I probably don’t care unless I won

I have been thinking recently about competition. I think there is something innate in humans making them competitive with one another. There are times people claim they aren’t competitive, but aren’t they really.

For example, those of us old enough to remember, know two acclaimed actors, George C. Scott and Marlon Brando didn’t accept Academy Awards they won. Scott made a big deal that actors shouldn’t be looking for awards and Brando sent out a Native-American activist as a form of protest. So, the big deal was they wouldn’t accept awards, but to the best of my knowledge they still have their names listed as the winners.

Knowing the reputation of Scott, don’t you think when his name was read, he wasn’t sitting somewhere going, “Damn right I was best actor.” And if Brando really didn’t care about awards, why have someone there to accept it, even if it was a political protest.

There may be other cases of actors turning down awards in recent years, but I wouldn’t know, because I don’t care. I can honestly say I have not watched five minutes, combined, of all Academy Award broadcasts since 2000.

I remember watching in 2000 because “Gladiator” was in contention for best film. I had taken a press junket to Los Angeles for the screening and predicted it would win best film and Russell Crowe would win best actor. It did, he did and I looked like a genius.

Who wins the Academy Award really means very little. For example, “Star Wars” didn’t win best picture in 1978, “Annie Hall” did. I don’t remember seeing any sequels to “Annie Hall” nor is there an “Annie Hall” ride at Disneyland, so seriously, what does it really mean? But the point is, to the people who live in the world of Hollywood, it is a big deal.

TV actors want Emmys, recording artists want Grammys and Broadway folk want a Tony. So, whether they admit it or not, they care.

That sense of competition carries down even to us little old newspaper folks. One of the reasons I have been thinking about competition is I just completed The Tribune’s entries into the Missouri Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest for last year. For one thing, it is a big deal because it is the first time we are eligible, but also, even though we say we are working for the sake of journalism, don’t think for a second that we are thinking about what would make a good contest entry when we are reviewing our weekly paper.

The news process is kind of sterile. Everything is entered electronically, so we grab pages we have saved on the computer, fill out the form, hit a button and boom, we are entered.

This was not always the case. In years past, back when I worked at that other paper in the area, everything was submitted on paper. The whole staff would spend days (OK, actually weeks) combing through papers looking for the best stories, the best pictures or whatever else served as an entry. When the deadline for contest was approaching, we didn’t care about anything else. We could be sitting in the newsroom ankle deep in papers, someone could come in and say, “The courthouse is on fire.” We would respond, “Not now, we’re working on contest.”

Now there are a bunch of folks who claim they really don’t care about the awards, but my question is, “If you don’t, why are you entering the contest?” The ones who really don’t care don’t enter, but there’s not that many of them. The ones who entered, but say they don’t care, are usually the ones who didn’t win. They go up and look at the winning entries at the state convention and invariably say, “Oh, I had something that good. Just didn’t feel like entering it.” Then they talk about the one they did enter, but say, “But I really don’t care.” Your degree of care is somewhat in direct correlation with your entries’ successes.

The bad part about the contest, then and now, is once you have entered, you have no real choice but to wait. The entry was in April, the awards are in September and somewhere in between you will find out how you did. But we can’t say anything, which is pretty hard for a bunch of people who like to tell you things you’re not supposed to know. We might find out in May, but probably not. We might find out in June, but not likely. Maybe we get word in July: maybe a good bet. Maybe it’s not until August. We would be absolutely hysterical by then. Then we have a few weeks to address how much we care and how much it really means.

The real reason I had been thinking about competition was looking at the entries at the recent student art show and of course a busy week of track and field where you really learn about competition and competitive spirit. But before I could write about any of that I had to tell you about contest because right now we might be winners or we might not care. But we won’t know until they tell us and that’s just painful.

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