Brian Viner: No trainers but lots of fun – that's arrers at the Palace

The Last Word

Share
Related Topics

On Tuesday I took my two sons to the world darts championship at Alexandra Palace, hardly expecting one of them to make history. We had tickets entitling us to go into the players' lounge, which in truth is just a big shabby room deep in the building's bowels, but as we made our way there an enormous bouncer blocked our way.

"Can't go in there with trainers on," he said, gesturing to the footwear of Joe, 14, and Jacob, 11. They were perfectly respectable trainers, and both boys were otherwise smartly dressed. Elsewhere in the great arena, there was one man dressed as an oompa-loompa, and another in a nun's habit, and it occurred to me that my boys had pulled off the rare trick of failing the dress code at a darts tournament. And then, when I bought Joe a pint of weak lager shandy, about an eighth lager to seven-eighths lemonade, he bagged a surely unprecedented double: not only failing the dress code at a darts tournament, but also falling foul of the drinking regulations. As all around us well-oiled men, and not a few women, roared their support for the players at the oche, another bouncer swooped. "You can't be drinking that, mate," he growled at Joe. "No chance."

Despite these brushes with authority, both boys loved their afternoon at the darts, and indeed it would have been hard not to: the joint was jumping. And nowhere was it jumping more than in the tiny Sky Sports commentary box, where Sid Waddell and Dave Lanning – "the Statler and Waldorf of sports broadcasting," according to Lanning – imbued the match between Simon "the Wizard" Whitlock and Wayne "The Wanderer" Jones with a degree of excitement and enthusiasm that wouldn't have been out of place had it been a World Cup final penalty shoot-out unfolding in the Maracana, rather than a second-round match in the arrers at Ally Pally.

I suppose that's the secret of darts coverage; building up a frenzy around an essentially static encounter between two men who wouldn't be mistaken for highly-tuned athletes even by Mr Magoo in a dark alley with a bag over his head, if I might borrow the kind of imagery routinely invoked by the irrepressible Waddell. My friends at Sky Sports had done a Jimmy Savile and fixed it for me to squeeze into the commentary box between Waddell and Lanning, assuring me that it would be an experience I would not quickly forget.

They were right. For starters, I was there for Waddell's extraordinary vocal warm-up exercises, and if you can imagine Tibetan monks chanting at the same time as Swiss goatherds yodelling, then you've more or less got the picture, or at any rate the sound. On which subject, Lanning told me that he first commentated on televised darts at the 1972 News of the World Championship, also at Ally Pally, for ITV's late, lamented Saturday afternoon show World of Sport. The anchorman was Eamonn Andrews, who calmed his nerves by telling him that he had to imagine he was talking to only two people, and that he was a guest in their home. It is advice that some present-day commentators would do well to absorb, and it continues to serve Lanning well; he is a calm presence at Waddell's twitching shoulder, dropping in the stats (I can tell you that from 170 downwards on a dart board, there are no fewer than 83,000 finishing permutations) while the skittish Geordie bard supplies the marvellous turns of phrase and flights of fancy.

On Tuesday they included a classic, one that ranks alongside some of the treasured Waddell quotes such as the one about his "eyes bulging like the belly of a hungry chaffinch" and "even Hypotenuse would have trouble working out these angles" and "when Alexander of Macedonia was 33, he cried salt tears because there were no more worlds to conquer ... Bristow's only 27." In the first leg, as the camera zoomed in on Whitlock, the Aussie nicknamed "the Wizard" because of his flamboyant goatee beard and extravagant pony tail, Waddell half-rose out of his seat. "The Wizard," he cried. "Looks like the fourth member of ZZ Top." Whitlock let loose his darts. Clearly, he was in form. Waddell's voice rose and quickened. "And now," he added, "we might see some ZZ double tops." There was only one word for it: magic commentary.

Sid Waddell is commentating for Sky Sports during its live and HD coverage of the Ladbrokes.com World Darts Championship

Mancini covers himself in glory

Italian football men owe English football men a great deal, going back even further than 1903, when a consignment of Notts County shirts arrived for the players of Juventus, whose pink tops kept fading in the wash. It could be, however, that 2010 is the year when the debt is finally and fully repaid.

Not so much because Fabio Capello might lead England to World Cup glory, but because the new manager of Manchester City, with each public outing, is turning the football scarf – for so many years a symbol of working-class tribalism – into a fabulous style accessory. Wherever you stand on the ethics of City appointing Roberto Mancini before Mark Hughes had even reached the revolving door, you have to admire the way he wears that scarf.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Co-Ordinator - FF&E

£35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior FF&E Project Co-ordinator is re...

Recruitment Genius: Part Time Carer / Support Worker plus Bank Support

£10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A delightful, 11 year old boy who lives in t...

Recruitment Genius: Office Furniture Installer / Driver

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Furniture Installer /...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager - North West - OTE £40k

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I Were Prime Minister: Every civil servant would be held accountable by their own civilian 'buddy'

Julia Hobsbawm
Björt Ólafsdóttir is a member of Iceland's Bright Future party  

I might be an MP, but that doesn't stop me fighting sexism with my breasts

Björt Ólafsdóttir
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor