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                                                                                                                MARILYN aka “ICE”


                                                                                 “Ice ice baby, too cold, too cold … Ice ice baby”  Vanilla Ice


   Marilyn Grace Sodoski was born on June 2, 1944 and grew up in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  In  June of 1965, our Ms. Sodoski met a man named Marshall working in a local bar, and the couple began dating soon thereafter, however, rumor has it, he had an interest in the best friend of Ms. Sodoski, so he ended their relationship for a period of time.  Fortunately for the darting community, she forgave him and on May 18th, 1968 she agreed to walk down the isle and become Mrs. Marilyn Popp.  In 1969 the couple had their first child Tina, and in 1975 gave birth to their second daughter Karen.


   It is in 1975 where Marilyn and darts collide.  Marilyn and Marshall had just moved to Milford, Connecticut.  Daughter Tina was five, and Marilyn was pregnant with Karen.  “Mash”, as darters across the world have all come to refer to him, had joined an A level dart team at the Bull & Bear pub, and he wanted to practice at home so he asked Marilyn to practice with him.  Given she had absolutely no interest in the game, he talked her into playing by spotting her points, and eventually as she started beating him, he’d take away more and more of the spots.  She eventually found she had a knack for the game, and worked her way from playing in the C division to finding herself on an A team.


   Around 1990, as daughters Tina and Karen got older, Marilyn was making some money in darts locally and was going to regional events and winning, so she thought this would be a good time to start traveling.  She and Mash sold their old RV they had while the girls were young for camping fishing, and water skiing, and off around the country darting she went.


  Nearing her 67th birthday this living icon resides in Camden, Delaware with Mash, and continues to be a registered nurse, working with sick kids in pediatrics homecare, all while continuing to participate in dart tournaments, and maintaining her position fending off long time players, as well as maintaining her standings against the up and coming younger generation.  


  Carrying the nickname “ICE”, this pragmatic woman is America’s currently ranked #1 woman nationally opening the 2011 calendar year.  The term “ICE” came about by fellow teammate, Steve Smead, from her old Connecticut team, when he mentioned to Marshall that she was so serious, and focused, showing no emotion when she played, that he was going to call her the Ice Lady.  Her opponents’ male and female alike know well how true this name is for Marilyn.


  Have you ever wondered about the type of dart Marilyn uses?  Well you won’t get an answer here, given she has no idea what type of dart she is using.  She just recently bought a new set after seven years, simply noting that the barrel is the closest she could find to the grip on her old darts.  Amazingly she has only used two sets of darts over a 25 year time span.


  Another fantastic fact about Marilyn is that she readily admits that she doesn’t practice.  Her trusty sidekick Mash tries to get her to practice before events, and she admits she should be practicing her outs, but it doesn’t happen as often as it should, or as often as Marshall thinks it should happen.  She also isn’t a fan of practicing with others, and says “when I do practice I like to practice by myself, sometimes one or two other people can help keep a rhythm, but overall I like practicing alone.”


 Marilyn Popp has inspired so many new players on the scene, not just the girls, but men and women alike, so it seems incredible to know that through all of her accomplishments and her amazing longevity in the game, that she could still refer to herself, even her early self as being “in awe” and “awestruck” by another player, as Marilyn mentions Kathy Maloney in response to being asked who she most admires.  Marilyn continues to have a high respect for Kathy, and the amount of work the she (Kathy) has put into the game.


 Marilyn, as with all darters has one person that she feels really pushes her to the limits, as she goes on to discuss/say, “Stacy (Bromberg) has been my biggest nemesis, “she just seems to really up her game when she plays me.”  “I have to play really… really well against her.”  The great thing about speaking to Marilyn is her honesty about the situation, and she further says, “I think overall play against her is 70/30 in her favor, but I do equal her when we play doubles together.”  Marilyn also respectfully mentions Sandy Hudson, and explains that “she (Sandy) beat me two out of three recently, and she’s coming up very strong.”


