Lessons To Learn From Randy Starkman


Clara Hughes has written, in my opinion the best tribute to the Toronto Star’s Randy Starkman. It provides a rare glimpse into the relationship between scribe and athlete. It tells a great story of not only the respect but the relationships that can, on occasion develop between the two.

To me, it provides an opportunity to pause, to wonder what could be or perhaps what should be in the greater world of sports and sports media.

I’m not sure if you’ve read the article Hughes, wrote, so bear with me for a few a passages.

“You see, Randy was more than a reporter. To me and so many others, he was a friend. A person who truly cared for us, for sport, for right and for wrong. More than anything, Randy cared about sharing. Sharing the stories and the insights into the often ignored sporting fields we practiced and played in.”

Randy Starkman was, by today’s terms, a member of the MSM. Hughes is an athlete, one of the many that Starkman covered on a regular basis. Not so unlike those who cover the rest of our beloved athletes. Now ask yourself this, how many athletes that we ever hear about would write such a glowing review of their relationship with a member of the press corps that covers them or their sport?

“I remember getting a big hug from Starkman and he said to me ‘you’re gonna do something special here, Hughes, I just know it’. He shuffled away along the sidewalk and I immediately opened the box. It was a paper mache speed skate. It was beautiful. It’s still my most prized souvenier from the Games.”

Can you imagine, any of those who cover the Maple Leafs, Blue Jays or Raptors speaking those kinds of words of encouragement to a player, coach or manager? Let’s not even consider the idea of a hug.

Here to me is the best part of the story:

“In the 2009 World Championships, after skating a terrible 3000m race where I was disqualified twice and at a loss to understand just how I could skate so slow, so bad, I remember going to the mixed zone and facing the scrum. I remember Randy in the middle of all the faces. Asking what went wrong and what was up. I just remember saying I sucked and didn’t know why. What followed was typical Starkman. Instead of grilling me more, he turned the moment into a pep talk. ‘Hughes, if anyone can turn this around, it’s you’. Next thing I knew, he had all the Canadian reporters following along and giving me the best motivational scrum ever. I walked away in a bit of a shock thinking ‘well, if these guys think I can do this, maybe I can?’

Can you imagine a member of the press corps telling Dion to pick up his chin after a game when he went -4? How about a Blue Jays reporter telling our stopper, “don’t worry, you will figure this out”? I am not in the rooms when interviews are conducted, but if these types of things go on, they aren’t the types of things that we here about very often.

Yes, some writers write books with or about athletes. Yes there are exceptions to the rule.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine a Toronto sports athlete writing something like this about a recently passed member of the press corp:

“I only wonder, who is going to tell the stories now that Randy is gone. Yes, indeed, they will be told, but they will never be the same. We’ve lost our voice of reason and our voice of joy. We’ve lost our dear friend and colleague, Randy Starkman.”

I know, team sport vs. individual. I know, amateur sport vs. professional.

Sorry, I don’t think it really matters.

In my mind it’s about attitude.

Starkman was clearly a rare bird. He operated differently. Or at least that’s the impression one is left with in reading all the tributes.

I’d love to know if there are others out there who act similarly.

I’d love to know it it’s even possible in the big leagues.

I’d like to think it is.

Man oh man has the NHL neutered Brendan Shanahan or what?

The media has really turned it up a notch on him and deservedly so!

“Then came the punctuation mark on Shanahan’s impotence; a one-game suspension on Sunday to Ottawa goon Matt Carkner for a brutal and unprovoked attack on New York’s Brian Boyle.

Shanahan’s credibility died with that pathetic decision. That is, if there was any left after he excused Weber.”

That from Damien Cox.

“That is the unfortunate rub here. Television ratings in the first round of the playoffs — where suspension talk has been elevated to daily conversation — are through the roof. We’re not talking so much about last night’s goal or last night’s game as we are about today’s hearing and suspension. Who gets how many games, and for what?

The newest sport in Canada: Name that suspension. Never mind the tune, the hard part is getting inside the head of both Shanahan and the apparently blood thirsty people for whom he works.”

That from Steve Simmons.

I’ve said it before, but it’s going to take a death to change things. It’s just that simple.

Yes, I have a column coming on the radio ratings. There is a good reason I haven’t written it yet. It is coming.

Yes, I’ve been reading the personal attacks in the comments. Yes, I will start deleting and blocking those that cross the line. Those who are doing so, knock it off.


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