Robert Stanfield fumbles

In 1974, during the Canadian federal election campaign, Doug Ball captured his most famous photo: the photograph of Conservative candidate for Prime Minister Robert Stanfield dropping a football during a rest stop at North Bay, Ont. on May 30, 1974. “Knock-kneed, hands clasped awkwardly, grimacing as a football slipped between his bony fingers,” recalled Doug Ball.

It was to be the defining photo of Robert Stanfield’s political career. It was Stanfield aide Brad Chapman who brought out a football for some exercise, and Ball shot 36 pictures of Stanfield throwing, catching and, once, awkwardly fumbling the football. In a glaring example of ‘image politics’ common in Canada, the Globe and the Mail ran the picture on their front pages under the headline, “A political fumble?” No newspaper run the photos of Stanfield catching the ball, like the one below.

The photo cost him the election, but Stanfield never held any grudges about the photo, which also won a National Newspaper Award, He autographed a copy for Mr. Ball more than a decade later, signing, ‘To Doug: I should’ve taken off my tie. Robert Stanfield.’”


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