 Marilyn has had many doubles partners through the years, right now she likes to play with Marcia Loche at east coast events, Sandy Hudson down south, and Stacy Bromberg and she will hook up quite a bit.  She goes on mention that she enjoyed playing with Joanne Perry long time ago, and follows up with, “I’ve played with such great girls (you [Tina], Carolyn Mars, and just everyone).”


 Recently for mixed doubles she started playing with Larry Butler (who has also opened up the 2011 year on the Men’s ADO ranking list at #1), and takes great enjoyment shooting with John Kuczynski, and Darin Young.  Marilyn really hopes to continue playing with Larry on a consistent basis, and fondly talked about when she, Larry and Bob Sneave played trips together, naming their team, Team Geritol.  “Our collective ages when we played trips came out to be 180, can you believe it?”  


 Marilyn currently enjoys playing in a steel darts in-house league at the Elks Club in Dover, Delaware on Wednesday nights.  It’s an all doubles two person team that plays 301, 501, and Cricket, and that’s it for the night.  Not being a huge soft tipper, she previously attended the ever popular Bullshooter tournament in Chicago, but stated that although she made a lot of money and would perform very well, that it tended to spoil her steal tip game.


 Marilyn has experienced so much success through the years, it was important to find out from her what accomplishments are closest to her heart:  “In the beginning…. way in the beginning, my first Pacific Cup, I was partners with Linda Sims for the ladies and Paul Lim for men.  Paul and I went to the finals in the mixed and came in second place.  Linda and I also took second place in doubles.”  “This was very early on, I was so young.  No one knew who I was, and to play with someone like Paul Lim was exciting.”  Marilyn’s other favorite event was in the 2001 Masters, where she came in second to Anne Kirk from Scotland, and she loved that the boys at home in a bar called Wallabies were following on the Internet.”


 Understanding success can not be done without understanding disappointment, and everyone who competes to win experiences that overwhelming feeling of defeat at some time or other, and Marilyn is no different.  She may be ICE at the oche, but she’s still human with a heart of gold, and she has honestly and openly shared her most upsetting and disastrous dart experience with us.   She explains, “It was in Canada.  I’m not sure if it was a World Cup or something else.”  “In singles I never won a match, not one.”  “It was unbelievable and I just went into the bathroom and bawled.  Games I should have won, and I just couldn’t hit outs, it was horrible and unbelievable.” 


 Whether you are young or just young at heart, traveling can be physically and mentally draining.  At this time in Marilyn’s life traveling is easier now than it was a few years back.  She said, “When I was living in Connecticut working five days a week, and then having to go to tournaments on the weekend, it was totally exhausting.  Now in Delaware, I only work two nights a week, so now darts is a part of my life that I look forward to.  I still enjoy doing it and it doesn’t obstruct anything.  I have a really good balance going on.”


 This balance encompasses interests outside of darts, a true love summer where she and Marshall enjoy hanging out by the pool; Marilyn is a fan of gardening, and Mash of hitting the golf course.  They also enjoy the theater and the Elks Club.  She went on to say, “Mash and I are semi retired so it’s really great.”


 Marilyn Popp is extremely proud of what she has brought to the game.  “I think I’ve represented myself and darts in the best way I know how.  To play proud and to not be obnoxious.  I think I give a good impression of who people that play darts are and who love the game.”  Mrs. Marilyn, the world tends to agree with you!!  You do the game proud.


Will Marilyn continue to be at the forefront of darts going forward?  It’s hard to say.  In five years she’ll be 72 years old and isn’t so sure.  It could come down to health and physically ability.  What Marilyn should realize is that she’s really not a day older than the day we met nearly 20 years ago.


 Marilyn Popp through the years has been huge competitor, but more importantly, she has been an inspiration, a partner, and a friend.  Marilyn is a true representative of her own middle name “Grace”, and she will forever go down in dart history as one of the true and everlasting ladies of darts in America.  Forever respected and forever loved.


By Tina Digregorio


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