If you're at a dart tournament and you don't play the game, you may end up feeling like a lone pepperoni atop a sausage pizza. Because even if you know a dart board when you see one, you probably have no idea how various dart games—301, 501 and Cricket, for example—are played. That is why it helps to have Lamont Carr whisper play-by-play in your ear while you watch a match.
Carr, 41, who has been described affectionately as the Don King of darts, provides more than color commentary. He is a walking dart dictionary, as well as the sport's most formidable p.r. man. At the North American Open Dart Tournament, held in August at the Sahara Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Carr worked the room tirelessly. And although he no longer competes much, as a promoter he is surely as involved with the game as the world's top dart players.
Carr's personal history is as intriguing as his devotion to darts. In 1976 he graduated with a degree in sociology from the University of Virginia, where he came off the bench as a small forward on the basketball team. He then spent two weeks at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va., receiving the training he needed to become a firearms instructor at UVA as well as a campus police officer. He earned a law degree from Washington and Lee University in 1986 but gave up trying to pass the bar exam after one unsuccessful attempt. Since then he has worked for a collection agency and at the William Morris Agency in Los Angeles. He now lives in Boca Raton, Fla., where he teaches basketball to children at an athletic club and works part-time in a restaurant.
His full-time job, however, is to bring darts into America's consciousness. "For those of us who play darts, we know that it lives in a world of its own, a subculture. I would like to be responsible for bringing to the forefront a sport which I have a passion for," says Carr.
Passion, obsession, take your pick. While living in Santa Monica, Calif., he sat on the board of directors of the Southern California Darts Association, staged numerous tournaments and founded the Society of Experimental Dart Players. Huh? (Experimental, Carr says, in that he took members where no darters had gone before.) Since moving to Florida, he has started the Florida Pool and Dart Association and has been relentless in pursuing sponsorship and media coverage for the sport of darts.
"He is tenacious in his efforts," says Delia Fleetwood, the coordinator of the North American Open. "We need more people with that kind of energy to work at the local level and promote the game."
Carr has a pile of rejection letters to show for most of his efforts. Still, he continues to dream of a national media office; a product-placement program that would help put darts into movies, TV and advertising; pro-dart public-service announcements (a Carr favorite: Shoot Darts Not Guns); and ultimately, darts on ABC's Wide World of Sports.
Carr hopes to become the Michael Ovitz of the dart universe. He's on his way—he currently represents Johnny Darts, 33, of Pompano Beach, Fla. (O.K., his real name is Johnny Mielcarek, and Carr had nothing to do with the moniker that Mielcarek has had for 12 years.) Carr hopes Darts is his ticket to dart fame.
Together they have already earned Darts a place in the Guinness Book of Records. Earlier this year, at the Pete Rose Ballpark Cafe in Boca Raton, Darts hit 1,200 bull's-eyes in a 10-hour period, shattering the old record of 855 set in 1987 by an Englishman, Fred Carter. Technically, Darts did all the work, firing at a rate of about two bull's-eyes a minute, but Carr estimates he spent more than $1,200 and hundreds of hours to promote the event.
His efforts didn't get Darts a guest spot with Arsenio, Jay or Dave, but they did help Darts gain a sponsor, Dart World, a manufacturer and distributor of dart equipment. The sponsorship will enable Darts to travel to more big tournaments like the North American Open, and Carr thinks it's just a matter of time before the bull's-eye king becomes the star of the tournament circuit and, just as important, a household name. And when that happens, well, you can be sure Lamont Carr will let you know about it.
Carr is aiming high, hoping he can make darts an all-American sport.