Local darts group loses half of its players with 21 ordinance


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Eyes squinted, feet planted, hand steadied. Kyle Wehner peered 8 feet in front of him, preparing to rack up some points.

He tossed his first dart, then his second, then the third. They totaled a disappointing 28 points.

But instead of his teammates moping, they reveled in Wehner’s punishment: the tab for a round of shots.

“It’s more of a team rule,” Bradley Griffith, 36, said, smiling. “He owes us about eight rounds of shots right now.”

In modern lingo, “man time” means watching a game on a big screen, perhaps slamming back some brewskis, or simply relaxing with friends. The Iowa City Dart League take “man time” to a whole different level.

But in the aftermath of the 21-ordinance, nearly half of Iowa City’s dart enthusiasts have parted ways with their leagues. Lee Krueger, the leader of the dart league, estimates that out of 300 original dart players, only about 150 remain after the younger ones were unable to enter bars after 10 p.m.

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Clutching their glasses and taking occasional swigs of beer, 16 men gathered at Sam’s Pizza, 441 S. Gilbert St., Monday night amid hockey games and bar food.

“It’s a nice way to not have to watch ‘The Bachelor,’ ” said Josh Wainwright, 33.

Yet above the music blaring from an iPod jukebox, the men agreed they come to darts to have a good time.

“It’s an excuse to drink, and it’s one night you get to go out with your friends,” said Wehner, 27.
The Iowa City Dart Leagues, as they exists today, have been around since 1999, when Krueger, head of league promotions for Camden Amusements, recruited some friends to play, eventually landing enough players for organized tournaments.

Since then, the leagues have been hosting Iowa City and Coralville residents most weeknights.

On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, men show up hoping to win some cash. It’s $20 per team per week to play, and the money is distributed based on points at the end of the match.

The laid-back atmosphere might suggest a carefree attitude, but players are expected to hit their targets — literally. With controlled throws and body positions, players ensure darts go where they’re supposed to. And in two weeks teams will split off into divisions based on skill level.

“It makes it more level for everyone to play,” Krueger said.

A dart board is divided into 20 sections, each assigned with a different point value. Every player gets three darts per round, and each throw averages into a player’s rankings and handicaps.

Monday night’s matches consisted of 15 games, eight of ’01 — in which players start with 701 points with the goal of getting to 0 the fastest. The additional seven games were of cricket — a type of darts that focuses on section elimination.

And don’t expect to see any the weathered tips and wings of bar darts with these guys. The imprecision of communal darts forces most players to bring their own. But despite the seriousness, they play down their aptitude.

Wainwright, who plays every week with his brother in law, Paul McDermott, shrugged as he discussed his own ability.

“I throw [darts], but that doesn’t make me an expert,” the burly Iowa City native said. “I have sex — doesn’t make me a porn star.”

Across the bar at the back dartboard, team “That’s What She Said” missed a key shot, and expletives started flying.

But before things could get heated, the five flat screens at Sam’s showed the Chicago Blackhawks’ game-winning goal over the Detroit Red Wings in overtime. Everyone in the bar jumped up, the men high-fived and cheered over their beers.

The missed shot was forgotten: Nothing a game of hockey and round of drinks couldn’t fix.

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