A Bungled Process

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I guess I'm not a Newfoundlander after all

The Telegram has touched off quite a firestorm with its list of the Top 10 Athletes in Newfoundland and Labrador.

A panel of seven local sports personalities, plus three Telegram staffers, made the selections. All 10 are male, and all 10 of their selections were male. The lack of even one female on the list has sparked loud and sustained criticism, and understandably so.

In his defence, Telegram sports editor Robin Short said that gender was not part of the selection criteria, which can be found on The Telegram's web site:

"Athletes must have been born in Newfoundland and Labrador and spent a large part of their development years within the province. The field was open to amateur and professional, and male and female athletes."

If it wasn't clear at the beginning, it should be obvious now to The Tely's sports department that the process has been bungled. At the very least, they should have taken pains to include a woman or three on the selection panel. This likely would have resulted in some women making it to the final list.

A better solution would have been to develop two lists, one for top male and the other for top female athletes. You can bet that this is what The Telegram will do, should it take on a similar project in future (though I don't expect this will happen anytime soon).

There was another bit of criteria that caused me a great deal of concern, though I haven't heard a peep about it in local media.

It's that troubling insistence that athletes be born in this province.

What is the reasoning behind this? To me, it feels like bigotry.

Does the sports department at The Telegram really feel that you aren't a Newfoundlander if you aren't born here?

I moved with my family to Newfoundland in 1961, when I was barely out of diapers. I grew up here, loving and appreciating every moment of it. I worked as a journalist for close to 15 years, writing mainly about the arts, culture and people of this place. Newfoundland is the only home I've ever really known, and my loyalty to this place has no bounds.

And this panel has the audacity to decide that I am not a Newfoundlander (or Labradorian, for that matter).

The Telegram's managing editor, Russell Wangersky, was not born here, though he has called Newfoundland and Labrador home for more than 20 years.

I suspect that Wangersky is in good physical condition, though he's not going to qualify for a best athlete award anytime soon. However, there will likely be a Best Newfoundland Writers feature somewhere down the road, either in The Telegram or elsewhere. Is Wangersky not going to qualify as a Newfoundland writer?

Here's another point to consider. What if a person moved here as a youngster, and grew up to become a high-performing athlete, winning national and international awards on this province's behalf?

Would The Telegram disown such an athlete?

If they did, that would be a hard one to explain.

I am struggling to comprehend the special privilege that being born here as opposed to merely living your entire life here bestows upon a person.

No doubt, people who agree with this reasoning had the privilege of being born here themselves.

But what does that make the rest of us? And don't patronize me with Honorary Newfoundlander and Labradorian'.

Your comments are welcome.

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  • Robin
    July 27, 2010 - 14:53

    Geoff,
    Nice of you to touch on sports, finally, after all these years penning your blog.
    The sports section of The Telegram is widely viewed within our readership, and features some of the best, creative writing found in the province, compliments of John Browne, Brendan McCarthy and Kenn Oliver.
    To your point.
    The reason for the 'born in Newfoundland' criteria was simple:
    Through the years, Newfoundland has witnessed a plethora of talented 'import' hockey players toiling for our various senior hockey clubs.
    Many of these athletes played hockey for quite some time within the province.
    Some have remained in Newfoundland, like Frank Walker, Hugh Wadden and Russ Adam (three who come to mind).
    Most, however, moved along after their playing days.
    We as a panel felt it would not be fair to born-and-bred Newfoundlanders to include, say Frank 'Danky' Dorrington or Jean-Guy Morrissette, on our list of Newfoundland's 10 greatest athletes.
    At the same time, we felt those who received their formative training on the mainland should be excluded.
    Alex Oakley competed in eight Olympic Games, but his racewalking career flourished after he moved from the province at a relative early age.
    Without this criteria, we could have selected Keith Brown, he of the 876 National Hockey League games.
    Brown was born in Corner Brook, but moved away at an early age.
    This feature created great interest among our readership, and sparked immense debate.
    I hardly think that could be categorized as a bungled process.
    I look forward to more sports-related topics on your blog.

    Regards,
    Robin Short
    Sports Editor
    The Telegram