Dabbler Heroes: Sid Waddell


For years hence there will be gnarled Geordies huddled over schooners of broon and Red Bull, claiming they were there in the auditorium when Sid Waddell uttered the immortal phrase: His eyes are bulging like the belly of a hungry chaffinch.*

And their wide-eyed children’s children will be perched on their knees, demanding that Grandpa once again tell the story of how Waddell came to say: That was like throwing three pickled onions into a thimble!

Nobody has said more great things than Sid Waddell, nobody! Not even Shakespeare. Actually that’s just the sort of thing that Sid Waddell would say, only he’d put it something like: “Sid Waddell’s got so many one-liners that even Shakespeare in his pomp would run a mile in high heels rather than face him in a quip-off.”

Martin Amis once argued that it was the universe’s sick joke that Shakespeare, literature’s greatest genius, should have been a playwright, since writing plays is the most primitive of the scribe’s art forms (having to worry about just dialogue and plot, the easiest bits of novel-writing). How much sicker a joke then, that Sid Waddell should have given his gifts to darts commentary. But what gifts they are!

This is the man who said of the pictured arrow-thrower, Jocky Wilson…What an athlete. This is a man not afraid to claim that Darts players are probably a lot fitter than most footballers in overall body strength. (Though he has realistic insights into these athletes’ training methods: Big Cliff Lazarenko’s idea of exercise is sitting in a room with the windows open taking the lid off something cool and fizzy.)

Sure he could do the straight-up gag (There’s only one word for that – magic darts! or Keith Deller’s not just an underdog, he’s an under-puppy!) but Waddell is incapable of cliché: his similes enter your brain, leave the merest trace of sense, then depart. His metaphors thrill and bewilder: His physiognomy is that of a weeping Madonna. Or His face is sagging with tension. Or Under that heart of stone beat muscles of pure flint. Or yet,  He’s like D’Artagnan at the scissor factory.

Like Dr Dolittle, Waddell has mastered the animal kingdom: He’s about as predictable as a wasp on speed; It’s like trying to pin down a kangaroo on a trampoline; and He looks about as happy as a penguin in a microwave.

Then there are the ones that come from nowhere, or from Waddell’s own unique metaphysics: Even Hypotenuse would have trouble working out these angles; or (a favourite of mine) They won’t just have to play outta their skin to beat Phil Taylor. They’ll have to play outta their essence!

He is not necessarily given to understatement, however. There hasn’t been this much excitement since the Romans fed the Christians to the Lions; If we’d had Phil Taylor at Hastings against the Normans, they’d have gone home; Steve Beaton, he’s not Adonis, he’s THE donis.

Debate about which is the single greatest ever Waddellism is fierce, for there is much competition. Many plump for the hungry chaffinch. But there’s an awful strong case for: When Alexander of Macedonia was 33, he cried salt tears because there were no more worlds to conquer… Eric Bristow’s only 27.

We’re entering the realms of exceptional genius here. Who could argue with: The atmosphere is so tense, if Elvis walked in, with a portion of chips…you could hear the vinegar sizzle on them!

But I think that my choice, for its sheer elegance of construction, for its exquisite truth in miniature, must be the undeniable: The pendulum is swinging back and forth like a metronome.

There’s only one word for that: magic commentary.

*correctly pronounced ‘His aysa boolgin’ lake tha belly oova hoongry chaffunch’
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9 thoughts on “Dabbler Heroes: Sid Waddell

  1. jgslang@gmail.com'
    January 28, 2011 at 15:19

    A god. But if only he used slang,. I yearn to cite him.

  2. Brit
    January 28, 2011 at 15:31

    Wouldn’t “he’s about as happy as a penguin in a microwave” count as slang for ‘miserable’? Does it count if only one person has said it?

    I’d love to know what ‘he’s like D’Artagnan at the scissor factory’ means…it sounds vaguely like it could refer to slangy business.

  3. johngjobling@googlemail.com'
    January 28, 2011 at 15:54

    Well Jonathan, Sid, a miners son and therefore born pitmatic would say ‘hadaway and shite’, derived from the name of a solicitors in Blyth and the cause of many a fine misunderstanding.
    Sid the wordsmith of course one of the two most famous pupils from King Edward’s School in Morpeth.

  4. finalcurtain@gmail.com'
    January 29, 2011 at 07:51

    Sometimes, reading this blog is like being present at the birth of speech

    • Brit
      January 30, 2011 at 07:51

      Can we use that in our marketing literature, Mahlerman?

  5. fchantree@yahoo.co.uk'
    Gadjo Dilo
    January 29, 2011 at 08:21

    Incredible! While being impressed at the sheer Britishness of televising darts, I’d never really bothered watching it much. Reading this is like realising that it wasn’t so smart to spend English GCSE classes smoking and sneering in the bikesheds after all.

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