Matthew Norman: The Homer of darts deserves his own legacy

Without Sid Waddell, darts could never have become such a ratings banker


As if cruelly to underline that the fantasy is over and real life wearily resumed, the loudest, funniest and most lovable voice in British sport fell silent today. He died without seeing his dream of Olympic darts realised, but no sense of giddy elation the Games leave in their wake can mask the misery felt by the millions who simply adored the remarkable Sid Waddell.

As suggested by his most gleaming commentary gem – "When Alexander of Macedonia was 33, he cried salt tears because there were no more worlds to conquer. Bristow's only 27!" – Sid brought to darts an erudition and originality it possibly did not deserve. More than that, for the four decades since he introduced the game to a TV audience as producer of ITV's Indoor League, he effectively was darts.

Favourably comparing The Crafty Cockney to the conqueror of worlds, and insisting that Phil "The Power" Taylor was every inch Don Bradman's match, he proselytised arrows with such passion that you had little choice but to suspend the disbelief and accept a beery leisure pursuit as worthy of Olympic status.

To the scion of North-eastern miners who took a modern history degree at Cambridge, class distinction had no place in games. An obese former toilet handle-maker from Stoke who on the oche floats like a juggernaut and stings like a bulldozer was every inch as heroic a figure as Muhammad Ali in the ring. I once sat behind Sid in the Sky Sports commentary box as he unceasingly hopped from one leg to another. God knows how he sustained the zeal for so hypnotically repetitive a game, but the enthusiasm was as seductive as his more outlandish allusions

Without him, darts could not have become a BBC ratings banker in the early 1980s, when the undergraduate David Cameron apparently swapped Bullingdon nights for a bit of bully, or latterly on Sky. "Sen... say... shu... nell," he muttered almost to himself, audibly transported as the unforgettable 2007 world final between Taylor and Ray van Barneveld entered its final leg. So was he, the geordie Homer, forever spinning epic poetry out of shots that landed just the wrong side of the why-ah.

"There is nothing impossible to him who will try," as someone famous once said (Alexander the Great, perhaps, or possibly Eric Bristow), and so Sid Waddell proved. A voice the like of which will not be heard again achieved the impossible by transforming darts into a sport, and if the PM wishes to honour the Olympian talent he admires, he will petition the IOC for a darting berth at Rio in 2016. For the sensational Sid Waddell, no other legacy will do.

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