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The Long Way Home

My more conservative acquaintances lament the culture of so-called participation awards rampant with children these days. Kids get ribbons or trophies for showing up to sport­ing contests, theater, dance, and even school. These curmudgeons seem to think our chil­dren need to experience the agony of defeat in order to build character and that only the very best deserve awards.

I’ve had a firm distrust of awards, participa­tion and otherwise, for a very long time. There are so many, and they really only seem intend­ed to stroke some egos. But we like having them.

Earlier this century my lovely bride mixed up a batch of chili for an event at grandson Connor’s preschool in Las Vegas. The eve­ning event at the school, an open house of sorts, included a chili cookoff. Attendees sam­pled about a half-dozen chilis and cast a ballot for the best one. Becky’s chili, made from a recipe of now uncertain origin, took first place among the discerning parents and siblings of the preschoolers. It was award winning.

Now known as Becky’s Award Winning Chili, it has become our family’s tradition and is part of the menu rotation up here on the ridge.

For folks who aren’t intimately following the exploits and trophies of professional sport­ing figures there are awards for music, theater, and movies to rope them in.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hands out the Oscars every year at some swanky dining hall in Hollywood. The release of the names of nominees, months be­fore the bash, is met with the same public dis­cussion and predictions as the NFL draft.

But, there are more. The British Academy of Film and Television Arts goes through the same routine to give out BAFTAs.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Associa­tion makes a big show for its Golden Globe awards.

And there are international film festivals around the globe recognizing each one’s choices to receive awards.

Participation awards.

Not to be outdone, the publishing industry offers dozens of annual awards. And its “best­seller lists,” again numbering in the dozens (maybe hundreds), find notice on damn near every book published.

If you’ve ever seen a book written by a prominent public figure (it was likely ghost written by a struggling scribbler working in a cellar somewhere) you will see the word “bestseller” printed somewhere prominently on the cover. Often it becomes a bestseller, not because it is an exceptional piece of writing, but because some group purchases the book in quantities that put it on the list, sometimes to give away to their constituents and often to just dump in a warehouse somewhere.

Participation awards.

The participation award silliness is evident when reading obituaries, resumes, and speak­er introductions. Everyone is an Academy Award nominee or recipient, a best selling author, an “award winning” artist. I know it won’t end.

We do the same thing with lists and bucket lists, but that’s a topic for another day.

When we resided in the city of sin, I was a daily reader of the Las Vegas Review Jour­nal. The paper of record for this tourism me­ga-destination prepared an annual list of the top everything, casinos, nightclubs, gyms, and so much more. Every type of cuisine had its own category.

Since most readers of daily newspapers these days are of an older demographic, one shouldn’t be surprised by this. According to readers of the Review Journal, year in and year out, Olive Garden was selected as the best Italian restaurant in Las Vegas. Talk about a participation award.

Steve Fernlund
Steve Fernlund
Typically these “about me” pages include a list of academic achievements (I have none) and positions held (I have had many, but who really cares about those?) So, in the words of the late Admiral James Stockwell, “Who am I? Why am I here?” I’m well into my seventh decade on this blue planet we call home. I’m a pretty successful husband, father, and grandfather, at least in my humble opinion. My progeny may disagree. We have four children and five grandchildren. I spent most of my professional life in the freight business. At the tender age of 40, early retirement beckoned and we moved to Grand Marais. A year after we got here, we bought and operated the Cook County News Herald, a weekly newspaper in Grand Marais. A sharp learning curve for a dumb freight broker to become a newspaper editor and publisher. By 1999 the News Herald was an acquisition target for a rapidly consolidating media market. We sold our businesses and “retired” again, buying a winter retreat in Nevada. In the fall of 2016, we returned to Grand Marais and bought a house from old friends of ours on the ridge overlooking Lake Superior. They were able to move closer to family and their Mexico winter home. And we came home to what we say is our last house. I’m a strong believer in the value of local newspapers--both online and those you can wrap a fish in. I write a weekly column and a couple of feature stories for the Northshore Journal. I’m most interested in writing about the everyday lives of local people and reporting on issues of importance to them.
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