In February, 2003 – almost four years ago – I drove from Pennsylvania to Ohio for the fifth annual Columbus Darters Association (CDA) Bloodshot Open. What I remember most about the $5,000 tournament is the drive home. It’s taken me until now to get over the trauma.
With the promise of a free hotel room for the weekend, former city darts champion and CDA founder (and 2007 National Darts Hall of Fame nominee), Scott Merritt, enticed me to come to the tournament and write about it. Although we have had no contact since, Merritt has managed to get periodic messages to me reminding me, as if I wasn’t aware of it myself, that I’d still not published my account. So here it is. Considering that I could have died getting the story I think four years is pretty frickin’ quick.
Why the Bloodshot Open is called the Bloodshot Open is not widely known. Many speculate that it’s because of the hundreds of red eyes that pop open each morning after the Friday night luck of the draw. Others know the real story. It seems that there was a brawl in the inaugural year and the consolation prize was a trip to the hospital and eventually, plastic surgery. The tournament ended with two less participants and almost $1,000 in the red but it gained an identity – the Bloodshot. Briefly, another name was considered – the Bloodshed – but wiser minds prevailed.
Merritt’s one of the wiser minds.
Under his leadership, with startup funding from his wallet and a flair for marketing, the tournament quickly went from the red to black. The Bloodshot now draws more competitors than any tournament of its size in the nation. Furthermore, the CDA, which Merritt also founded, is now the largest league in Columbus. So the guy, even though he’s pissed off at me – and although he freely admits that he started the league and tournament absent any knowledge of how to organize such things – knows a whole hell of a lot about something. “I’m a closet genius,” he told me.
My time at the tournament is a blur, partly a result of drinking, partly because I was preoccupied with concern over a threatening snow storm, but mainly because it’s been four years since I was there. Have I mentioned this?
There are a few things that remain embedded in my mind.
First, it was the last time I spent time with Charlie Forrester. Charlie, who was the treasurer for the American Darts Organization (ADO), and I had become friends over the years. Once while I was throwing at the North American Open in Las Vegas and my father was in town, Charlie sat behind the line with my dad to explain the game. What a wonderful guy Charlie Forrester was.
Second, I met a Jewish black dude and it wasn’t Sammy Davis, Jr. His name was “Ton” Tony. He was a hell of a shot and he wasn’t shy about telling people so. Word had it that he wasn’t shy about much of anything and, in fact, was currently banned from some bar in Columbus for dancing on a table. For a couple of hours on Friday afternoon we threw several games together and pretty much split them – so we decided to team up for doubles for the tournament. Unfortunately for “Ton” Tony my darts left me by Saturday and we got beaten up bad. So he’s probably pissed off at me, too.
Third, I met some other great people – Jim and Bob Gudridug, Scott Benton, Jennifer Elhert, Amy Hoffner, Loretta Neff (who I remember taking out a 157) and Marla Eberle. If I have spelled any of your names wrong please forgive me. My notes are dusty. It’s been four years, or have I already mentioned that?
The main thing I remember is that the threat of a snowstorm turned out to be more than a threat. By Sunday morning there was a half foot of snow on the ground. As I had to drive my wife to Flint, Michigan before turning back south and cutting across Ohio and Pennsylvania to make it home in time to pick my dog up from the kennel, I pulled out of Columbus before the crack of dawn. Within miles the snow was gone and just after noon I was heading out of Flint, free as a breeze.
By Youngstown it was dark and the flakes were falling again. By the time I crossed the Ohio-Pennsylvania border a full-scale blizzard was swirling around my little Jeep Liberty.
But all was cool. You’ve seen the commercials – or perhaps you even own a Jeep. They can cross raging streams and climb mountains. Generals ride around in them during wars. They are unstoppable.
For several hours I trudged on in the worsening storm. Slowly for sure but forward all the same, I followed behind a snow plow as it sliced a path through the growing drifts.
By Harrisburg and prompted by radio reports that the snowfall was reaching three feet, I decided to find a motel and pack it in for the night. It’s not that I doubted my wheels. The problem was my eyeballs were being invaded by needles. My dog could survive the discomfort of the kennel for another day. I needed sleep.
The next morning I was up at dark again and back on the tail of the snow plows. Not another car was in sight. If anything the radio reports were understated. The snow drifts were enormous. But my Jeep was strong and true.
I ventured on and ten hours later pulled into my driveway…
…and got STUCK!
Late into the night I shoveled and thought bad, bad thoughts about Merritt, the bastard who got me into this mess.
Four months later my wife and I sold our house, moved to Florida and left Pennsylvania snow country behind for good. My dog now runs under palm trees and lounges by the pool. So in retrospect I guess I (or at least my dog) owe Scott Merritt a debt of gratitude – and an apology for taking until now to publish this.
The 9th Annual $6,000 Bloodshot Open is scheduled for February 2-3 at the Midwest Hotel, 400 Sinclair Road in Columbus. Call (614) 846-0300 for reservations.
It’s certain to be a great time but take it from me: pack a snow shovel and perhaps, a pair of boxing gloves.
And make no promises to write about it.
From the Field,
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