Friday, February 15

Englot Exemplifies Those In Sport Who Get It

Englot exemplifies those in sport who get it

Rob Vanstone, The Leader-Post
Published: Friday, February 15, 2008

DISCLOSURE: This is not the most objective column in the history of sports journalism.

The intent is not to resort to cheerleading -- think of how hideous I would look in the outfit -- but instead to laud the admirable qualities of Saskatchewan's skip at the 2008 Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

Michelle Englot left an imprint early in the career of a rumpled scribe. The year was 1989, when Englot -- who was known as Michelle Schneider at the time -- was representing Saskatchewan for the second time at the Canadian women's curling championship.

At that time, I was on the curling beat for the Leader-Post. Englot was media-friendly enough to qualify for a national event that was based in Kelowna, B.C., where the mild climate provided a nice respite from the bitterness of a Saskatchewan winter.

I followed Englot's team to Kelowna, as did Peter Loubardias of CKCK Radio. Early in the week, it appeared that we might also be following Englot, Joan Stricker, Lorie Kehler and Leanne Eberle (now Whitrow) to the world women's curling championship in Milwaukee.

Englot created plenty of media attention as a result of her torrid start in Kelowna. After each draw, she was encircled by reporters, including Mr. Loubardias and yours truly.

Without fail, Englot would provide answers that were insightful, candid and funny. She made our phony-baloney jobs very easy that week.

But the enduring memory pertains to what happened once the media pack dispersed. Every time, Englot would make a point of approaching the two-headed Regina media delegation and ask us: "Anything else you guys need?''

The routine was not altered later in the week, when Englot's fortunes turned. She was equally courteous and candid following victories and defeats.

You do not forget things like that.

A simple courtesy still resonates, 19 years after the excursion to Kelowna.

The details of the games elude me, after all these years, but I remain appreciative of Englot's good nature.

She recognized and appreciated that the Leader-Post and CKCK Radio had gone to considerable expense to ensure that the Saskatchewan team was covered. She also grasped the notion that the newspaper and Regina's information station were a conduit to the people back home.

It seems like a basic notion, but it is lost on so many people.

When the Saskatchewan Roughriders' players staged one of their periodic media boycotts in 2003, I attempted to explain to then head coach Danny Barrett that the team was penalizing its fans by withholding interviews. The breath was wasted.

Last year, I discussed life in a fishbowl with Barrett's successor, Kent Austin. He realized that dealing with the media could be time-consuming and occasionally irritating, but he made the point (without any provocation from me) that conducting interviews was a fundamental component of sharing information with the fans.

I resisted the temptation to applaud. Austin often commended players who "get it'' -- ones who grasp what the team is trying to achieve, and those who understand the environment.

When I think of people who "get it,'' Englot is near the top of the list. It is appropriate, of course, that she regularly deals with the media in the line of duty at SaskTel. She knows the routine better than most.

I doubt that anyone had to explain the procedure to Michelle Englot. She is intuitively courteous -- even when the questions are somewhat less than courteous.

Again, we flash back to 1989. Englot was expecting her first child when she curled in Kelowna. She faced some rather personal inquiries about whether the pregnancy would affect her performance.

Englot responded in good humour, joking that nobody posed such questions of male curlers whose stomachs were conspicuous.

A generation later, Englot is a six-time provincial champion. She is preparing to curl at another Scotties -- this time at home.

Naturally, the Brandt Centre crowd will be behind Michelle Englot. All the cheers will be well-deserved.
© The Leader-Post (Regina) 2008