Monday, May 14, 2012

May I have the envelope please?

I have never been a big fan of award shows. It’s not the awards and the occasional acceptance speech that set me off, but it’s all the other trappings. For instance, two people walk out onstage to some random tune performed by an orchestra assembled just for the occasion. They meander to some sort of podium and proceed to read stale jokes from cue cards to the forced laughter from the captive audience made up of nominees who just want to know if they’ve won something. The list of awards is seemingly endless and the categories are incredibly obscure, like Best Performance By A Redheaded Left-handed Soprano In A Film With A Title Consisting Of Precisely Three Words. These programs typically run too long for the slot on television. They blame the winners who thank everyone from the doctor who delivered them to the kid who mowed the lawn. But the culprit is whoever organizes these shows into marathon events.
With that admitted prejudice inside me, I attended the Associated Press Society of Ohio’s awards dinner last weekend expecting the worst. But I attended because these fine folks wished to honor me with an award for my writing in this weekly column. So I put on a tie, drove to Columbus, and waited to see how these Associated Press awards would be handled.
I knew that I was already a winner, but I was not sure if I was a first place, second place or third place award winner. I would find that out and receive my award at the luncheon. Looking at the program, I realized that the awards were divided up into five divisions, depending on the size of the newspaper’s circulation. I was in Division I, for the smallest papers. However, this division had the most competition. There are something like 32 or 33 publications in the division with the Times Bulletin. The bigger newspapers in the state had almost no competition with only five or six in the upper divisions, so I felt even better about having been named a winner.
Division I came first. After a presentation of a special award, a tall gentleman stepped to the podium with no cue cards or stale jokes. He simply began reading the categories and the three winners for each. When the Best Columnist category came along about five minutes into the presentation, my name was called. I walked forward to accept third place, shaking someone’s hand and grabbing a certificate which is suitable for framing. (I know because the certificate was already in a frame!) Then I sat down. Times Bulletin Publisher Kirk Dougal’s category, Best Editorial Writer, was next, and he walked up and accepted his suitable-for-framing award. A few minutes later the Best Special Sports Section award came up, and I was told to pick up our first place award. This one needed no frame. It was a wooden plaque with silver accents. But it is suitable for hanging. The notch for the nail was already in place.
After picking up our three awards, we sat there as the rest of the Division I awards were handed out. There were 35 in all. And bless that tall gentleman who read them as quickly as humanly possible. Then it was time for Division II. That meant 35 more awards. Then 35 more in Division III, 35 more in Division IV, and 35 more in Division V. Wow! That’s a lot of awards. And a lot of sitting and applauding. By the end of Division I, my hands were sore. So those poor folks in the top two sections went without my personal praise as I gripped a glass full of ice.
I’ll note that I gave no acceptance speech, thanked none of the little people who helped me, nor was I escorted off the stage by a pretty lady in a tight, sparkling dress. There was no music played when my name was read. However there was a screen where my name and picture were projected and the applause of audience members who had not yet realized that they’d be applauding for another few hours or so. There was also the opportunity for me to realize that some people actually appreciate my weekly babbling and that I’m not simply amusing myself every seven days. And to those of you, I thank you, whether you’re a little person or not.

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