My Mentor: Sid Waddell on John Madden

'He sounds just like one of the lads and he's not scared to rub the coaches up the wrong way'

The first time I heard John Madden's wild voice was about 15 years ago. He sounded like a bloke who'd had a couple of pints, a few hot dogs, was full of his own opinion and had grabbed the microphone.

I've been going to the States once or twice a year since 1980 because my wife's sister is married to an American and I watch a lot of American football and baseball out there. I had never heard anything about Madden until I heard his voice, but he has inspired me.

He sticks out because he sounds like a redneck and has made no attempt to change. I come from the enthusiastic school of commentating, and I don't understand this English understatement in cricket or rugby; I've always gone for the opposite. Madden even sounds a bit like me when I get excited and my voice goes high-pitched.

He sounds just like one of the lads and he's not scared to rub some of the famous coaches up the wrong way by saying what he really thinks.

Over the years he has been a successful coach and he actually made up the standard ways of describing the play. Where other guys trot out these aphorisms and generalisations, he has coached the sides that use these techniques. When he picks up the pen and starts squiggling on the screen with his "telestrator", not only is he talking about stuff he has implemented himself, he gets through to me what it looks like if 15 guys with an average weight of 300lbs are knocking the hell out of each other.

I found out that he had gone to a Willie Nelson concert and was called up to sing "Amazing Grace" in front of 30,000 people and he went up there even though he didn't know the words. I did the same in Blackpool about six years ago at a big championship and it's exactly the sort of over-the-topness I like about Madden. When the anoraks are there with their statistics, Madden's making hot dogs for the fans before the game.



Sid Waddell will be commenting on tonight's World Darts Championship for Sky Sports, and celebrating 30 years in the business. John Madden is a National Football League commentator for NBC.

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