ANTON RIPPON travelled down from Derby to attend last night’s BT Sport-sponsored SJA British Sports Journalism Awards. Here’s the view from Table No7
Comedy is subjective. What makes one person cry with laughter will leave another stony-faced. So the organising committee was taking a risk by engaging the services of a stand-up comedian for the SJA’s 38th annual British Sports Journalism Awards.
While “English socialist columnist, author and comedian” Mark Steel had some good material, he also had to bark “It’s a joke!” too many times to a go-on-then-make-me-laugh audience at the gala event.
I love observational comedy, and Steel is no Al Read. Now, if only he could have reincarnated the Salford sausage-maker-turned-radio-comedy-king’s football sketch – “Offside? Offside? Tuppenny bus ride offside”. But that is just an old git’s view.
It was a wonderful evening at London’s Grand Connaught Rooms as our “crazy profession” – as more than one award recipient described it – honoured its own.
First, it was a wise move to spread more than 20 awards over the courses of the meal. Otherwise there would have been a very long procession for John Inverdale to introduce following the coffee and mints.
Particular highlights? Well, when Sybil Ruscoe did the table interviews she found former Arsenal and England defender Tony Adams his usual upfront self when it came to his alcoholism. Then again, Adams is looking for someone to edit the book on which he is currently working (30,000 words already in the can, if you are interested).
There was a telling insight from the Telegraph’s Mark Ogden, who lifted the Sports Scoop award for his “Fergie to retire” story. Ogden was honest enough to admit that while he felt sure he was on to something, in the end he took a punt and held his breath. That is so often how it is in this business.
I also liked the self-effacing Jon Colman’s answer to the question of whether he had ever been tempted to leave Cumbrian Newspapers for the bright lights of London, Manchester, or even Birmingham. It appears that the Regional award-winner has no such desire, not least because “the beer is a lot cheaper in Carlisle”.
I was particularly pleased that Matthew Syed lifted two awards – Sports Columnist and Sports Feature Writer – not only because I am a great admirer of his work but also because he once gave a very flattering review to a book of mine (“I’ve always thought that Syed has great taste,” I say whenever he comes on Sky News to review the papers).
All in all, it was well worth the train fare from Derby, where – like Jon Colman in Carlisle – I have chosen to spend all my life so far. My own brush with Fleet Street came in the late 1970s and early 1980s when I covered football in the Midlands and North for the Sunday Telegraph. Some of the names present at the Grand Connaught Rooms were just that – only names, by-lines in national newspapers, giants of our game who I came across only briefly (I was usually sent to Coventry, not Old Trafford).
One such name present was Jeff Powell, who ignored a request to keep it short and instead gave a tribute to some of those who had helped him along the road to receiving the SJA’s highest honour, the Doug Gardner Award. It was right that he did.
Come to think of it, there was one other downer on an almost flawless occasion – our table ran out of red. I proposed a toast to absent friends to include the wine waiter, but it fell on deaf ears.
It’s a joke …
- The winners from the SJA Sports Journalism Awards, sponsored by BT Sport, is here
- A gallery of some of the leading pictures in our competitions can be found here
- Interested in joining the SJA? Click here for more details
UPCOMING SJA EVENTS
Thu Apr 3: Media lunch with boxer George Groves, The Driver, Kings Cross. Booking details here here
Thu Apr 10: SJA annual meeting, Old Cock Tavern, Fleet Street
Mon Apr 14: SJA Spring Golf Day: Croham Hurst GC, Surrey. Booking details to be announced