The Margin of Victory

The Margin of Victory


The most satisfying and clarifying part of a winning effort comes after the actual event -and sometimes long after. It shows up uninvited and unexpectedly.


Nothing particular on my mind and out of nowhere a recollection pops up, which becomes a review of an event. The review of the event revolves around a singular accomplishment within the moment. It becomes a ‘thing.’ And the fact that the ‘thing’ happened at all is more vivid than the event. My revelations occur during these recollections. It’s when I’m permitted to wonder at the ‘how’ of the ‘thing’ without concern for arrogance or pompousness. It’s when real appreciation of the ‘thing’ is realized.


When in competition, in a single elimination situation, there are moments when your ability to perform is sorely tested. There are as many of these winning effort moments as there are games played. But out of all the moments in the entire day or life time there is that one event, with that one moment, which becomes of particular note. It’s the moment when all the work which has been done in all three kinds of practices is drawn upon. It’s when you have one chance to make the shot at hand.


Here’s one of many recollections I’ve had. It’s one of those moments when I literally felt the crowd of spectators hold their collective breath for the less than half a second it took for the ‘thing’ to happen.  I don’t remember the where, or the who, or the when; only the ‘thing’. And the ‘thing’ wasn’t really all that unusual, but rather, ordinary. But it has crystallized for me the margin of victory between competitors at the game of darts.


I was involved in a very tight singles match in a later round of eliminations at a large, well attended, national tournament. You know how some of the best matches are played in the earlier rounds and there aren’t many spectators because everyone is still a competitor? Well, this one occurred after a whole bunch of competitors had become spectators but before those spectators had become customers at the restaurant. We were down to the deciding game, we were both banging away with good scores (we were on our game) and the preceding games had come down to who had the first dart at a double for the win – neither of us was in a missing mode. Need it – hit it, was what it what was. My competitor had just put himself on a double and was set to win on his next turn. My turn with forty to go (double twenty) – stuck the first dart just inside the wire of the double twenty – twenty left; switch focus to the double ten – find the hole – drive the dart into it, stuck the dart just inside the wire of the double ten (click) – ten left; switch focus up to the double five, find the hole, and ……… feel the spectators hold their breath!? Sense the tension the crowd was feeling? One dart left, just missed two in a row?


For that brief instant, tension literally filled the air but I was not involved in it. I was more an observer than participant. My competitor had that second in which he averted his eyes, suppressed the hope I would miss so he wouldn’t jinx the situation, but allowed just a glimmer to rise of the prospect he could get a shot at the win. It was that interminable moment through which dart shooters suffer, and it goes on for what seems like minutes, while you are awaiting the outcome of the ‘thing.’


The realization that ‘thing’ brought me is that out of all the games contested during a tournament there will be one which will be different. There will be one which meets the “test” level. There will be your “test” shot.


There were times when I knew the dart in my hand would be the last one I’d shoot in that round of that event in that tournament. I’d either continue in the competition or I’d be out of it. After all that had gone before it, there was that one dart which would decide the outcome of the entire effort.


The appreciation of what it takes to do the ‘thing’ and achieve the accomplishment prompts me to wonder at it. It’s not just the difficulty of the ‘thing,’ it’s the ‘thing’ in the moment, under those circumstances, in that situation.


I was able to pass the test. I was able to put the dart in the hole, when everything rode on the performance in that instant, that puts a smile on my face in the quiet of my den, over my snifter of twenty year old port, where there is only me.


That’s the margin of victory in darts.



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