Jerry and Margo Nipper were eliminated in the first round of the 2019 Nevada Team Darts Classic by a score of which they didn’t understand. Once officials told them the match was over, they loitered a bit before removing their wrist braces and packing their gear.
“I didn’t quite get it,” Jerry said. “I thought we’d get a few more chances to throw. Margo was more confused than inconsolable.”
This is, say experts, telling as to where most Americans who aspire to set foot on the big stage of professional darts often fall short.
“Most Americans don’t put the time in to perfect their skills,” said David O’Neill, runner up in the 1994 Baskerville Dart Throwing Regionals. “It takes commitment. Also, they really don’t understand the rules and scoring.”
A 2014 Cornell University study suggests the same. Nearly 65% of American dart players recognized that a line on the bar floor near a dartboard was an official marking of some kind. When explained as being comparable to a basketball free throw line, 98% understood the marker’s relevance.
Margo Nipper was astounded by Cornell’s findings. “65% seems low to me,” Margo said. “I would have thought at least half would understand what the line was for.”
For O’Neill, Margo’s assumption that a different percentage would appear in Cornell’s results was telling. “Margo exhibits an arrogance about her knowledge of darts; it’s a bit of an unfounded superiority,” O Neill said. “That makes it difficult for her to be open to learning the sport. Also, this arrogance obviously has impacted her ability to understand fractions.”
The Nippers rued the lack of facilities for practice and training.
“It’s not only an understanding of the game we lacked heading into the NTDC,” Jerry Nipper said. “There is no place to polish the skills. Even axe throwers have a place to go nowadays.”
The Nippers point out that just 3 days before Nevada Team Darts Classic, they visited a local pub for practice only to find the bar had been sold and the dartboard had been removed as part of remodeling.
“Jerry wakes up and says to me, ‘Margo, let’s head down to the pub and get some practice in before the weekend,’” Margo recalled. “He said no one would be in line for the dartboard at 7:30 in the morning. But when we got there the dartboard wasn’t even there.”
While the Nippers don’t believe the cancellation of the only practice session they would have had—by their telling—in 3 years impeded their competitive level, they do maintain that local access to the sport has room to grow. “We’re not blaming a lack of local support for aspiring darts players,” Jerry said. “But we do believe that it’s a lot to ask for us to know that dartboards at all kinds of prices are readily available to buy for the home, and that most people can put them in their garages if space is limited inside.”
For those like Jerry and Margo Nipper, O’Neill has a suggestion. “Maybe Americans should consider more cornhole and less darts,” he said. “There is less math. And a hole.”