Obituary: Sid Waddell, darts commentator
Born: 10 August, 1940, in Newcastle. Died: 11 August, 2012, in Leeds, aged 72.
Sid Waddell was a central figure in Sky Sports coverage of darts since 1994 and was responsible for making the sport more understood by the public. He was a genuine character and transmitted his own enthusiasm for the sport by his colourful language and exuberant turn of phrase. His commentaries were fast, involving and brim full of humour and quips.
Sid Waddell was the son of a Northumberland miner and after King Edward VI School in Morpeth he won a scholarship to read modern history at St John’s College, Cambridge. He showed a keen interest in rugby, playing for his college and the university 2nd XV. However, during his last year Waddell was injured and he inaugurated an inter-college darts competition. To his considerable amusement, St John’s lost in the final of the in 1961 competition to a team of trainee vicars from Selwyn College.
Waddell joined the Social Studies Department at Durham University and did research for the department of Politics and Economics. He got involved in university life and formed a folk singing duo with Charles Hall called the Gravyboatmen. They played round the pubs and clubs of the north-east of England and also appeared on the BBC’s early evening magazine programme, Tonight. In 1966, Waddell joined Granada Television working alongside Michael Parkinson on local news items.
In 1968, Waddell crossed the Pennines to work for Yorkshire Television and created Indoor League, a programme based on popular pub games – including darts. Between 1968 and 1974, Waddell also acted as a producer for many of Yorkshire TV’s current affairs programmes and devised the popular ITV children’s show The Flaxton Boys, which was aired throughout the UK.
In 1976, he joined the BBC sports department and within two years he became one of the commentators on the first World Professional Darts Championships.
He was to remain with the BBC until 1994 and during those years Waddell wrote ten episodes of the highly successful children’s series Jossy’s Giants and contributed to another children’s show, Sloggers. But Waddell remained active as a producer and worked on such high-profile series as those fronted by the eccentric scientist Manus Pyke and Alan Whicker’s fondly remembered Whicker’s Women in 1972. He also produced the popular talk show The Russell Harty Show in 1991.
In 1994, Waddell became a freelance commentator but was principally used by Sky Sports – who wanted his expertise and vibrant personality to advance the interest in its coverage of darts. Sky did not, however, confine Waddell to darts and he was dispatched to commentate on the World Pool Championships.
In 2004, he was the commentator for the British game show House of Games in which two families competed in various household-based challenges.
Undoubtedly, it is as a darts commentator for which Waddell will be remembered. His infectious enthusiasm for the sport was admired by both those who understood the game and by those at home enthralled in the drama of the event. Players enjoyed his banter, and his jokes and asides are now part of the folklore of the game.
What became recognised as his “Sidisms” were greeted with groans and laughter throughout the darts’ halls of the country. His best-known lines included: “There’s only one word for it – ‘magic darts’.” He also noted, while commentating on Eric Bristow becoming world champion: “When Alexander of Macedonia was 33, he cried salt tears because there were no more worlds to conquer … Bristow’s only 27.”
Dave Clark, who often worked alongside Waddell commented yesterday, “Sid was the voice of darts. He was a brilliant man, a genius of the microphone.”
Waddell did retain his love of writing and literature – often injecting a slice of historical facts into a dramatic moment in a match. But he knew when to lighten the mood and it was his witty and comic asides that endeared Waddell to millions who were not darts enthusiasts.
There was a famous match between Cliff Lazarenko and Jocky Wilson. The former was about 22 stone and Wilson about 17 stone. With a deadpan delivery, Waddell said over the airwaves: “What fine athletes they both are.” Later Waddell said of Wilson: “Jocky has all the psychology of a claymore.”
Waddell published many books on the sport. He contributed to The BBC Book of World Darts and ghosted both Jocky Wilson’s and Phil Taylor’s autobiographies. Waddell published his own autobiography, Bellies and Bullseyes, in 2009.
Waddell was a much cherished man in darts and worked to remove the mystique that had surrounded it for years. His style was undeniably whacky and the public loved it. He was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2011 and is survived by his wife Irene and their joint family of five children.
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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