To darts players in the UK, George Silberzahn may not be well know, but in the USA he has carved out quite a reputation as the man whose mission in life is to teach everyone to play darts.
Born in Gibbstown, New Jersey in September 1938, George joined his first local darts league in 1962. It was an American-style league of which he became President in 1965.
The following year he joined the Mount Royal American darts team and later, in 1972, became the first President of the South Jersey English Darts League. Between 1971 and 1980 George’s employment changed to “field work” during which time he travelled extensively to many cities and states which provided him with the opportunity to play darts all over.
By the time George ‘retired’ from darts in 1982 he had built up a reputation Stateside for championship darts shooting and in “retirement” found that he had the ability to articulate what it takes to attain the skills necessary for success in our sport. To this end, during the 1980s, George wrote two darts instruction manuals, “Beginning the Game of Darts” and “Mastering the Game of Darts”. Two decades later these formed the foundation of his latest publication “How to Master the Sport of Darts”.
Over the past 35 years there have been numerous darts books which pretend to be tutorials. Some achieved their aim whilst others appeared to hinder rather than help. In my view George Silberzahn has gone beyond them all. But, having said that, and whilst everything the novice and experienced player needs to improve their game is within George’s work, I have a number of criticisms to make.
Firstly, I was confused at times by the chapter order. For example, George gives a listing of alternative darts games before the business of tutoring has been completed.
Secondly, whilst there is a lot of new material in this book, it is clear that George has lifted quite a lot of stuff from his earlier, smaller publications. In doing so he has not – in my opinion – revised them sufficiently to bring them up to date for 21st century readers. For example, reference to feather flights being the “least problem flight to use”.
Thirdly, the book totally lacks any diagrams or photographs which usually help the reader. However, these are all issues that might easily be addressed in a second edition.
Over and above the “mastering” of darts, which this book achieves, more than half of the book is devoted to min-biographies on nine US darting legends.
Having by this time taught his readers how to master the sport, star darters including Conrad Daniels, Bob Theide and Jerry Umburger talk about their careers in darts and provide a detailed and fascinating insight into their individual game and the ups and downs of the world of professional darts in the USA.
The girls are not overlooked here as both Julie Nicholl-Jennings (career base: Dayton, Ohio) and Helen Scheerbaum (career base: Philadelphia) are included. But what makes the ‘legends’ section of great interest to me as a Darts Historian is that I have never seen so much detail about individual US darters in one place before, not even in US darts publications.
George is to be congratulated on – at least in part – filling this gap in reader’s knowledge of the ‘greats’ of the US game.
Despite my criticisms of this work I still cannot recommend it highly enough to all those who genuinely want to take their darts seriously.
How to Master the Sport of Darts by George Silberzahn is published by Totem Pointe Books, Inc. of Columbia, Missouri.
This review first appeared in Darts World magazine in July 2004 and was then placed on my original website but since then disappeared. Sorry for the delay in putting it back on George.
Since publication George has produced an excellent darts tuition website www.howtodarts.com which new and experienced darts players could learn from.
Also CONGRATULATIONS GEORGE on reaching your 70th birthday in September 2008. The photograph (produced courtesy of his personal publicity manager, critic, number one fan and surprise birthday party giver; his loving wife Sandie) shows George with a special cake (the design of which is based on the cover of ‘How to Master…’) produced especially for the occasion by – Who else? – his personal publicity manager, cake maker, etc. etc., – Sandie.
Text © 2004 Patrick Chaplin with amendments and notes © 2008 Patrick Chaplin
Photo © 2008 Sandie Silberzahn
Posted October 2008
© 2008 Patrick Chaplin