DARTS: Sid Waddell – 1940-2012

Sid Waddell, the man known to millions as ‘the voice of darts’, has passed away at the age of 72.

He had been battling bowel cancer since last September and the news of his death was confirmed on Sunday morning (August 12).

A statement from his manager Dick Allix read: “With great sadness, we announce that following a long illness, broadcaster and author Sid Waddell died peacefully with all his family around him late last night, Saturday August 11th, 2012.”

One of the most popular and charismatic sports broadcasters of his generation, Waddell was a pivotal part of darts coverage on television for five decades.

First rising to prominence during the late 1960s, Waddell joined Yorkshire Television where he created and produced on the ‘Indoor League’, a show which featured various ‘pub sports’, including table football, pool and bar billiards.

But it was the sport of darts that became the show’s most popular segment, and Waddell was responsible for establishing this pub-based past-time into a fully-fledged and respected televised sport over four decades.

Sid Waddell – A Working Class Wordsmith
Pictures: Sky Sports

He commentated on every BDO World Professional Darts Championship alongside Tony Green from the inaugural tournament in 1978 to 1994.

In that time he developed his reputation as one of the most unique sports commentators on television, an antithesis to the common formal approach adopted by other esteemed broadcasters of the era.

Waddell was known for his colourful and excitable commentary style, with his best-known lines including “There’s only one word for it – magic darts”, amongst many other memorable quotes.

He also noted, while watching Eric Bristow become world champion: “When Alexander of Macedonia was 33, he cried salt tears because there were no more worlds to conquer … Bristow’s only 27.”

Following the acrimonious split in darts between the British Darts Organisation, the founding governing body, and the new World Darts Council (later PDC), Waddell made the switch to Sky Sports in mid-1994 and was ever-present in the commentary box at televised PDC events until 2011.

Waddell’s other commentary work included pool’s Mosconi Cup for Sky Sports, while he also made a one-off appearance as the BBC National Lottery’s “Voice of the Balls”.

In September 2011, it was announced that Waddell had been diagnosed with bowel cancer.

He took time off from his Sky commentary commitments to focus on fighting the illness, though he managed to make several appearances in the commentary box during the Premier League and UK Open.

A statement from Sky Sports managing director Barney Francis read: “We all remember Sid’s wonderful words, his great sense of humour and his passion for the sport he loved.

“Sid was a friend to all of us at Sky Sports, at the heart of our darts coverage since the early 1990s. He was a wonderful man and we will miss him deeply.

“Our thoughts are with Irene (his wife) and family at this very sad time.”

In addition to his noteriety as a darts commentator, he has had 11 books published and wrote the sport-based BBC children’s programmes Jossy’s Giants and Sloggers, receiving a nomination for best scriptwriter from the Writer’s Guild of Great Britain for the latter.

Following his death, the PDC decided to make a lasting tribute by naming its World Championship trophy after him, in honour of his outstanding contribution to the sport.

Sid Waddell – A Life in His Own Words

Thursday 16th August – 6.30pm – Sky Sports 2

Sky Sports will pay tribute to Sid Waddell’s life in a special programme to air on Thursday, August 16.

Filmed in May at his home in Yorkshire, the Geordie darts devotee talked about his life, his career in television and the battle with cancer.

It will also include a selection of his many memorable moments behind the microphone that led to him being known as the voice of darts.

 

Two-time BDO World Championship finalist was among the first to pay tribute, writing on Twitter: “So sad to hear of the passing of the legend Sid Waddell or Sidly as I used to call him. Sincere condolences go out to the family x.”

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Bristow told Sky Sports News: “Sid was top dog wasn’t he? He’s not going to be replaced, he was a one-off.

“I remember a game he was commentating on, Cliff Lazarenko was playing Jocky Wilson. Cliff was about 22 stone and Jocky was about 17 stone and he said they were two athletes. I just cracked up.”

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“Darts has lost its champion of the commentary box, Sid Waddell, sincere condolences to his family, good bye dear friend.”

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Dutch winner of four BDO World Championships and one as part of the PDC, wrote: “Can’t believe the news that Sid Waddell died yesterday i am emotional right now such a great personality and a good friend gonna miss you.”

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Sky Sports’ darts frontman Dave Clark told Sky Sports News: “He was a brilliant man, a genius of the microphone – I’m going to miss my old mate, that’s for sure.

“He had a child-like exuberance, he’d be bouncing round like a young puppy in the commentary box, and mix that with the intellect of Einstein.

“I know he’s been really battling this cancer for a long, long time and what I hear from the family is it’s a blessing that he’s gone, but a tragedy.”

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Jeff Stelling, presenter of Sky’s darts coverage from 1994 to 2004, added: “It’s shattering news. Back when I was working with him he made more of an impact than any of the players did. He is totally irreplaceable.

“There has never been such a sports commentator to make such an impact. He had a wonderful turn of phrase. He was the leader of the gang and we were all in his gang.

“On the big occasion he was always there – if he wasn’t there it wasn’t a big occasion. He was the doyen of sports commentating.”

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Stephen Fry, who during a memorable guest appearance alongside Waddell in the Sky commentary box at the Premier League Play-offs in 2010, where he proclaimed himself “as happy as a pig in Chardonnay”, also paid his respects via Twitter.

He wrote: “Farewell Sid Waddell: Cambridge educated but always loyal to darts and his beloved NE: master of the wild epithet & the true voice of darts.”

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Leave your tributes to Sid Waddell – the ‘voice of darts’ – in the comments section below
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2 Responses to DARTS: Sid Waddell – 1940-2012

  1. David H says:

    Simply a legend. A man who brought new life to sports commentary.

    RIP Sid. We will miss you.

  2. Bob says:

    Loved listening to Sid when he was in full flow. Though he got more excitable as the years went on, and his love of Phil Taylor at the expense of other players did become slightly tiresome.

    But you could not deny that his pure love and sheer enthusiasm of his sport brought a wider audience to a game that belongs in a pub.

    He made people care about darts. He made his name a time when no doubt the likes of David Coleman would have looked down on someone like him because it wasn’t the formal approach expected of a BBC sports commentator.

    Above all, he practically invented televised darts.

    Every darts player, manager, promoter, commentator, referee, and the fans should pay their respects to the man who practically invented the sport of darts on tv.

    Another of our fine broadcasters has gone. Everyone else has the toughest act to follow.

    RIP Sid.

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