Eric Bristow was the greatest-ever darts player.
But it wasn’t just his ability that made him the best, it was the way he revolutionised it as a spectator sport.
Bristow wanted to be the John McEnroe of darts.
He didn’t want to be just another boring, polite, dull sportsman.
He wanted to be totally different: to defy convention and be the one everyone loved to hate.
To wind-up his opponents and defeat them in their minds.
He made himself a brand, not just a sportsman.
He became ‘The Crafty Cockney’ because he knew it would irritate and annoy people all over the country.
And Bristow knew being ‘the man you love to hate’ would draw bigger crowds than being just another bland darts player.
So he’d wind the crowd up.
When they booed him, he’d cup his hand over his ear as if couldn’t hear it.
When they were screaming abuse he’d turn his backside to them and adjust his underpants which were riding up his crack.
The hysteria would unsettle his opponent’s concentration.
And, as they played, Bristow would insult his opponent.
In 1983 he was in the World Championship final against an unknown 23 year old from Ipswich.
Keith Deller had qualified but obviously he didn’t have a chance.
Although he did have some serious talent.
At one point he was beating Bristow five games to three, when his nerves began to get to him.
Whenever Bristow threw some good darts he would say something like “Have that, you little shit” to Keith Deller.
The crowd were screaming, Bristow was muttering insults.
All Keith Deller needed was a double to finish, to be world champion.
But he missed.
And he missed again.
Deller missed with his next seven darts and Bristow won the game.
Suddenly it was five to four and Bristow could feel Deller collapsing.
The crowd was desperate for the youngster to teach Bristow a lesson, but they could feel it slipping away.
And the more everyone felt it, the more smug Bristow acted.
And Bristow won the next game, making it five games each.
Whoever won the final game would be world champion.
Bristow need 121: he got a single 17, a treble 18, he needed a bull to finish.
But instead of going for the bull he played it safe.
He knew the kid was finished, his confidence had gone.
So Bristow went for18 instead, which left him with double 16 (his favourite double).
Now it was Deller’s final three darts.
And at that point a light went on in Keith Deller’s brain.
The most influential words in his life flashed up:
“Play the board, not the man”.
And suddenly all there was in the room was himself and the dartboard.
He needed 138 from three darts: he threw a treble 20, a treble 18, a double 12.
Eric Bristow never got to finish on his favourite double because Keith Deller had just become the youngest-ever world champion.
He had learned something we can all do with learning.
Nothing matters except the job.
Not what anyone else is saying, not what anyone else is doing.
Everything else is just a distraction to stop you doing your job.
“Play the board, not the man.”