JOHN LOWE INTERVIEW
|By Stephen Fein|
|Phuket Gazette news Editor and Darts Enthusiast|
|SF: You had the
first televised 9-dart-finish. Do you still remember that like it
was crystal clear?
JL: Oh yeah. You never forget things like that, because that the perfect game of 501 out and you have to do it in just 9 darts, so it is something you never forget Ė ever.
SF: When I get the first two darts in the triple 20, I often pause for just that fraction of a second and think ďhmm, I can get a 180í here Ė and then I miss it. Do you have to go through that type of thing when you are gong for a nine-dart finish? Can you sort of Ďturn your brain offí? Do you have some kind of mental strategy to deal with that?
JL: No, no. Itís not going to happen very many times to anybody in their whole lifetime of playing darts. So, all you are really doing is trying to throw nine perfect darts. Nine holes-in-one in golf Ė consecutively, thatís really what it is. So, no, you donít think...You know you are on a good game Ė and you try to carry it on. If you miss the one dart, that it Ė itís all over. So it has to be right all the way though.
SF: Had you ever done it before that, in practice?
JL: No, I hadnít. But I donít count practice anyway Ė for anything. It doesnít matter what you do in practice, you canít put that down as an achievement.ÖYouíve got to do it match play. Itís the same with anything. A hole-in-one in golf doesnít count in practice, only in a match.
SF: So what are you doing nowadays?
JL: I do exhibitions and promotions around the world. I write books. Iíve got a website. We are about to sign a contract to be on television in England, four hours every Friday night, for ten weeks. Thatís big. Itís competitive darts, the ďLegends of DartsĒ. Itís like The Seniors of golf. There will only be eight of us in it playing every Friday night for ten weeks. There is a prize of around half-a-million dollars. Itís quite good Ė itís worth practicing for. (laughs)
SF: When you were consistently playing every tournament, what was your practice routine like? How many hours a day? Did you play with other people Ė or practice on your own?
JL: It has all changed over the years. I used to play on my own, but now I practice fore maybe for just a couple of hours. I usually like to go to a bar to play, not at home Ė because I like the atmosphere at a bar. So I get in there at about 3:30 in the afternoon, when there are only a few people around, and play until about 6 oíclock. Usually I play with a mate of mine. If you play with someone else, you are having to wait for him to take his throws. So thatís exactly the same as what you are doing on television. I can live on that now, because when you play darts professionally for 35 years, you donít need to play 6 hours a day Ė you just need Ďfine tuningí.
SF: Tell me about your book Old Stoneface?
JL: Thatís my autobiography. Itís been out about a year ago, but it is still on the market. Anyone can get it online at my website, The Legends site. And I have a coaching manual coming out in October called The Art of Darts, which is the first ever by a top line professional about how to play professionally. Itís being published by the biggest publisher in Britain. That will be my fifth book.
SF: What do you think about these little electronic scoreboards that are becoming so popular in Patong now? For me doing the math and writing it down is an important part of the game, and I think it is better for spectators too because they can immediately see the run of play in the game. Is it like this in England now?
JL: All the local leagues in England still use chalk, on a chalkboard. They donít like the electronic scoreboard because the person that puts the score in may make a mistake, and then you have to stop the game to correct it. Using chalk, you can see the mistake instantly on the scoreboard. For the newcomer, the chalkboard is absolutely great. But at the the professional level, on TV, we accept that the electronic system we use is the answer Ė and it shows every throw. The technology is so advanced now that we can trust it.
SF: How old you were when you started playing and how did you get introduced to darts?
JL: I was 21 before I ever threw a dart Ė just purely by fate. I used to race motorcycles and, well, one day I just walked in to the pub and took my first throw at a dartboard and then I played ever after.
SF: When I first started playing darts in Bangkok, some of my British friends suggested that darts was below them Ė that it was a working class game. Do you think that attitude has changed at all? Is it still like that in England?
JL: Not in England, itís not. It is now a registered sport with the government. The prize money in England in 2008 is four million pounds. So, I donít think that is ďbelowĒ anyone. Phil Taylor, for instance, earned 1 million pounds last year playing darts. So how anyone could say itís a lower sport is beyond meÖbut I can sort of understand what theyíre saying, because some of the dartboards here that they put up in bars just make it look like, er, Ďknock a dart board on a wall and have a gameí.
Itís not like that in England anymore. Weíre talking about professional darts, on a big screen with 4,000 spectators. From what Iíve seen of it itís not serious darts here. Iíve not found a decent dart board to throw on in town [Patong] yet. For someone who plays professionally, itís very disappointing to find that the people who are tying to promote it wonít even buy a decent dart board.
