John Newcombe and George Bush

“George Bush once famously described Newcombe as a ‘black-belt beer drinker,’ his son George W. had one too many with Newk on the night he was arrested for drunk-driving.” On back cover of Newk: Life on and off the court

2020: At Chrystal Bridges Museum, I study President Bush’s strikingly good paintings of veterans who fought in the Iraq war he ordered. I write him a note in the book of comments: “Thank you for your humanity, your decency.” President Bush, like Newcombe, a guy you might have a beer with. That’s why Bush beat a wooden Al Gore for the Presidency. That’s why we invaded Iraq. That’s why I held hands in protest with 60 others in front of the Cherokee County Courthouse the night before we invaded another people’s land. That’s why Wilma Mankiller, the former Chief of the Cherokee, whispered to us all: “It’s happening again.” That’s also why John Newcombe lived a fuller, richer life than Jimmy Connors, the man he beat in the 1975 Aussie Open final for his seventh and final singles grand slam. (I may be wrong about all of these things.) Connors too often alone in his room while Newcombe embraced, embodied the Aussie tradition of Hoad, Emerson, Laver, Roche: Spill your guts on the court, but be a good sport. Drink too many beers with your mates and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh. Sweat it out on the court the next day.

1975:  What I loved most about Newcombe’s victory over Connors on New Year’s Day is how he protected his weaker backhand side beneath a barrage of strategy and consistent hard serving. (Newcombe often won matches this way: mental focus, strategic acumen, huge forehands, big serves, aggressive volleying.) Observing that Connors had looked shaky smashing high lobs, Newcombe repeatedly hit high chip lobs off the backhand to keep Connors off the net. Newcombe also employed his slice backhand to hit balls low and short to Connor’s forehand, making Connors hit up and generate his own pace from an awkward position. Later that year, Arthur Ashe built on Newcombe’s strategy to upset Connors at Wimbledon. Later that year, the Vietnam War ends, its 58,000 American names waiting to be etched into Maya Lin’s black granite mirror of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I graduate from high school, forget to register for the draft.

Artist Bio: (from website at Chicane Pictures) Mark Winter is an award-winning New Zealand cartoonist, designer and film maker and his pen name, Chicane, signifies a deceptive bend. The extent to which the man himself is deceptively bendy is a matter for some head-shaking debate. Since his first ventures into cartooning, for the Otago University magazine Critic in 1976, he has refined his once-detailed style to something cleaner, sharper, and more confident, often juxtaposing visual and verbal ideas. Mark (or is it Chicane) is a former New Zealand Cartoonist of the Year, having won the QANTAS Media Award for the second time in 2008.

I would only add that Mark Winter’s wide-ranging autograph collection of tennis players–all with his own original sketches–is worth a couple of hours of anyone’s time. It also includes commentary on each player as well as a story about when and where he got each autograph. Definitely worth checking out!

For more on John Newcombe, you can visit his page at the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

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8 replies on “John Newcombe and George Bush”

Fun read. I went to Newcombe’s TbarM Tennis camp in the early ’70’s when I was 14 and I remember people talking about Newk’s beer drinking then.

I wish I had had just a few of Newks talents in 1965 when I played Connors in St. Louis. I was 15, he 13. Not the same result as Newk to say the least.

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