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A podium finish is great, but the work is the reward

And the winner is...
shelley column pic
It's about more than the hardware.

As an elementary school student, I can remember when every classroom was gathered together on an afternoon in late June for Awards Day. In high school it was an evening event called Color Night. Trophies and certificates were the coveted currency to come away with.

A couple of years ago I was going through a box of stuff collected over the years and came across items from those events, wondering why I was still hanging on to them. Sure, I displayed them for a while, but they had been packed away and sitting in a box for years.

I read the account of a woman going through her father’s belongings after he passed away. She dealt with things, step by step, until she got to an item she described as unexpectedly complicated. It was a plaque her father had won at a car show.

As an archivist in her professional life, she knew the value of some items. Letters and diaries are golden because they reveal thoughts, ideas and character years later. But a trophy achieves peak value at the moment of delivery, then diminishes as time goes on—eventually relegated to the back of a closet or the bottom of a box.

Since I write for a Saskatchewan newspaper, I am eligible to be nominated for awards called the BNC’s (Better Newspapers Competition) sponsored by the newspaper association in the province. We never know who the judges might be—just that most are from outside the province.

There used to be a fancy banquet the nominees would attend but since 2020, and being unable to gather due to the pandemic, we perch around our computers in various newsrooms across the province watching as the winners are announced at a Zoom meeting.

A nomination that had my stomach battling butterflies this year was for Columnist of the Year. It is a special nomination to me because it represents an entire year’s worth of work—week after week with the relentless Monday morning deadline always looming. I’ve been nominated a couple of times in the past but never won. I didn’t this year either. Yet having said that out loud to someone, I was corrected. He reminded me how frustrated I get when I see athletes showing clear disappointment on a podium after receiving a silver or bronze medal. Gold may have been their goal but a silver or bronze are something to celebrate.

The Milwaukee Bucks were eliminated in the first round of the NBA playoffs this year, putting players from the #1 seed in the hot seat with reporters. But Giannis Antetokounmpo had enough when asked if the season was a failure. “It's not a failure; it's steps to success,” Antetokounmpo said. “There's always steps to it. Michael Jordan played 15 years, won six championships. The other nine years was a failure? That's what you're telling me? Some days you're able to be successful, some days you're not. Some days it's your turn, some days it's not your turn. You don't always win. Sometimes other people win. And this year somebody else is going to win, simple as that.”

Does failing to win the big prize mean the work done the previous year is a failure? Not by a long shot. So, this year I indeed celebrate two bronze medals. Our newspaper staff, described by some as a “small but mighty team” were collectively up for six awards. The take away hardware was one gold (for photos by my colleague), two silver and three bronze. Much to celebrate.

I really like what Antetokounmpo had to say. Certainly, if his team had won the Larry O’Brien championship trophy it would be a highlight in their careers. But working hard all year and being given a chance to do what you love is worth so much more than a trophy.

The newspaper awards mean a lot and yes, we display them proudly. Being recognized by the industry is something we don’t take lightly. But that recognition comes from strangers. What means so much more to me is when someone from the community takes the time to talk to me after they’ve read something I have written. That is where the reward is.

Plaques or certificates get hung on the wall and glanced at occasionally, but kind words I get to carry around in my heart. That’s my outlook.