Sid Waddell, television darts commentator, writer and scriptwriter, died on 11 August 2012. He was 72.
His parents were adamant that he would not follow his father down the pit. Instead he went to Morpeth’s King Edward VI Grammar School, obtaining a scholarship for St John’s College, Cambridge, where he read Modern History. He also pursued his love of sports, which led indirectly to his future career, as The Daily Telegraph describes:
Unfortunately he was also injury-prone, and as sprinting and then rugby proved beyond him, he turned his attentions to the less strenuous sport of darts. Whilst at Cambridge, he instigated the first ever intercollegiate darts championship, and attempted unsuccessfully to convince [sic] the athletics union to award a Blue to the participants. The low point in his sporting career came in 1962, when he led the St John’s team to defeat against four trainee vicars from Selwyn College.
After spells as a research assistant at the University of Durham and then as a TV researcher with Granada Television, Waddell’s breakthrough came when he moved to Yorkshire Television and worked his way up to production. Here’s The Guardian:
In 1972, he became involved with the production of one of the most eccentric television programmes ever produced, Yorkshire Television’s The Indoor League [sic – the programme’s actual title was simply Indoor League]. The show, which ran for six series, set champions of pub games against each other. The programme helped lead to darts being more regularly featured on British television, and launched the TV darts commentating careers of not only Sid but also Dave Lanning, with whom he would go on to share the commentary box for many years.
Waddell joined the BBC in 1974 and started commenting on darts for them three years later. He went on to cover the first 16 British Darts Organisation World Championships, in idiosyncratic and often hyperbolic style. Several of the newspapers repeat his words on Eric Bristow’s third victory at those Championships:
“When Alexander of Macedonia was 33, he cried salt tears because there were no more worlds to conquer… Bristow’s only 27.”
He was insistent that darts players were every bit as worthy as players of other sports of serious consideration. Another favourite comment of his that’s been quoted was this description:
Jocky Wilson… what an athlete!
Said without any apparent hint of irony, despite Wilson’s weight at the time of 17 stone and his comparatively diminutive stature.
Newcastle’s Evening Chronicle – which lists him as one of their “100 Greatest Geordies” – describes him as “[k]nown for his eccentric commenting and incisive one-liners”. Its morning sister The Journal calls his style “excitable” rather than “eccentric”, but is otherwise very similar in tone and content. (Unsurprisingly, as both stories are written by the same reporter.)
But Waddell was more than just a commentator. The Independent lists some of his many other achievements:
In 1992, he won a Bafta for documentary work and authored 11 books, including Bellies and Bullseyes: The Outrageous True Story of Darts (2007), his autobiographical account of the modern era of the sport; and biographies of darts competitors John Lowe, (Old Stoneface), and Phil Taylor (The Power), whom Waddell regarded as “the greatest living sportsman”. Waddell also wrote BBC children’s programmes Jossy’s Giants and Sloggers, and received a nomination for best scriptwriter from the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain for the latter.
All the same, it’s fitting that he should be remembered for his commentary – and who better to describe it (through the Telegraph) than himself?
If the content of these Waddellisms was breathtaking (“I am the Jackson Pollock of the commentary box”) it was the volume at which they were delivered that drew the biggest gasps from the armchair audience. Waddell described his own style as “like a banshee with piles”.
(Sidney Waddell, born 10 August 1940 in Alnwick, died 11 August 2012 in Northumberland.)
The Daily Telegraph: Sid Waddell
The Guardian: Sid Waddell obituary
The Independent: Sid Waddell: Voice of darts who raised the sport to an epic plane
Evening Chronicle: Sid Waddell: Tributes paid to the voice of darts – GALLERY + VIDEO
The Journal: Tributes pour in for darts commentator Sid Waddell + GALLERY