“You can be the King Kong banging on your chest…”
Dateline: The Service Yard
the fish feel.
competing, as such,
as they do,
In bowling, two games, I say we tied, he says the first game (that I won) was just a practice game, “Nobody wins practice, db.”
I may give him that, may not, neither one of us were just fooling around, once the pins went down, both of us ramped it up.
I don’t do PRACTICE.
Game on, is always on with me.
And, I know, for him as well.
Next came pool, Billiards, two games, in a 1,000 degree loft in some hotel in Wisconsin.
KVD won the first one.
I won the second, but not without controversy, you can read it here.
So in my mind, we are two-up.
Maybe not so with KVD.
Kevin I’m sure has a whole other count.
2013, Elite Event #5, The Alabama River, Montgomery, AL.
“…yeah, you could be the greatest…”
His greatest game,
is the Mind Game.
That there KVD.
Half a cardboard box is hanging from the back of the Mercury Service Trailer, affixed to it is a regulation Dart board.
Duct tape on the ground marks the shooting line, “We measured db it is at the exact distance as it says it should be according to the General Dart Rules.”
Jay, one of the service guys comes over and shows me a copy of the rules, I sort of look at it, but knowing the service yard dudes as well as I do, there is no doubt in my mind that everything with this set up is technically…perfect.
For the past several months, Kevin has been hauling around a regulation size dart board amongst the fishing stuff he carries in the back of his truck.
Charles, a good friend of mine in Atlanta, heard about our dart competition and sent me some very cool darts that he bought when he was in a pub in England or Ireland, or quite possibly, Wal-Mart, he told me where a long time ago, but I didn’t write it down, so lets go with foreign pub darts.
Charles, do me a favor if that’s wrong correct it in the comment section of this story. Truth in Journalism you know.
But to be fair, I didn’t want KVD to go up against my possible REAL been thrown in the Kingdom of Darts, darts, so I bought him some foreign darts as well.
So we, me and Kevin are even up, same playing field, except he has real long skinny arms, and I have short fat stumps for arms.
KVD, drives up in the KVD-mobile, he’s smiling, joking around with the service crew, winking at me all the time.
I’m buying none of it.
Juke and Jive all you want dude, you ain’t getting into this head,
KVD: “There’s no doubt I get into the heads of some of the anglers I compete against, sure it can be an advantage, but on the flip side, I’m not stupid, there is no question I have a bull’s-eye on my back, I’m good with that, I get that.”
Speaking of Bull’s-eye, we are tossing darts, going to have four rounds of tossing the things, KVD has bait stuff to do for tomorrows competition, and my roommates, Shaw Grigsby and Paul Elias are getting hungry.
First round of flinging darts:
“…yeah, you could be the greatest…”
“db, I always look for something that will give me the edge, I look at all the variables I can control, I can’t control the other anglers, so I don’t even think about them.
And then I asked Kevin a question I have asked dozens of All-Pro athletes, and was honestly surprised at how answered it:
“Dude going into the last day of the tournament, the last day of competition, would you rather be in 1st place or 2nd place.”
To me, that is remarkable.
And, AND, gives you huge insight to KVD the competitor.
“I want to be in first, I want every edge I can get, be it physical or mental. I’m motivated to win and I can keep myself motivated, I am very comfortable going for the win.”
Me, I want to be chasing, chasing makes me mad, chasing burns my backside, and I will go through Hell’s Fire to catch and beat you.
I’m a lazy 1st place.
“There have been several tournament when I had a feeling, sort of knew I was going to win it, at the Classic in New Orleans I knew at noon, I had it.”
If I didn’t know Kevin as well as I do now, I would have flat out called him on wanting to be in first, but in all the athletes I have covered in the past 20 years, all of them, every big, fast, stinky one of them, I don’t think there is an athlete on the planet that senses the moment.
Senses the moment when there is blood in the water, when the next guy just took a double breath, when the batter just blinked, or the point guard double clutched.
The greatness of KVD, is this, his almost scary sense of timing.
BTW…second round of pitching darts, KVD throws 55 points.
“…you can be the best…”
I have said this before, as a kid I never pretended to be Babe Ruth, I pretended instead to be the pitcher that sent the Babe back to the bench.
