The game itself has changed very little since starting out as a crusty pub favourite over a century ago and yet, despite beginning life with a less than glamorous image, darts has become one of the world’s fastest-growing sports, drawing in the huge crowds that help to create those unique atmospheres we have become familiar with.
Today’s players are household names who have all made big money and the film charts this rise, both before and after the crucial split between the PDC and BDO. Stars that have played either side of the great divide, names like Eric Bristow, Bobby George and Michael van Gerwen, all talk openly in the film which is available for digital download now.
One name sadly missing from the documentary, though, is a man without whose input none of the above would have happened.
Side Waddell: the Voice Of Darts
Sid Waddell was born the son of a miner in Alnwick, north of Newcastle in 1940. When Sid died, almost 72 years to the day after his birth, tributes came in thick and fast on social media from the likes of TV personality Stephen Fry, politician John Prescott and footballer Wayne Rooney – all with good reason too.
Fortunately, academia’s loss was darts’ gain as intelligence and working class wit fused together to give darts a powerful driving force on its rise to the top.
There’s no business like…
Next up for Sid was show business. Working as scriptwriter, he created the classic kids football show Jossy’s Giants and, as a TV producer, even began making documentaries for Iranian TV. Then, in 1972, he came up with the idea that would lead him down the path for which we remember him so well: The Indoor League.
Produced by Yorkshire Television, the show was hosted by Yorkshire and England fast bowler ‘Fiery’ Fred Trueman, pint of bitter in hand, and featured pub classics shove ha’penny, arm-wrestling, billiards and, critically for Sid, darts.
The rise of televised darts
Not long after, the BBC wanted to begin pushing darts and, against popular opinion, drafted in Sid as their star voice, providing him with the chance to became one of the commentators on the first World Professional Darts Championship in 1978.
His career was launched and viewers soon began to follow. This was his life for the rest of his days, wheeling out classic quotes en masse in the most Geordie of tongues, long after the PDC–BDO civil war of the early 1990s and subsequent Sky Sports boom.
Among all the iconic sports commentators that have dominated coverage of their game down the years, few, if any, can boast like Sid Waddell what a difference their input made to their sport. During his reign, he played a huge role in its transformation from an unfashionable and unloved pub game that many people wouldn’t even have classed as sport, to the international brand it has developed into today, as celebrated in the new documentary.
Like all the finest broadcasters, Sid Waddell’s darts commentaries were about his game, but also about much more than that too. He left us four years ago but his legacy lives on as does the memory of some of his zinging one liners.
Top Sid Waddell Quotes
- “Look at the man go! It’s like trying to stop a water buffalo with a peashooter.”
- “Deller’s not the underdog – he’s the underpuppy.”
- “William Tell could take an apple off your head, Taylor could take out a processed pea.”
- “If we’d had Phil Taylor at Hastings against the Normans, they’d have gone home.”
- “He looks about as happy as a penguin in a microwave.”
- “Keith Deller is like Long John Silver – he’s badly in need of another leg.”
- “You could hear a blob of vinegar drop on a chip in this hall.”
- “There’s only one word for it – magic darts.”
- “They’re sweating like a pair of giraffes coming up to a mirage water hole.”
- “He’s about as predictable as a wasp on speed.”
- “That could have landed on the pupil of a fly’s eyeball.”
- “This game of darts is twisting like a rattlesnake with a hernia!”