Eric Bristow is one of the most famous British darts champions to date. He was responsible for increasing the appeal of the sport not only within Britain, but across Europe as well. Bristow is a Londoner and is subsequently fondly referred to as the “Crafty Cockney” by darts fans.
In recognition of his many achievements, Bristow was recently awarded the MBE. In 2005, he was inducted as one of the first members of the PDC (Professional Darts Championship) Hall of Fame.
Eric Bristow was born in Hackney, London on 25 April, 1957. As with many darts champions, Bristow initially took up the sport for its social benefits. He earned his nickname, The Crafty Cockney, playing at one of his favourite pubs which went by the same name. However, it was not long before he progressed to the competitive level.
Bristow is one of the sport’s most successful players. By 1980, he had won his first World Championship, beating his compatriot Bobby George. He was to repeat this achievement on four other occasions during the 1980s and came to dominate the sport during that decade.
In particular, he benefited from the fact his career took off just at the time when the sport gained increased television coverage. He soon became a household name amongst darts fans.
Bristow also achieved success on numerous occasions at the prestigious Winmau World Masters, winning the title on five occasions. Closer to home, he won the News of the World darts tournament on two occasions. He won first in 1983 and then went on to retain his position as champion the following year.
Bristow has also succeeded in numerous championships on the other side of the Atlantic. He won the North American title on four different occasions during his 23 year career.
Those who are familiar with darts will be aware that there is no set practice when it comes to actually holding and throwing a dart. As a result, each player develops their own unique technique.
Eric Bristow’s technique, however, is quite different to that of other players. In particular, it involves the extension of the little ‘pinkie’ finger. Nonetheless, close observers of the sport have noticed that Bristow only employed this position when holding the dart.
In order to throw it, Bristow pulled his finger back into its original position. As a result, many darts aficionados have come to believe that Bristow’s raised pinkie was more to do with his flamboyant style than the actual game.
Eric Bristow has seen his fair share of controversy in recent years. His antics are legendary within darts fraternities and he can be relied upon for his scathing remarks. In an interview with the media in 2006, he described the British Darts Association as an ‘amateur’ organization – a remark which raised many eyebrows.
Bristow’s personal life has also aroused media and legal interest. He was accused of assaulting his wife, Jane, during a drunken row in 2005. He was eventually released on conditional bail but ordered to stay away from his wife. He was also involved in a street brawl in Gateshead.
His actions gained significant media coverage in this instance as they were recorded by onlookers and broadcast as part of the reality show, "Street Crime UK". These events greatly harmed Bristow’s image within the media and his credibility as a role-model for future generations.
Injury Issues and Retirement
The latter days of Bristow’s career were marred by injury worries. In the 1987 Swedish Open Bristow was remarkably found to be suffering from ‘dartitis’, a psychological condition where the player is unable to let go of the dart. Despite this severe impediment on his career, Bristow succeeded in regaining the number one position for a short period in 1990.
However, it was quite clear that that his long and illustrious career was quickly drawing to a close. 1997 saw one of Bristow’s worst ever defeats as he lost to his protégé Phil Taylor. He was eventually even dropped from his county team, Merseyside. Bristow made his last international appearance in the 2000 World Championships.
Today, Eric Bristow still exerts a considerable influence within the sport. He currently works as a commentator and is a regular on Sky Sports during darts tournaments. He also mentors youngsters interested in the sport.