It's an honour to be nominated, but I wanted to win, dang it

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By Joel van der Veen

I’m sometimes accused of having a hidden competitive streak. It’s a charge I cannot deny. The trouble is, I’m not much good at it.

If I’m unskilled in a particular area, I’m far less likely to give it my best effort — as indicated by my math grades in high school.

The same is true with sports. Whether it was soccer, baseball or — gulp — high jump, the outcome was always the same — a “good try” from my coach and a participant’s ribbon.

But if I am talented at something, I won’t let anyone forget it. For the sake of our friendship, my friend Naomi now refuses to play Scrabble with me.

Since reaching adulthood, I’ve realized that my competitive spirit has only flourished with age, and it still finds many opportunities to rear its ugly head.

Case in point: the Saskatchewan Weekly Newspaper Association’s Better Newspapers Competition, held earlier this month in Regina.

This year I was nominated for “Best Tourism Story” for an article on the Elbow sod house, one of many assignments submitted during my 21 months as reporter for The Davidson Leader.

Back in 2011, I was up for the same award (different story), but almost missed the ceremony since I couldn’t find the correct ballroom at the hotel.

One room had SWNA signs from an earlier event still hanging up, and I figured that was the place. But I was confused by the high percentage of fresh faces milling about.

“Geez, I didn’t realize this was such a young industry,” I thought to myself. Nearly an hour later, I realized I was in a room full of Grade 12 students, awaiting their graduation festivities.

After all that trouble, I came in third place. This year, though, I found the ballroom right away. I figured that was a good omen.

The moment finally arrived. My work flashed on the screen, along with that of my competitors, and the winner was announced.

Not me.

The judges lauded my “excellent grammar, spelling and punctuation,” but in the end my story was deemed only second best. A step up from last year, true, but not as much as I’d hoped.

I consoled myself with a second trip to the dessert table. Upon further reflection, though, I realized things weren’t as dire as they seemed.

While I no longer work solely for a weekly paper, any stories I write for the Sunday Times are eligible for SWNA’s 2013 competition. And Moose Jaw’s growing tourism industry means I’ll have plenty to write about.

For now, though, this award will join my stack of participant ribbons and D+ math tests, another testament to mediocrity. Or, as my coaches of yore would say, “Good try.”

Joel van der Veen can be reached at 691-1256.

Organizations: Saskatchewan Weekly Newspaper Association, The Davidson Leader

Geographic location: Regina, Moose Jaw

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