In Memoriam: Mike Newell (1945-2011)

He was Iowa’s best-dressed sportscaster. He was the King of the Quips.  He was Mike Newell.

You may know Mike by voice only.  He was a WHO Radio sportscaster, creator and host of its “Sound Off” program.  Amidst the fans who called in to either celebrate or commiserate about the outcome of the latest Hawkeye game, Newell and his network of call-in correspondents (some of whom were the coaches involved in the games) would give you the latest scores. It was like getting the most up-to-date scores on your smart phone, nearly two decades before there were smart phones.

To a “Sound Off” caller who was complaining about Hawkeye coach Hayden Fry’s play-calling — after a victory, mind you — Newell put it this way: “That guy would complain about the chip dip at an orgy.”

Mike had flair on the air.  He did play-by-play of the University of Iowa women’s basketball team and, when a referee’s call seemed to be out of bounds, so to speak, Newell would sometimes quip: “Give me a drag of what he’s been smoking.”

His articulation of phrases like “that was a knock on the noggin” and “sometimes you get the fuzzy end of the lollipop” made his on-air work vivid and colorful for the listener.

Folks, I can assure you he was just as vivid and colorful in person.  Mike was the man at the helm of Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program for the past two decades.  Armed with his phone and trusty typewriter, Mike was the coordinating producer for Iowa Press, making the arrangements for guests, crew, scripts and even coffee.

We always knew tape-time was imminent after Newell said, “Let’s make some show business here, folks.” I will miss his, “Well, young lady, how are you?” greeting on Fridays — the traditional tape-day for the weekly Iowa Press program — and his parting, “We’ll be in touch” as I left the building.

Mike has left us too soon, but the memory of him remains strong in the minds and hearts of those of us who knew and loved him. Godspeed.

Here is the written tribute to Mike posted on Iowa Public Television’s website. Here is The Des Moines Register‘s story about Mike’s passing.  UPDATE:  Here is a video tribute produced by Mike’s friends and colleagues at Iowa Public Television.