On the 5th of March 2018, the sport of darts, sadly, lost one of its greatest icons in Eric Bristow. The 60-year-old was attending the Premier League Darts event at Liverpool’s Echo arena when he suffered a fatal heart attack. When the news of his tragic passing surfaced throughout the arena, the Liverpool crowd responded with a deafening silence before breaking out into heart-felt rendition of “There’s only one Eric Bristow”. Minutes later, commemoration from fans and fellow professionals came flooding through for the darting legend. Such a reception clearly shows the number of people Bristow touched and inspired.
Born on the 25th of April 1957, Eric John Bristow grew up in Hackney, London, in a working-class household. During his childhood, he spent his days “throwing arrows” with his father where he developed his unique ‘little-finger pointing outwards’ throw which many tried and failed to replicate. At the young age of fourteen years old, Eric’s father began to bring his son to the pub where Eric would take on, and often beat, locals for a dime. Bristow’s knack for the game soon caught the eye of professionals, such as John Lowe and Leighton Rees, who wanted to take on the young talent. Barely out his adolescent years, the “Crafty Cockney”, as he is known in the darting world, would win his first major darts title, defeating Paul Reynolds 3-1 in the final of the 1977 World Masters Title. Having been pipped at the final post the previous two years, Bristow won his first World Championship Title in 1980, getting the better of the glamourous Bobby George 5-3. Bristow would go on to win an impressive 5 world championship titles along with another 17 major titles. Sid Waddell, “the voice of darts”, once famously stated “when Alexander of Macedonia was 33, he cried salt tears because there were no more worlds to conquer … Bristow’s only 27.”
However, it was not just his success on the oche which brought Bristow’s name to fame. The five-time world champion also made the headlines for his outlandish behaviour on stage. Whilst some labelled him as arrogant, others were wooed by his boyish charms. One thing which was certain, however, was Bristow’s ability to put on a show. His teasing of opponents and his comedic antics, along with his ability to back up his words with a mesmerising 180, never failed to create an electric atmosphere amongst the thousands who had come out to see him.
Unfortunately, Bristow’s rise to the top was cut short by his trouble with dartitis; a psychological problem which affects darts player’s release. Despite his issues, Bristow dedicated the end of his career mentoring Phil Taylor- a future sixteen-time world champion. It is safe to say that Eric Bristow was the man who transformed an ordinary pub game into a worldwide spectacle.
He is, what one can only describe as a maverick of the sport. His legacy shall live on forever.
By Julien Yvon