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Screen Break
Screen Break is back!
By Martin "thank you Gary Newbon" Kelner
Feb 27, 2016 - 4:50:50 PM

You have Gary Newbon to thank for this.   I met the sainted veteran of sports TV - heritage broadcasters we call them these days, the ones that haven't been arrested - at an awards do on Monday night.   No hard feelings, he said, over what I had written about him.

"But I don't write a column any more," I protested, "You're probably thinking of Giles Smith of the Times.   I've got his home number if you want to give him a call.   He's the kind of guy who'd welcome a free and frank exchange of views at 1 a.m."

Turns out Newbon was referring to a piece I wrote in the Guardian around ten years ago, where I poked mild fun at a programme he presented called You're On Sky Sports, now thankfully consigned to the dustbin of history.   It was a phone-in show, allowing people of very little intelligence to call in - I think it might have been some kind of Care in the Community scheme to keep them off the streets - with their moronic views on football.

There was no match footage and little in the way of graphics, so the camera was pretty well permanently on Gary, as he tried to feign interest in whatever these meatheads were dribbling on about. 

I can't remember exactly what I wrote at the time, and I do not intend to consult the Guardian archive - it only encourages them - but I may have suggested that though Gary might be a seasoned sports broadcaster with an enviable contacts book, he is not a trained actor, and while he nodded sagely and smiled encouragingly, his eyes were saying, 'These morons don't need a 'phone-in show, they need stronger medication."

Anyway, Gary assured me that whatever it was I wrote at the time didn't bother him (which, in performer-meets-critic speak, translates as: "What you wrote at the time really really pissed me off, and I seriously considered tracking you down and taking a butchers' knife to your gonads.").

But time's a great healer, so we enjoyed a little chit-chat, he told me a few stories about the old days which I've forgotten, and we parted company, each with fully intact genitalia (in fairness, I have no specialist knowledge regarding his, but I like to give the benefit of the doubt).

In the queue for the coats, though, I had a light-bulb moment.   Not one of those light bulbs that flashes straight on, often accompanied by a dinging sound in cartoons, but one of those ecologically sound, politically correct, pain-in-the-arse, slow-burning bulbs where, if you're hoping to read a book by it in the evening, it's as well to switch on mid-afternoon. 

Gary, I brooded, as I attempted to extricate my ticket from a pocketful of wet change, the curse of the drinking man, was the fourth person that evening to remind me of something I had written in Screen Break or its later incarnation in the Racing Post.   So I wondered - and I wondered so hard I forgot to pick up my scarf - if anyone would be the slightest bit interested were I to resume the column, possibly with a few different jokes (think of that, by the way, as more of an aspiration, than a pledge).

Eventually, I am assured by my friend, technology genius Guy Harris, these columns, provided I can be arsed to write them, will be available as an app, a Twitter link, an Android something or other, a Facebook feed, and in the fullness of time no doubt, a takeaway Chinese meal.   Until then, please support me on my clunky old venerable web site and, if you have any, tell your friends.

I figure 800 words, which was about the length of the Guardian and Racing Post columns, is about as much as you would want to read on here, so I'm going to be quite disciplined in that area, which leaves just over a hundred words for my impressions of the match I have just been watching, West Ham v Sunderland on BT Sport.

It's not a match that will live long in the memory.   In fact, I was beginning to forget it while it was still being played.   I enjoyed the work of commentator Ian Darke, though, for no other reason than that he's an old bugger like me. 

Example: discussing a Kone effort that went in the net against Manchester United but was later ruled as an own goal, he said: "His goal was ruled out by the dubious goals panel, or whatever they call themselves these days.   They've changed the name, but I don't know what it is.   Who are the dubious goals panel anyway?"

Briefly, he reminded me of some old colonial at the nineteenth hole: "Yes, I was in Rhodesia for a while in the fifties.   You have to call it Zimbabwe these days, I'm told."  And as for those new light bulbs they've brought in…….    

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