There’s a phrase you will hear dropped regularly in sports circles:
“The guy’s a pro.”
It means the person in question takes care of his business: no muss, no fuss, no drama. The initiative will be taken, the details addressed and the job will be done, and done well.
From one peer to another, it is perhaps the most honest compliment one can give.
Don Bodger is a pro.
Tomorrow night, Don will join four other honourees on the North Cowichan/Duncan Sports Wall of Fame as its first media member.
The selection committee is providing the public with a nice package that spells out his accomplishments made during more than 30 years of Cowichan reporting — the vast majority of it right here at the News Leader Pictorial.
I will boil it down to one sentence.
Without Don Bodger many of our community’s great sports achievements would have no life outside the memories of the people who made them.
There isn’t a person on that wall whose story has not been immortalized by Don.
People get into journalism for all kinds of motivations. But the ones who endure — at least in small, tight-knit communities like ours — do it for pretty simple reasons: love of people, love of stories and an idealistic vision that by sharing the stories of your community you are somehow making it a better place.
Don lives it. He has been making our community a better place with his stories for so long he is now writing about the children of those kids he covered when he was starting out.
And it is in celebrating the growth and achievements of our young people through sport where Don shines brightest.
“This biggest thing for me is focusing on the young kids. I can remember 15 to 20 years ago, we would never talk to a young kid in high school,” he said. “It would always be through the coaches, through the parents.
“Especially in recent years, we were always thinking, ‘Why is this the case?’ Why don’t we hear what these young people have to say about their own careers, their sports. I found this very refreshing. It’s amazing how well-spoken young people really are today.
That amazement — contrary to every myth you ever heard about ‘kids these days,’ or media ‘not wanting to cover the positive news’ — eventually manifested itself into the News Leader Pictorial’s annual Youth Athletes of the Year banquet.
It’s called the News Leader Pictorial’s banquet, but let’s not kid ourselves. It’s all Don.
He books the hall, rallies the sponsors, and takes care of the infrastructure. He painstakingly tracks the accomplishments of literally hundreds of young athletes in order to create the list. And then he MCs the event while covering it at the same time.
And he does much of it unpaid, outside of work hours.
It’s the same dedication and attention to detail that powers his work at the office, the coaching he’s done in the past, and the volunteer work he continues to do.
And he’s done it all with an uncommon grace.
Consider this anecdote from his first year of covering sports for the Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle, barely out of high school, and forced into the awkward position of having to cover his own hockey team.
“I remember one game, in particular, where we were in a playoff game and I managed to cough the puck up at the blueline and the other team got a breakaway and scored,” he said. “I thought, ‘how am I going to cover this one?’
“I had to be honest so I wrote my report, saying ‘Don Bodger coughed the puck up at the blue line that led to this goal.’ So that was kind of a humbling experience for the start of your media career.’’
Humbling maybe, but certainly indicative of the three decades of honest, matter-of-fact reporting that was to come.
Such a level of sustained excellence and dedication can often be taken for granted, especially by those who don’t get a chance to see the work that goes into making it.
Thank you North Cowichan/Duncan Wall of Fame selectors for not falling into the trap, and for recognizing the outstanding contribution Don has made — and continues to make — to the valley sports scene.
Besides, once you get past his debilitating Starbucks addiction, he’s great person to work with and a genuinely good human being.
This is very well-deserved.
Bodger at a glance
• Grew up in Chemainus playing soccer, baseball, hockey and basketball.
• Island A senior boys’ basketball MVP with the Chemainus Timbermen in 1977.
• All-time leading scorer of the Fuller Lake Junior B Flyers hockey franchise.
• Played for Team B.C. that won the gold medal in the 1979 Canada Winter Games hockey tournament in Brandon, Manitoba. Helped anchor the defence in a 7-0 win over Nova Scotia in the gold medal game.
• Started at the Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle in 1980 writing sports and community news.
• Studied at the Columbia School of Broadcasting in Vancouver and then worked at CKAY Radio in Duncan from early 1982 until late 1983.
• Joined the Cowichan Leader in October of 1983. It became the Cowichan News Leader a year later and is now known as the Cowichan News Leader Pictorial.
• Just passed the 30-year mark at the paper in late October.
• Creation of top 100+ Youth Athletes of the Year one of the paper’s most popular regular features.