From the Braver Institute
Regular readers will most likely cringe when I say this, but I have been playing an awful lot of golf this summer. Now hold on. Before you crumple up your newspaper and throw it to the floor in disgust, this is not going to be another column about golf. Well not entirely anyway. Playing golf has reminded me of another individual sport/activity/ game that I used to engage in—darts.
I was playing in a golf tournament a couple of weeks ago and I watched people get angry about not doing very well. I think getting angry over a poor performance is a kind of natural thing. We all want to do well, and when we don’t, we sometimes get upset.
Now I don’t get very upset when I play golf poorly. I have no reason to do so since I am not remotely good at the game. I also don’t get upset because I know that it usually makes things worse.
It was this anger over a poor performance that reminded me of my days as a dart player. Darts (unlike golf) was a game that I was actually very good at. I wasn’t great, but I was very good. I have my share of tournament trophies on shelves and in closets. I have won a tidy sum of money playing the game. I have been the captain of numerous dart teams. I single-handedly defeated a four-man team during league play when the rest of my team couldn’t make it due to the weather. No, I didn’t get to throw four times to make up for my missing teammates, I was only allowed to throw one time to the other teams four throws, and my team still won the match that night. I am a good dart player, but enough bragging.
Being good at darts (and golf, I’m sure) takes an element of natural ability, but it also takes practice and a certain state of mind, and that state of mind—as I have discovered— is to be relaxed, take it easy, and have a good time.
I remember one team in particular who had a captain that would throw darts poorly and then rant and rage and storm around. Kicking chairs and cursing loudly, she put on a big show. The funny thing about it was that she really had no reason to be upset. Someone who usually played well, who inexplicably threw a bad dart and ultimately lost the game might have cause to be upset, but this person had never thrown a good dart in her life. She quite possibly may have been the worst player ever. She would have had better results turning her back to the board, covering her eyes, and heaving the dart over her shoulder. The times when she actually hit the board were nothing less than a miracle. The only benefit of all of her ranting is that it gives me something to write about twenty years later. At the time it was a miserable experience and I dreaded every time our teams met.
Tuesday night was league night and afterwards many of the players congregated at the Eastwood Lanes bowling alley where we would turn in our score sheets. Most of the time after league we held blinddraw doubles dart tournaments. Usually I would win enough money there to pay for my entire evening including a meal. Every now and then the better players would get into a little one-on-one competition. This could be very rewarding especially if I could get the other player a little unhinged.
Remaining relaxed and easygoing could sometimes get a “serious” player to tense up. A certain subconscious anxiety can set in when an opponent appears unfazed by good or bad performances equally. The player who hits a losing streak magnifies the mess by getting angry about it. (I used a similar tactic when I played poker).
Such was the case one night when our league president and I started throwing darts for twenty bucks a game.
When he was throwing well we were fairly equal and he may have even been better than I, but that night he lost the first two games and his anger got the best of him. He went into the following games with an “I have to win this” attitude and he never really recovered. Sure he won a game or two but in the end I went home with a couplehundred bucks in my pocket.
These are the moments when a player is justified in being upset, but one should also recognize that this is the time to stop playing and step away from the game, at least if you are playing for money.
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