After seven years as SJA chairman, on Monday night, Barry Newcombe unveiled a hidden secret, writes RANDALL NORTHAM
We’ve got used to Barry Newcombe as chairman of the Sports Journalists’ Association.
He’s held that position longer than anyone else – seven whole years – and I’ve worked alongside him as treasurer for four of them. But it wasn’t until Monday night at the British Sports Journalism Awards that I realised he could have had another career as a stand up comedian. He’s certainly never given that impression when chairing the committee meetings.
Our awards are bound to be a little incestuous, especially as the print part of the trade shrinks as sports desks get smaller and staff are jettisoned.
One award at Monday’s hugely successful night (as chairman of the sub-committee that organises them I didn’t have to field a single complaint) was more incestuous than most because the officers, that’s deputy chairman David Walker, secretary Steven Downes, Newc’s predecessor Peter Wilson and me, decided to give the Doug Gardner Award for services to sports journalism and the SJA to Barry now that he is standing down.
David did a gallant, and hilarious, job making the case for Newcombe to receive an honour that in recent times has been given to Hugh McIlvanney and Patrick Eagar. And it was heartening to witness the affectionate standing ovation, equal to that afforded to Hughie and Patrick, when our chairman was called on to the stage.
Barry recalled how it started in 2000 when he was asked to be Olympic attaché and was sent to Sydney to check out the facilities – “give me an airplane ticket and a hotel room and I’ll go anywhere,” he admitted to the 400 colleagues and friends at the Grand Connaught Rooms in London’s Covent Garden.
After a couple of days he visited the hotel’s bar to salute the former Mirror – and briefly The Sun‘s – cricket writer Chris “Crash” Lander, whose funeral was taking place in Wales as Barry was in the bar of his Sydney hotel.
“I raised my glass of red in Chris’s memory when I felt a tap on my shoulder,” Newcombe said. “I turned and saw an Australian man I didn’t recognise.
“‘I don’t know you,’ I said.”
Then with perfect timing came the punchline… “’I know you don’t’, he said. ‘But would you like to dance?’”
- For the full list of the 2012 SJA British Sports Journalism Awards winners and commended entries, visit this page
- For the list of past winners, visit this page
- Paul Hayward: Let’s celebrate the reporters
- For a sample gallery of some more of the outstanding entries for this year’s SJA British Sports Photography Awards, click here