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And the Winner This Year is....
As you may or may not be aware, I am in the UK on a regular basis. The main reason for these trips is to solidify relationships with our members here, meet new companies, and but mainly to "reculturize" myself so that I re-inforce the importance of returning phonecalls, emails, and most importantly watching and listening before speaking.
Having said that, while I am here for some unknown reason I always end up in some sort of competition. Last year it was a golf tournament which NetShift and Derek Stewart put on (the Kiosks.org Open, as we were the sponsor). My CEO Dick Good came over with his clubs and I brought mine and the anticipation was high among the Brits at the chance to even the score (they had been defeated earlier that year in Orlando at BayHill). To increase their chances this time, a "ringer" from Scotland was brought in to augment the team. The final result was a disappointing loss for the Americans. Dick played well but I did not.
This year there is no golf so far (here or back in the States) but as chance would have it, during my visit to Newbury and NetShift I was put up at a true English inn in the country and some of the fellows from NetShift came over for dinner and some pints. After the first pint we all noticed there was an area for Darts and little time was wasted moving to that area of the inn, with new pints, for "just" a game.
We choose teams and I find myself paired with Julian Haslam of NetShift. This is my first meeting of Julian and he is totally impressive. Julian directs the Marketing for NetShift and is ex-NCR, having spent his formative business years dealing with financials and ATMs.
Our opponents are Joe from Sales/Marketing. From Scotland, Joe is the one (this trip) I am having to ask the most to please repeat (slowly) what he had just said so that I can understand it. Part of the reculturisation I figure to myself, just a little bit embarassed. He seems to have a sharp throw and I think back to the ringer from Scotland who beat me at golf the year previous. Joe's partner is John Purcell. John is Irish and me and him have always competed at one level or another over the years in the business of self-service. John is VP of Marketing with NetShift but in my book he is the best authority on the goings and comings of the self-service industry in Europe. He reminds me of the cowboy/gunslinger/good-guy in the Wild Wild West (just like me!). He'll say the same about me and we both take it one step further and try and "play" in each others backyard so to speak.
We play the first game of Darts and Julian and I win handily. John breaks out a new pack of Marlboros and asks for some fresh pints and without hesitating starts the second game, one which John and Joe win.
Which brings us to the rubber match. Dinner is ready but we all insist on playing the rubber match. It's a tight game all the way down to the final dart. We're playing 501 and we are both down to double 1s and after a few rounds of trying to score the winner and being unable to, the match is to be decided by one throw from each player with the closest to the bullseye declared the winner. It is a suitable ending for very suitable match.
I throw first...
I take my position at the line and mustering one last throw I toss the dart and miraculously it lands less than a millimeter outside the bullseye ring. It is a masterful (and extremely lucky) throw on my part. Julian is ecstatic and John and Joe are muttering to themselves at their misfortune as there is now little chance they will beat that throw.
Next up in Joe and Joe is particularly adept at darts and has been throwing with deadly accuracy. He takes position and throws, but his bird floats to the right and lands outside mine by at least 2 inches. The realisation that they will most probably lose starts to grip them just a little bit more.
Next up is Julian and his throw is academic but he does his best and he lands outside my dart which remains nestled right up against the bullseye.
Next up is John, and here is where I make a major major mistake. Remember my golden rule about not talking but watching/listening? I didn't... Feeling the imminent victory causes my blood to rise and for a little extra cheese to go with it, I begin to taunt him a little... I remind him that it will be prominently displayed on the website how some overweight and travel-weary American kicked some Irish butt at darts, in a pub, drinking bitter. Up to now he has been missing to the right or to the left and his confidence is not at its peak, and here I am telling him he is going to miss. To lose is bad enough, to lose to me the American is two magnitudes worse. Obviously bothering him, he steps aways and regroups, thinking and thinking some more, he takes a long drink on his Guiness then steps carefully back up to the line. John is 6 foot 3 and he leans into the target almost halving the distance and then, with slight twist and jab with his clawhammer grip, he pitches his dart.
He throws a perfect bullseye...
He is inside me by the barest of margins. The crowd and the players erupt. Like the little kids who just won their first football game, John and Joe wildy celebrate, and like the little kids who just lost a heartbreaker, me and Julian shake our heads in disbelief. As Julian put it, "It is a champagne moment".
And so I lose again (again on English soil). Again to a Scot and now as well to a Irishman. In a sense I did win, as John knows without a doubt now that in order to beat me, he will need to be perfect. If his best had not been required in order to best me, then it would have been a double defeat. And for me, losing doesn't hurt quite so much, as long as I am losing to the best.
Congratulations to the winners John and Joe, from Craig and Julian!
Notes: John Purcell is the VP of Marketing for NetShift which provides Enterprise-class software for a multitude of self-service applications. A very respected speaker and "guru", I have had the pleasure of knowing John for many years. John has also has the position of Chairman of the Developing Markets committee of Kiosks.org Association.
Julian Haslam is Manager of all Marketing and directs the imaging and marketing efforts that NetShift does. Julian comes from NCR and has the best of understanding when it comes to positioning his company NetShift. Look for new magazine advertisements and for a strong presence at vertical tradeshows in the future. The new brochures are world-class. There are many important announcements scheduled over the next few months.
Craig Keefner is a nice enough person but he is unable to win at any games in the UK. Stupidly, he continues to try and try, and he continues to wear that unfortunate suit tailored by a company called "Almost Won...". He wishes he could say he loses on purpose but he doesn't (lose on purpose that is). Next time maybe its time to get serious and bring my 12-string guitar and fingerpick these guys into submission.