Committee Co-Chairman Arnold Sparks, a Negro and a retired Army master sergeant now working at the White Sands Missile Range and attending UTEP part-time, says 90% of the money raised so far has come in from people around the country who had read of the athletes' stand. The bulk of the fund, in fact, was provided by one anonymous out-of-towner's check for $2,800. Sparks says a greater effort to drum up local donations is now being made. A recent fund-raising dance sponsored by a local Negro social club brought a few hundred people and $275.
Hurdler Myrick, who is the committee's co-treasurer, expresses some disappointment in the results so far. "We're set for another year," he says. "We've got more money coming in. But it could have been, should have been, better. We need as much money as it takes to send us through school."
None of the eight plan to go out for track at UTEP. "We've been told we can't," says Myrick.
America does not have dart professionals, as England does—a few British stars are paid to carry the colors of dart or beer firms in pub exhibitions—but in Southern California, at least, darts is becoming a serious sport.
There are 600 members in the Southern California Dart Association, and 38 eight-man teams are currently competing in SCDA events. The matches are held on Friday nights in various sponsoring bars, and are attended by devoted statisticians and capacity crowds. Quiet prevails before every throw, and all lights are extinguished at the windup except the one spotlighting the board.
"Every board is different in play," notes Dick Mitruen, an eight-year veteran of the league. "Lighting differs, the background provides a different perspective, and even the air conditioner has an effect." The amount of suds a competitor consumes also must be considered in handicapping the field. Says Mitruen. "Some guys, sober, are so nervous they can't hit a thing. I've seen them miss the board entirely, and after three or four beers they plunk the bull's-eye."
But that doesn't mean that darts is all beer and skittles. A leading player known as "Thermometer" (because he is so thin) sees it this way. "If you're a hungry tiger, you're a hustling dart player, and you're tough in competition."
But apparently it helps to be a thirsty tiger as well.