonder if this would also work in other areas of the world. So far, efforts by the PDC have met with limited to no success in North America as far as support from the North America players, so the questions that arise are whether their efforts will not work or they need an entirely different approach due to the differences in the culture, as well as the size of the area that they would dealing with in North America. It’s an interesting conflict between comments and actions. Many people state how the PDC needs to help develop some sort of professional game in North America, yet when they have tried, their efforts are met with less than adequate support, which left them scratching their heads and wondering just where they went wrong. Of course, this year, many believe that this has changed with the recent success of the US Masters event in Las Vegas. The PDC was impressed with the turnout and the ratings in their inaugural event, so they will try it again next year. Will it be met with the same success levels? Or will the players in North America let it fall to the wayside like so many other big opportunities? I liked the format that they chose and I think it offered opportunities to many players that other events did not and that just might be the winning formula. Everyone had a chance to be the big winner instead of seeing the same old faces given the same old opportunities. It was refreshing to see names up on stage that would not normally have been there. Not that I want to celebrate that all the big names we expected to be there were not. But I do want to celebrate those that were able to capitalize on the opportunity given to them.

Of course, this discourse on darts in North America will continue until that golden ticket is found. On a regular basis, I will try to bring more topics to light for discussion and hopefully somewhere along the way; some creative minds out there will come up with a better direction for all of us to go. I am not here to tell you how to think and feel; I am here to try to make you think and feel. So please feel free to contact me at any time to discuss or to share any new ideas that you may have. Until next time! 

Anne Sleepy Kramer  

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