Sadly, Sid Waddell is no longer with us. The voice of darts died on Saturday night at the age of 72 after being diagnosed with bowel cancer last September.
His absence from behind the microphone was noticeable. Despite their best efforts, his various replacements could never hope to match the combination passion and eloquence he brought to his sport. Ironically there were few people articulate enough to accurately do justice to his importance to the sport than Sid himself.
Born in Morpeth, Northumberland, he earned a scholarship to St. John’s College in Cambridge. He was a successful author and scriptwriter for children’s television, but darts commentary is the medium through which he achieved most of his fame. It speaks volumes that in an era when sporting commentary is frequently tolerated rather than celebrated, his unique narration was always an enhancement to events unfolding in front of our eyes.
It also says a lot about Waddell’s talents that often his commentary was a bigger attraction to the armchair audience than the darts on show. His commentary was free from the disingenuous spin that regularly accompanies modern sports broadcasting. There was an honesty, integrity and where necessary, bravery to his commentary. And of course no shortage of wit. We weren’t always watching ‘the greatest match in history’ and Waddell had some amusing ways of describing sub-par contests.
But for all his bizarre and comedic turns of phrase, there was an underlying passion and flair for concise description that truly enhanced the spectacle. Wordy, but never pompous, obscure, but never isolated, Waddell had the knack of capturing the mood perfectly and communicating to the living rooms of the world.
If darts is going through a second golden era, its thanks in large part to Waddell and the accessibility he brought to the sport. Once it was considered the sport of dark corners of shady pubs and borderline alcoholism, Waddell showed that it was ok to love the sport and proudly demonstrate your passion for it. He played a key role in the repositioning of the sport, taking away the pints and adding some pizazz. Of course the pints are still never far away, but his ability to accurately communicate the immense skill of the players gave the sport credibility and shifted it more towards the mainstream. No longer was it a game for morbidly obese middle-aged men, but a sport for highly skilled athletes who rely on a different type of endurance.
His commentating on Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor’s two nine dart finishes in the final of the 2010 Premier League at Wembley Arena, is one of many highlights of a career in the commentary booth that provided an abundance of memorable moments.
And here’s some of the very best Waddell-isms:
RIP Sid Waddell 1940 – 2012