I want to be the Middle Linebacker on the field when Earl Campbell gets the ball.
Give me the goal cage with Gretzky on the break-away.
Last lap, turn 4, paint to paint with Dale Earnhardt.
I live for the all-or-nothing moment.
I drove my baseball coaches crazy, when I walked up to bat I never looked at them, the catcher, the ump, the pitcher, I only looked at,
They would yell at me, “Barone, you’re not playing against the fences…”
playing the fences,
was the only reason,
I even played.
KVD: “Out there, tournaments, you have to have the guts to live or die with what you are doing. In a Bassmaster Classic, I’m going for the End Zone with every cast.”
I can’t tell you how many athletes who I have interviewed who, while shaking their heads on the losing side of the game, have said this, “You know, you dance with what’s brought you.”
Stupid is doing the same stupid thing over and over again and thinking that you’re a genius for doing it.
My favorite part of any football game, is the beginning of the 3rd quarter, after the halftime WHEN ALL THE ADJUSTMENTS ARE MADE.
When on the chess board, you start moving the queen.
“The more experience you have, the harder it is for you to change…”
Old dogs/anglers, new tricks/bait sort of thing.
“…sometimes you just stay with a crankbait, or something, being so stubborn thinking I’m GOING TO MAKE THIS WORK…going to force it…”
Round pegs, square…
“db, I’m patiently smart. When my gut says something has changed, bang, I’m gone, I’m done doing what I have been doing. On to something else.”
KVD throws: 26
db throws: 41
“…don’t wait for luck…”
“I never bet on chance, I bet on a sure thing. A lot of it is based on an educated guess, I input the variables into the equation, so it is a very educated gut when I go with my gut.”
And then he tells me where he takes his practice swings for the fences.
“Working on my equipment in my boat the night before we hit the water, I go through all the processes, all the variables, that’s where the tournament first plays out.”
In his mind, not on the water.
“But the field of play, our field of play may be unlike any other sports playing field in that, our field, our field changes by the second…”
“…then I go with my gut.”
It is the fourth and final dart flinging round. KVD asks “Happy” his boat mechanic, “What’s the score now.”
I have closed the gap.
You have 137 points.
db has 106.
I look at “Happy” with the look that says, “Thanks a lot dude…you had to tell him…”
The winking at me has stopped, the joking around for the camera while I’m not looking, has stopped.
KVD walks up to the line, puts his right toes on the line, aims the dart by moving it back and forth…
…I know this, it is little Donnie Barone walking up to plate just looking at the field beyond the little league fence and wondering how long it will take the other team to find the ball…
…I know how he feels right now…he is alone in the service yard…
…and he throws…
…I watch only his face…
…and the dart lands in the tiny ring under the 20 points section, it’s a 60 point throw.
His next two score 12 and 19…his total: 216
I come in at 156.
60 points behind.
A money shot back.
“At the end of the day, db, you know what, know matter how you think it out, at the end of the day, you’re competing against a fish.”
At the end of the game, KVD took the box of Darts I bought him, took the darts out of it and wrote this inside the dart case, db went down. Kevin VanDam, “here takes these and auction them off for Tackle The Storm.”
And we will.
In the dart game, he never trailed, the closest I got to him was 31 points, started in first, ended in first, shut the door on me when I was getting close.
“Hey db, this is fun, let’s do the bean bag toss game next.”
I just shook my head, yes, you want to compete dude, any time, any place, so look for Game 4 to happen sometime before the end of the Elite season ends this year.
And as we both drove away, KVD to work on his tackle, me to pick up Shaw and Paul to go eat dinner, I caught a glimpse of myself in the 4Runner side mirror, and smiled,
Game 4, love it,
and as I drove to the hotel I was suddenly once again,
Donnie Barone in Little League,
and in the last game I ever played at Lincoln Park, in Tonawanda, NY,
on the Lincoln Park Pharmacy Dodgers,
I finally cleared the fence,
and they never found,
“…dedicate yourself and you can find yourself
standing in the hall of fame…”
Hall Of Fame
Editor's Note: See pictures of the KVD vs db dart battle here.