Stanfield’s Fumble

The Canadian Press news photo of PC Leader Robert Stanfield fumbling a football pass that became a visual metaphor for his losing 1974 election campaign.

The fumble took place on the airport tarmac next to the PC campaign plane during a refueling stop in North Bay, Ontario. The PC leader was engaging in the time-honoured fitness break regimen of tossing around a football with aides. CP photojournalist Doug Ball snapped away as Stanfield caught one pass after another. And then, the money shot: Stanfield literally dropping the ball. The photo was a disaster: the bald, bespectacled, gangly former Nova Scotia Premier seeming old and uncoordinated as the ball slipped from his awkward grasp, a look of apparent befuddlement and panic on his face.

An instant icon was born. The Liberals under Pierre Trudeau romped to a majority government (aided by their vow not to impose wage and price controls. See: Zap! You’re Frozen).

A cautionary example was set for all political aspirants to follow: always fear the unblinking, unrelenting – and, yes, unfair – glare of the camera’s eye.

Image Source: Doug Ball, Canadian Press

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