Ernst Huberty – a world resonates in this name. The golden days of the “Sportschau” when, for heaven’s sake, you weren’t allowed to call on Saturdays between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. When you were still swearing because only three Bundesliga games were shown and of course not the game you had hoped for.
But there is more to the name Huberty than that. He stands for the somewhat stuffy, but at the same time endearingly calm correctness of the old Federal Republic. Ernst Huberty died on April 24 at the age of 96. “As a sports reporter legend, we will all remember him forever,” said WDR director Tom Buhrow.
The man of the “of all things” moment
If “Tagesschau” spokesman Karl-Heinz Köpcke (1922-1991) was the one who freed the German news from the barking commiss tone of the Nazi era, then Ernst Huberty did just that for sports reporting. His commentary style was calm and reserved, even in highly emotional moments.
Significantly, his most famous reporter words are “Schnellinger of all people”. That was in 1970, when Karl-Heinz Schnellinger scored the equalizer in the 90th minute of the World Cup semi-final against Italy – he of all people, who had been playing in Italy for years. Huberty didn’t shout that out. He just said it.
Born in Trier, son of a Luxembourger, Werner Höfer (“Der Internationale Frühschoppen”) brought him to WDR at the end of the 1950s and was there from the start of the “Sportschau” that started in 1961. He was the man who hosted the very first “Sports Show” on June 4, 1961.
Everyone knew Ernst Huberty
The Bundesliga was founded two years later. Question from Ernst Huberty to the then president of 1. FC Köln: “What can a licensed player earn in the Bundesliga?” Answer: “The licensed player may earn between 250 and 500 marks basic salary plus bonuses – a total of 1200 marks.”
Initially, the film material had to be driven from the stadiums to the broadcaster in Cologne by motorcycle couriers. The clubs paid money for it as a thank you – not the other way around. In the 1970s, the “Sportschau” was a cult. Everyone, absolutely everyone, knew Ernst Huberty with his neatly combed silver foldable parting. Up to 15 million viewers tuned in each time. The Saturday ritual for millions of young German hopefuls looked like this at the time: First, the football pitch. Second, “sports show”. Third bath.
The work lived
Then came the deep fall in 1982: Because of an expenses affair, Huberty was dismissed as WDR sports director and banished to the third program. Others would have been bitter, but not him. Ten years later he said in retrospect: “The bottom line is that I’ve learned a lot in my life and that I had to change my mind completely, (had to) do a completely different job in this house, and it did me a lot of good was tremendously important for my whole life.”
Until the age of 87 he still trained moderators. Oliver Welke described an almost unbelievable event in a WDR homage to Huberty’s ninetieth: “I once had a coaching appointment with him and he was a little bit late, which is very unusual because Ernst Huberty is always super punctual. Me I noticed that the room suddenly smelled a bit of smoke. And then he said in his perfect way that he had to apologize, he smelled a bit of smoke, his house had burned down yesterday.” Together with his wife Inge he was just able to save himself. But of course that was no reason for him to cancel the appointment.
Huberty was asked in 2017 in the WDR film by the then “Sportschau” boss Steffen Simon whether he was afraid of death. “Not really,” was the laconic reply. Perhaps, thanks to modern medicine, he will live a little longer. “We’ll see.” Then correcting himself: “I don’t. You’ll see.”