Sid Waddell, otherwise known as Hissing Sid or the Bard of the Oche, is a TV darts commentator. He is by far the most famous commentator in the sport and some would say he is one of the most famous names in the sport, players included.
His unique style of commentary is both entertaining and informative. His enthusiasm for the game is unmatched and his importance to the sport exceeds that of a simple commentator. He has become one of the key spokesmen for the sport thanks mostly to his undoubted devotion to darts, the universal support he has from players and fans alike and his great intelligence. When asked to comment on the debate of whether darts is a true sport he opined,
“I think darts requires hand eye co-ordination and body control. If synchronised swimming, Sumo and ball-room dancing are sports, so is our game. But as the great linguistic philosopher Wittgenstein said, ‘Trying to define language is the same as trying to define sport – there are too many variable factors.’ So the question, “Is darts a sport?” is merely a linguistic puzzle. There is no logical answer.”
Waddell is above all an extraordinary character, he was born in the mining village of Alnwick, Northumberland on August 10 1940. His father was a miner at Ashington and his mother was a baker and pastry cook. Both his parents were determined that he wouldn’t end up being a pit worker so they educated him at great expense. He was sent to school at King Edward VI Grammar School, Morpeth and his parents efforts paid off when, in 1959, he got an Open Scholarship to St John’s College, Cambridge. There he studied modern history and left in 1962 with a 2:1.
Waddell got into darts when he was 15 as a way to relax during exam time and he began to take it more seriously at Cambridge, playing inter college darts. However darts was not his only sport, he also ran the 100 yards for the North of England against Scotland and received 40 caps for Northumberland at school and colts rugby.
Waddell always wanted to be famous but his first few attempts met with failure. His sixties band, The Gravy Boatmen, who sang "satirical stuff while dressed in fishermen's smocks and shades", were booed off stage after just three numbers at the first gig, in Middlesbrough. Waddell’s next effort was a novel, Bedroll Bella, a tale of the saucy adventures of a Geordie rock group. However WH Smiths and Menzies both banned it and “Lord Ted Willis told me it was shit wrapped in silver paper”.
Eventually Waddell did hit the big time, thanks to yet another medium, television. In the late 70s Waddell produced a gameshow entitled “Indoor League”. It was on ITV and Yorkshire cricketing legend Fred Trueman presented it. It was basically a series of knock out competitions of traditional pub games such as Darts, Pool, Arm Wrestling and Shove Ha’penny. Waddell began to comment on the darts and he wrote the scripts with John Meade. By 1979 the show had 7 million viewers.
Not satisfied yet Waddell went on to write Jossy’s Giants a children’s TV show about a disparate bunch of no-hopers that formed a football team led by Jossy. It featured a lack lustre cameo from Brian Robson and was otherwise not remarkable, it does however show the extraordinary versatility of Waddell.
It was in the 80s that Waddell began to seriously commentate on darts. He commentated for the BBC on the World Darts Championship (now the Embassy World Darts) from 1979 when it was first televised. In 1994 he moved to Sky Sports and has been open in his criticism of the BBC and his ex-colleagues.
"I don't miss the old days and regret BBC coverage of darts is old-fashioned. Nick Hunter (BBC Controller in the 80s) treated darts like a top sport but today’s lot do a bad job" – Sid Waddell
He slates his old commentary colleagues, accusing them of jealousy, and has very little regard for the BBC’s coverage of the Embassy, a competition that he considers to be dead anyway.
Only a year after Waddell joined Sky in 1994 he expanded his repertoire and began to comment on the 9-ball pool. He had played a fair amount previously and was interested in the game, as Waddell puts it,
“I bring the game to the general viewer” - Sid Waddell
He has moved on to other forms of pool and Ten Pin bowling
Recently Waddell has returned to the pen as he has begun writing his memoirs. Due for publication sometime in the next few years they should prove highly entertaining.
Waddell certainly does have a unique style. He WILL often emphasise WORDS at seemingly random POINTS in a sentence. According to Waddell this is because
“I put a funny stress on words 'cos I've got asthma and bad sinuses and have to rush out the bits I can get out before I run out of breath.” - Sid Waddell
It is not only his method of speech that is unusual. Thanks to his education he loves to use classical references in his commentary,
“I also bring my academic and intellectual ideas to the sport, Why not? Lord Byron was a mean billiards player and Camus played in goal for Algeria” - Sid Waddell
This leads to such gems as,
“The greatest comeback since Lazarus”
"John Lowe is striding out like Alexander the Great conquering the Persians"
“He's a true tungsten terpsichorialist”
As well as these classical references Waddell has the key ability of any great commentator, to talk amusing nonsense,
“They're burning the midnite oil at both ends”
"Keith Deller's not just an underdog, he's an underpuppy!"
Above all Waddell manages to find the perfect obscure analogy for situations,
"I don't know what he's had for breakfast but Taylor knocked the Snap, Crackle and Pop outta Bristaaaa"
When asked about what influence his style he replied,
“I inherited my “style” from my mother Martha, a vivid talker – “she called one bloke with concertina pants “arse in pockets””
Waddell is loved by the entire darts world and by anyone who has heard him commentate. He is a folk hero to Geordies and a legend of a man elsewhere. His enthusiasm is unrivalled and his skill with words is unbeatable.
The reign of Sid Waddell as king of darts commentating is not likely to end as he hopes to continue until he is 70,
"I'm 61 now. So if Murray Walker could do it 'til 73 while standing up and screaming, surely I could go on 'til I'm 70 with the occasional leap in the air."
A Remarkable Man
In 1962 when Waddell graduated from Cambridge with a 2:1 in modern history he had already achieved a remarkable feat, he had gained a degree, a 2:1 no less, from one of the greatest universities in the world whilst contemporaries followed their father into the mines.
If he had done nothing else with his life from that point on he still would have been a great achiever. However he went on to write a social history of England (Roots of England with John Miller), two novels, three children’s stories and two darts books. He produced and wrote two TV series, he introduced TV darts to the world and became the one of the most influential figures in darts for the past 20 years.
Sid Waddell is a man of education, a man of humour but above all he is a man of extraordinary talents put to even more extraordinary uses.
- "The pendulum swinging back and forth like a metronome"
- "His face is sagging with tension."
- "The fans now, with their eyes pierced on the dart board."
- "He's been burning the midnight oil at both ends."
- "Bristow reasons . . . Bristow quickens ... Aaah,Bristow."
- "They won't just have to play outta their skin to beat Phil Taylor. They'll have to play outta their essence!"
This list is just taken from an Amazon search but I think it is largely accurate.
Roots of England
John Miller, Sid Waddell
20 November, 1980
Teach Thyssen Tyke
Sid Waddell, Austin Mitchell
1 September, 1971
Book of World Darts
BBC Consumer Publishing (Books)
31 December, 1987
BBC Consumer Publishing (Books)
31 December, 1986
Austin Mitchell, Sid Waddell
BBC Consumer Publishing (Books)
6 January, 1994
1 March, 1973
13 November, 1986