SF: What advice would you give to someone like myself, your average pub player, who wants to pick his game up to a higher level?
JL: You only get out of it what you put into it Ė so you really do have to practice. You have to make sure you have the right equipment, then you need competition Ė decent competition to play against, otherwise you tend to play at the same standard that you find yourself within. If your standard is, say 33 darts for a game 501, you need someone who can push that to 26 darts, so that you need to go out in 25 darts to beat him. Thatís the only way to get better and better.
SF: Sometimes I can play fairly well, but other nights I am just horrible Ė it lands in the 18 when I was going for a 20. Do you ever have nights like that? When you canít believe how badly your are playing?
JL: No, because if I am playing what I call Ďnot goodí, itís still good enough to beat most people Ė if you know what I mean. I set my own standards. If I play an exhibition with sixteen players involved, if I lose three I call that Ďnot a very good nightíÖOver 16 legs, Iíd expect to hit at least six 180s a night. On a good night, maybe 12 to fourteen. If I only hit one 180 and Iíve lost a couple of legs I would call that a bad night Ė but the people watching say Ďthatís a great nightí. So its where you set your own standards, really.
SF: If darts didnít exist, what do you think you would have spent your life doing?
JL: By trade Iím a carpenter, a joiner. When I started at 21, there was no money in darts. It was seven or eight years after that before any money came into the game. It didnít become my life. No, I just carried on playing for fun in the local league. At the end of the season you won a little trophy or something. But when darts beach a sort of ďprofessionalishĒ sport around 1978, I was at the top of the tree at the time. So I was the one who got the bookings for exhibitions. After that I only ever played darts for a living.
SF: Hereís a silly question. When I was doing some background research on you, I put your name into the www.news.google.com search engine to see if you had been interviewed recently. But the John Lowe who kept coming up is a 93-year-old ballet dancer, who that took up ballet at age 79. Have you ever heard of this guy? Do you think heís trying to steal your thunder?
JL: No, thereís no relation. (laughs) Iíd think heís a pretty nimble guy Ė and good luck to him.
SF: Another silly question: have you ever seen somebody injured by a dart?
JL: No, I havenít. Never, ever. There shouldnít be any people involved anywhere near it. If it gets out of control in a bar, well Ė thatís beyond what we do. But on a professional level, itís an adult game that should be kept under control.
From Left: John Lowe, good friend and newlywed David Brook who runs
the Island Lager Bar at Sukhumvit Rd Entertainment complex, and
Johnís wife Karen
SF: I heard your keen on golf.
JL: Yes, very keen. I golf wherever I can, anywhere in the world. Itís a good pastime. Itís good relaxation. Itís outside. It keeps you reasonably fit and it takes good coordination, so itís no different to darts, really.
SF: How long have you been playing?
JL: Oh, about 40 years.
SF: Are you as good at golf as you are in darts?
JL: No, no. Iíd like to be, but when youíve been world champion numerous times its very hard to say your golf is ever going to be up to that standard. I am quite happy that I can play the game and that I can play with anybody and in anybodyís company. Thatís my level. I have a 16 handicap.
SF: Do your ever keep in touch with your old rivals? How about Eric Bristow?
JL: If you look on my website, youíll see me and Eric do The Legends exhibitions, so we work together together doing a Legends show about 20 to 30 times a year, just me and Eric.
SF: Is it still just as competitive? Whoís ahead?
JL: Itís pretty even, I think. Iíd say I am in front, but if he were here heíd say he was in front (laughs). Thatís good competition.
SF: How did the rule change that disallowed drinking on stage during televised competitions change the game?
JL: They stopped that over 20 years ago. They wanted to try and alter the image of darts from a bar room game into a professional sport. Then the sponsor came in and increased the prizes a million-fold since that happened. You can have a drink if you want behind the stage, before you go on, to relax and get ready. But you could do that with almost any sport in the world Ė if you wanted to. Drink is not banned from any sport that I know of. I have looked at every sport you can think of, from athletics to motor racing, and alcohol is not a banned substance in any of them. Now would you believe that? Itís quite incredible isnít it!
SF: But there arenít too many games besides darts where alcohol can actually help you...
JL: Itíll conk out your darts after a while. It is not an enhancing thing to do, because after a while it makes you tired and you lose it anyway. So it can only help you for a while, and then you are in serious trouble after that.
SF: Iíve been there...
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