College Ruined My Career

I was cutting branches off of my orange tree in the back yard while thinking about the state of the NBA. As sad as it may be, Michael is on his way out and paving a path for up and coming stars. People like Tracy McGrady, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett are all completely dominant on their teams. All of these guys are also in a race for the scoring title and MVP honors.

Just then I had an epiphany and bolted up nearly severing my right index finger with which I type this column. All three of those players whose salaries exceed the GDP of many small countries have attended as many college classes as my six-year old brother, combined. That would be none.

All of this thought of success right out of high school brought shivers down my spine and it had nothing to do with the neighbor who was spraying me with her hose as I tried to steal lemons from her tree. No, this brought me back to my days as a senior in high school when I was a highly recruited and sought after Darts player.

As a kid I just played in my basement with my dad until I started beating him and his friends. I would do trick shots like throwing with my feet while I was blind folded and behind the back while doing the Moon Walk and singing “Thriller”. It became my niche.

When I was 11 my dad brought me to a darts hall and we hustled every guy in the place (this columnist does not promote gambling in any way but does promote taking money from cocky adults). It was there that a writer for Darts World Magazine first saw me and gave me his card. Three months later I was on the cover and swimming in stardom.

From age 11 on I knew I wanted to be a pro dart thrower. I dreamt about it, I ate with it, I went to school with it on my mind all day. I couldn’t play for money or accept gifts because that would jeopardize my eligibility as an amateur. I started a team at my high school and since no other school had a team, we played against ourselves.

I would receive Christmas cards and gift baskets from all of the dart throwing hot spots like Milwaukee, Duluth and Little Rock. All of these places wanted me to go to their area right out of high school and represent their city on the Embassy World tour.

One morning I woke up and in my driveway sat a “new” Ford Escort with the license plate that said BLZEYE. The car had 137,000 miles on it and it was missing a hub cap. I got a call later that day from the Buffalo, New York manager of a dart hall and he told me to play it off like it was a birthday present. “But it isn’t even my birthday and the car doesn’t even start,” I said.

But knowing the right thing for me, my parents sent me kicking and screaming to a school where my fame wouldn’t overshadow my academics, UVM.I knew I could skip college and go straight to the tour but I apparently needed “something to fall back on.”

While at UVM, I was forced to get a low paying, humiliating job as a Sandwich Artist at Subway. I will never forgive my parents for making me take that job. It was there that all my hopes and dreams were shattered, all my hard work and target practice was just swept down the drain like shredded lettuce that fell out of a turkey club. It was early in the morning and I was loading the meat bins for the day. “Catch!” a fellow employee said to me as he threw three pounds of solid roast beef at me. I spun around and had no other option but to catch it in my right arm. I heard a snap, a tear and a crunch and I knew right then that it was all over.

I had dislocated my shoulder and torn nearly every muscle in my arm.

I would never throw straight again or compete on the Embassy World Tour. I stayed in my room with the lights out for weeks into months. Only today am I able to talk about it in public when I make speeches about the importance of skipping college if you feel you have the slightest hint of talent. I know what I once could have been, and what I am now: A washed up darts player with a college education. Shivers.