Sid Waddell, the voice of darts, dies of cancer at 72

Cambridge-educated author and all-round sportsman had a way with words that few could match, reports Jonathan Brown

He was the master of hyperbole whose infectious enthusiasm made him as popular with darts fans watching at home as he was with the professionals on the oche. Sid Waddell, the Cambridge-educated Geordie voice of the sport, has died aged 72 (treble 16, double 12).

His death was announced by his manager, Dick Allix. "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," he said. Sid had been suffering from bowel cancer.

The world of darts queued up to pay their respects to the polymath who combined a successful writing career with his broadcasting commitments and helped elevate the public bar pursuit to cult entertainment.

Among them was Eric Bristow, of whom he once said: "When Alexander of Macedonia was 33, he cried salt tears because there were no more worlds to conquer – Bristow's only 27."

The five-time world champion, known as the Crafty Cockney, said: "Sid was top dog, wasn't he? He's not going to be replaced. He was a one-off." Fellow Sky Sports commentator Dave Clark said the sport would never be the same, describing Waddell as a "genius of the microphone" who had "the intellect of Einstein".

Classic Waddellisms include: "His eyes are bulging like the belly of a hungry chaffinch", "Even Hypotenuse would have trouble working out these angles" and "If we'd had Phil Taylor at Hastings against the Normans, they'd have gone home."

Born into a Northumberland mining family, Waddell was an all-round sportsmen but excelled at what was then the 100-yard dash, clocking up times of just over 10 seconds.

He was also a talented winger at rugby. Before reading history at St Johns, Cambridge – where he represented the university at darts – he worked on the buses. Later, while undertaking postgraduate research in Sociology at Durham University, he was briefly famous as the singer with a band called the Steaming Hot Gravy Boatmen.

He swapped academia to work in regional television in its heyday, alongside Michael Parkinson and Russell Harty, devising the cricket programme Indoor League for Yorkshire Television, presented by Fred Trueman. He also wrote the popular 1980s children's series Jossy's Giants.

But it was for his work behind the microphone, commentating on darts first for the BBC in 1976 and then Sky in the early 1990s, that he was best known. His catchphrase, "There's only one word for it – magic darts," was just one among many he deployed to evoke the gladiatorial excitement of the discipline he loved. Others included: "This lad has got more checkouts than Tescos" and "William Tell could take an apple off your head – [Phil] Taylor could take out a processed pea".

When the atmosphere became particularly animated he would remark: "We couldn't have more excitement if Elvis walked in and asked for a chip sandwich."

In one …Sid's sayings

"I don't know what he's had for breakfast but Taylor knocked the Snap, Crackle and Pop outta Bristow."

"He looks about as happy as a penguin in a microwave."

"When Alexander of Macedonia was 33, he cried salt tears because there were no more worlds to conquer… Bristow's only 27."

"Look at the man go. It's like trying to stop a water buffalo with a pea-shooter."

"This lad has more checkouts than Tescos."

"This game of darts is twisting like a rattlesnake with a hernia!"

"There's only one word for that: magic darts!"

"The atmosphere is so tense, if Elvis walked in with a portion of chips … you could hear the vinegar sizzle on them."

"Bristow reasons … Bristow quickens ... aaah, Bristow.

"That was like throwing three pickled onions into a thimble!"

"There hasn't been this much excitement since the Romans fed the Christians to the Lions."

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