Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

There's Only One Word for Waddell: Just Magic

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

There's Only One Word for Waddell: Just Magic

Article excerpt


SID WADDELL had just emerged from the darkest recesses of the Sky commentary box, his face flushed pink. If he had cared to describe himself at that moment, he would doubtless have conceded that he was as discombobulated as a flummoxed flamingo.

"The best darts I've ever seen," he barked at me while admitting that the magnificence of Phil Taylor's performance in his second-round match of the Skol World Championship had left him, unthinkably, almost lost for words.

In the box, he had been hardly able to splutter anything but "FEEENOM-ENAAL!"

Mind you, the Bard of the Oche had not been too tongue-tied to offer the odd pearl. As Taylor, the Don Bradman of darts, had dispatched his umpteenth 180, Sid had exclaimed: "If we'd had him at Hastings against the Normans, they'd have gan hoom."

Then, pondering how anyone might beat the nine-times champ, he mused: "They won't just have to play outta their skin. They'll have to play outta their ESSENCE!"

Just perfect, as always. And quite as perfect was to discover the surreal reality that, away from the mike, the great man really does disappear off into the same frenetic flights of verbal fancy. No bull.

Frankly, I didn't believe this was possible, having watched a first round match between John Part and Mick Manning only to marvel at how Sid still somehow managed to summon up Captain Bligh, Brendan Foster, Hannibal Lecter, Sir Walter Scott, St Thomas Aquinas and Lee Van Cleef to help him spruce up the thoroughly unremarkable action.

Yet in a 40-minute interview, he chucked in Wittgenstein, Lulu, Gazza, Martin Amis, The Animals, Gray's Elegy and alliterative Norse poetry without pausing to check his doubles. Oh, and then there were the Chica Indians.

"I've just been reading this book 'The Rivers Ran East' by this guy Leonard Clark, who travels up the Amazon and discovers this tribe, the Chica, who have no written language 'cos they only talk and think in pictures and images," he warbled. "Me, I think I might be an honorary member."

If Clark had travelled up the Tyne, he would have found a bloke who paints word pictures which might enliven, say, an outside broadcast of clay pigeon shooting.

Er, in fact, Sid does exactly that when he swops tungsten for the traps in another commentating role for Sky. "Only one word for that . . . magic pigeon droppin'," you can hear him cry.

Which reminds me. Sid yesterday confessed that he nicked the kudos for the fabled "only one word for that . . . magic darts" line from another unnamed commentator.

"Oh, I'm gonna claim it, though," he grinned. "We all steal each other's phrases." Indeed, his admiring old buddy in the brilliant if barmy Sky commentary team, Dave Lanning, calls him "The Thief of Bad Gags".

Of course, there are two rival world darts championships, but only one has Taylor, Waddell and preposterous puns.

Down here at Purfleet's Circus Tavern, for what Waddell hails as the PDC's annual "cornucopia of metallic magnificence", you cannot help thinking as you spy his lopsided Artful Dodger grin and hear those strangled vowels that when the Beeb and Embassy saw him decamp to the glitzy theatre of Sky, they lost their crown jewel.

After all, you can see from the punters after his autograph at the Circus that he is still more celebrated than most of the players.

That unique brand of combining intellectual references and classic working-class images, somehow coming up with Botticelli 'n' Bristow 'n' butties, makes him fairly irresistible to a broad spectrum. He has mastered the trick of being one of the lads while actually being a one-off.

"I always wanted to be famous at summat," he explained, tracing his colourful life and times. …

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