Former B.A.R. columnist receives Waddell award

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Wednesday October 25, 2023
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Dr. Tom Waddell Award recipient Roger Brigham, right, joined Australian wrestler Tony Galluzzo in Brigham's garden in Oakland. Brigham will be coaching Galluzzo at the upcoming Gay Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. Photo: Courtesy Roger Brigham
Dr. Tom Waddell Award recipient Roger Brigham, right, joined Australian wrestler Tony Galluzzo in Brigham's garden in Oakland. Brigham will be coaching Galluzzo at the upcoming Gay Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. Photo: Courtesy Roger Brigham

Roger Brigham, the Bay Area Reporter's former sports columnist, is one of the recipients of the Dr. Tom Waddell Award from the Federation of Gay Games.

Brigham, a gay man, received the honor in recognition of his significant service and commitment to LGBTQ+ sport and culture, a news release from FGG stated.

Emy Ritt, a lesbian and former longtime FGG board member who lives in Paris, France, also received a Waddell award, which the FGG gives to two people of different genders, according to the release.

Both were selected from a group of six nominees.

The next Gay Games is slated to be held simultaneously in Hong Kong and Guadalajara, Mexico beginning November 4.

Ritt stated she was honored to receive the award.

"Being associated in any way with Dr. Tom Waddell is an honor and a privilege that is a bit overwhelming and surreal for which I am very grateful," she stated.

In a phone interview, Brigham, 70, who lives in Oakland, said he would be traveling to Guadalajara to accept his award. He'll also be coaching the Australian wrestlers.

"It's one of the most memorable awards I've received," Brigham said, comparing it to when he was inducted into the National LGBT Sports Hall of Fame in 2015. And he was appreciative of receiving the award from the federation even as he has not always agreed with its decisions, as he had written about over the years in his Jock Talk column for the B.A.R.

In addition to his column and FGG, Brigham was a longtime member of Golden Gate Wrestling and Wrestlers WithOut Borders.

"I'm very pro Gay Games but critical of things they considered," he said, adding that he believed his role as a columnist for one of the country's leading LGBTQ publications was to "hold people accountable."

"I respect the federation a lot for recognizing my contributions even though there were disagreements," he said.

Brigham was elected as FGG's officer of communications in 2004. He said that he was reelected in absentia in 2005 against his wishes and resigned within a couple of months. He became the sports columnist for the B.A.R. in January 2007. He retired the column in January 2022.

Prior to his B.A.R. column, Brigham had a storied career at mainstream daily newspapers. He started work in 1976 as a news reporter with the Times Record in Troy, New York. At the age of 23 he became the editor of the Daily Mirror in Kodiak, Alaska. In 1982 he became the first openly gay sports editor at a metropolitan daily newspaper, the Anchorage Daily Mirror, a biography on Muck Rack noted.

His later daily newspaper stops included being a sports feature writer and columnist for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner; executive sports editor for the Albany (NY) Times Union; and deputy sports editor for the Oakland Tribune. He handled sports coverage for two early internet media startups, eWorld and @Home.

A former rugby player, he bonded with the SF Fog rugby team in the months after 9/11. Mark Bingham, a gay man who was a leader and player on the SF Fog, had been killed on United Flight 93, which crashed into a Pennsylvania field. It's widely believed that Bingham and other passengers were able to prevent the airplane from reaching its intended target, thought to be a government building in the Washington, D.C. area.

"I was very down after 9/11," Brigham recalled, and after meeting a Fog player at Oakland Pride, packed up his husband and dog and drove out to the team's practice in San Francisco. He said he spent the day berating a reporter for not telling Bingham's story earlier. He said Bingham represented the best of gay athletes and disproved those who believed LGBTQs could not play sports.

Brigham said that he got involved with gay sports not because he was gay, but because he was disabled, having had hip replacement surgery.

"After I had hip surgery I couldn't run anymore," he said, and he perused the Team SF website and thought about wrestling.

"I knew it'd be painful, but I went back to wrestling," he said.

There he met Gene Dermody, who was long involved with Golden Gate Wrestling. The club had to shut down during the COVID pandemic after 35 years, Dermody told the B.A.R. in a phone interview.

"I was with Gay Games for 40-plus years and brought Roger in around 2005-06," Dermody said. "He really distinguished himself with promotion, legal stuff, and coaching that I admired.

"He was finally rewarded for that," Dermody added, referring to the Waddell award.

Dermody himself received the Waddell award in 2014 during Gay Games IX in Cleveland, Ohio.

Of his fellow recipient Ritt, Brigham said that he's known her for many years.

"We formed an instant friendship when involved with Gay Games," he said. "We were often on opposite sides but always respectful and worked together really well."

Waddell, for whom the award is named, was a gay man, physician, and Olympic decathlete. He founded what was first called the Gay Olympics in the early 1980s, with the first games taking place in San Francisco in 1982. The U.S. Olympic Committee sued over the name, however, and it became the Gay Games.

Waddell was able to take part in Gay Games II in 1986 and died in 1987 of AIDS-related complications at the age of 49.

For more information on Gay Games, go to

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