Wonderful Waddell, outrageous singer of arrows

SPORT ON TV
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The Independent Online
This may sound a trifle paranoid, but can the position of the PDC World Darts Championship in the sporting calendar really be nothing more than coincidence? Think about it. Those cheques you wrote on Christmas Eve are heading for the bank manager's desk with all the gritty determination of homing pigeons. The cashpoint sniggers audibly when you ask for a fiver. As you cast around for some urgent economies, the monthly subscription to Sky Sports starts to look like a wild extravagance.

And then the big men arrive at the oche, and in their wake, one Sidney Waddell Esq. You pull the curtains, sink into the sofa and allow a stream of Sid to wash over your head. Forget football, cricket, rugby and the rest. This is why you had that wretched dish bolted to the wall in the first place.

So what if Waddell's treacle-thick Geordie accent makes half of what he says unintelligible. The obvious solution is to video every single minute when Sid is behind the microphone, and keep rewinding and playing into the wee small hours until all becomes clear.

A mite obsessive, you say? Nonsense. It would be far worse, surely, to wonder what masterpieces of the commentator's art had vanished into the ether when you were doing something less important, like actually watching the darts. Or wondering whether it is actually compulsory, now that the players are banned from smoking on stage, for their wives and girlfriends in the audience to puff away twice as fast to compensate.

Consider, for instance, some of the wild Waddellisms during Tuesday's meeting between Jamie Harvey and Gerald Verrier. Not even the most dedicated fan of darts would claim it was a classic, but while a bad football match is a bad football match no matter who is commentating, a dull encounter at the oche is always worth watching so long as Sid is there to talk you through it.

In the space of 10 minutes, Harvey was described as "a man full of joie de vivre, and occasionally Isle of Islay single malt", and his grand march to the stage compared to "Robert the Bruce heading up the heather on haggis- eating night."

Then there was this, on divining the finer points of a match: "Occasionally it's like sending David Attenborough down to a funny planet to see things like... like giant life forms like mastodons and great elephants. Other times it's lepidoptera, it's like looking at small insects." And a moment later, the pace of the game was "a bit like them bike races where the lads wear funny hats and there's no spokes on the wheels. They go round like tortoises, and then suddenly go ballistic, and I mean ballistic, as in Einstein and Newton and the rest of them cats."

Now that's class. No, not class, royalty, especially when it is belted out in a voice which forever tiptoes along the window ledge of hysteria. It is just a pity that Waddell has rarely had a chance to expand his range, although Sky did have the bright idea of drafting him in for the Mosconi Cup Nine-Ball Pool tournament just before Christmas. He was, inevitably, the best thing about it.

But the big events of the sporting year have yet to be subjected to a dose of Sid, which must be one of the greatest oversights of modern broadcasting. Imagine what those reverberating vowels and insanely eclectic references would do for the final round of the Open golf, or better still, the men's final at Wimbledon, which is in desperate need of a little excitement. As Pete Sampras prepares to serve out for yet another championship, Waddell could bellow, as he did when John Lowe wilted against Phil Taylor on Wednesday evening: "I hear the rattle of a tumbril. They're oiling the guillotine. And Madame Defarges has put down her knitting."

Wednesday was a busy night for sport, in fact, what with the 50th anniversary edition of Come Dancing over on BBC1. Now you, I and everyone else may insist that ballroom dancing is a pastime rather than a sport, but since the International Olympic Committee, no less, have decided that it deserves a place at the next Games in Sydney, it seemed worth a second glance.

And there is marvellous news from the dance floor. At the end of the programme, the British team emerged victorious, having beaten a side representing not just France, Germany or Brazil, or even Europe, but The Rest of the World. Which must mean that our boys and girls are absolute certainties in Australia next year.

Unless, of course, in true British style, they find some way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. A snapped stiletto, perhaps, or a rogue sidestep when it was supposed to be forward, back, together.

They would do well to keep their feet on the floor and remember another pearl from the Waddell Book of Wisdom. In dancing as in darts, after all, "the most important muscle is the one between your lugs."

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