If You can’t be Good, be Lucky

May the Gods of Fate Smile Upon You (or something!)
Fortuna, Shree Ganesh and Tyche – all are gods of luck and fortune, and all have recently signed for Wimborne Minster Darts League. The vote to pass a change of rule at the recent AGM has been met with mixed opinions. I’d like to talk a bit about it here and pass my opinion and feelings about it.

The Proposal

The proposal was that the order of play for the singles part of each league match should be drawn randomly ‘out of a hat’ – a metaphorical hat I would imagine, although using a real one would work I guess.
The proposal was submitted in writing as is the requirement and was due to be voted on at the AGM – the same night as the presentation for the 2013/14 season.

The Vote

Only a small number of teams were present at the AGM and the number of votes cast was well below the number that could have been if all teams had attended. It must be disappointing for the Committee, who give freely of their time to organise and arrange our league, when less than half the teams are represented at the AGM and presentation evening, especially when there is a proposed change to the rules that needs to be voted on.

The initial vote carried the rule with a seven votes to five victory. However, after the initial vote there was some clamour for a recount as it was felt not all votes had been included. After the re-vote, the outcome remained the same, but this time by a margin of 12 to seven.

The votes were cast with a show of hands. I’ve heard it claimed that there was so much noise and commotion that some people didn’t realise what was happening and that the best of order wasn’t afforded to the meeting. It’s a shame to think that not everyone was able to follow what was happening and although I’m sure that a show of hands has been ‘the way it is’ for quite some time, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the way it should be. An online electronic vote, open to all teams could be organised with relative ease given enough time.
So, whether you agree or not with the way the vote was conducted, the proposal was successful and will be introduced for the start of the 2014/15 season.

Three Reel Fruit Machine displaying a cherry, a seven and a bar.
Luck or Pre-determined outcome?

 The Fallout

Since the proposal was voted in, there’s been a fair amount of discussion on the leagues Facebook page (Wimborne Monday Night Dart League) and (in my experience) in the pubs and clubs involved in the league. People seem to be split into two groups – those who like or are indifferent to the change and those who are upset by or opposed to it.

I have heard and read many points for and against the change.

It seems that the main reason people feel it’s a good thing is that it removes tactical play. There are a number of people/teams who think it’s unfair for an opposition team to play tactically to maximise their point scoring opportunities during the match, and I can see their point. Often, a really good player will end up playing a weak player at home as the away captain has decided that rather than try and win the point they will send on their weakest player and save the better players for lesser opponents – frustrating in the extreme for the good player, but you can’t really argue with the captains thinking.

A Sumo Wrestler Facing-Off against a Toddler
David versus Goliath (sort of!).

The other issue to consider here is that the ‘lamb-to-the-slaughter’ player probably has this done throughout the season and will quickly become disillusioned. But even this point has a counter-argument – that lamb has a greater opportunity to improve their game than his team mates by playing the Goliath in the opposition team, based on the principle that you get better by playing better opponents.

My Opinion

Our side came within a whisker of gaining promotion to the A Section last season (see image below), with a team that would probably have been battered in the top Section week-in, week-out. Tactical play certainly had a large part to play in that near-miss season, so I tend to disagree that removing the tactical decisions of the captain is a good thing.

WMDL - B Section - 2013/14
Top of the B Section at the end of the 2013/14 season.

Whilst I realise that the pairs aren’t going to be randomly selected, the suggestion has been made that the fringe players could be put in at this stage of the match, leaving the best six to be placed in the pot for the singles – all very fair I’m sure, but, if the team want to be successful, they will need to include their best players for all parts of the match – gallon, pairs and singles. Additionally, if you play all the weaker players at the start of the match, you could be 3-1 or even 4-0 down before you get to the singles, maybe leaving too much for the better players to make up.

Some people will read that and think ‘it’s just a bit of fun’ and in principle I agree, however, I wonder how many people, given the option of being competitive or having a good time, would choose a laugh over success? After all, nobody stands at the oche and deliberately plays to lose.

Disappointment

Initially I was disappointed with the rule change – darts is a very skillful game to play – I can’t think of any other sport which relies so much on the individuals skills.
You can discount all team sports as you’re reliant on your team mates. You can discount any sport that’s played outside and is therefore at the mercy of the weather. “What about golf?!” some people will cry. Yes, very skillful, but also at the mercy of the weather, therefore introducing a chunk of luck (particularly for the amateur, like me!).

You can also discount any sport where your opponent can directly affect your game play, such as snooker or table tennis – the shot they play or return directly affects what you will do next. In darts it’s you against the board – other than some gamesmanship there’s nothing the opponent can do to affect your game directly. So in my mind, darts is the most skillful of sports. With this in mind, I was disappointed that we had introduced an even greater element of chance into the match. I would even go so far as to say that we should throw for bull for the right to throw first in the odd numbered legs – very little luck involved there!

Summary

We’re very lucky to have such a strong league – five divisions, dozens of teams and some excellent players, who travel a long way each week to take part, because it is such a strong league.

Maybe the changes that should be proposed are those that look to strengthen the leagues standing in the area and less so the changes that run the risk of upsetting the applecart – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

I think that most people would admit that the introduction of the website (www.wimborneminsterdarts.co.uk) has been a major step in the right direction of the 21st century. I also think that most people would agree that there is still a way to go regarding bringing the league up to date and making it a relevant and viable ‘brand’ in today’s tough marketplace of pastimes – I’m aware of a local bowls league that has adopted an online, automated results collection service to administer it’s leagues – bowls! A pastime traditionally associated with old men in ill-fitting white clothes and brown shoes!

Conclusion

My conclusion to all this is that I’ll hang around and see how it goes. I like the Wimborne league and would be disappointed to leave, especially if I never got to play in the top division, even for just one season – although a prolonged stay is really what I’d like.

“…I’ll hang around and see how it goes…”

I don’t think that social media ie Facebook should be relied upon to communicate league information. I’ve seen it suggested on the Facebook chat that people should have been aware of the forthcoming vote as it was on Facebook! My suggested solution at this point is to use email and text messages to communicate important things, although all teams should at least send a representative to the AGM (or suffer a penalty – points deduction or fine perhaps) and that the AGM should be held in a more organised way and separately from the presentation.

I think a good compromise between the new and old rule would have been for each team captain to write down before the match starts, their playing order. In that way you would still have retained an element of tactics, but not unfairly against the oppositions better players.

I hope the new rule change isn’t at the detriment of the league – there was a conversation in our team around what other leagues could we move to. Maybe other teams have had the same conversation and came to a different conclusion to the one we drew! I guess we’ll know when the sections and fixture lists are issued shortly.

Good luck in the new season everyone and hopefully the doom mongers are wrong and this rule change helps the league go from strength-to-strength.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks and well done – I’ve rambled on a bit! If any of the above strikes a chord for you, please feel free to pass a comment below – I’d be interested to here your thoughts and experiences.

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