Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos

Robert Stanfield fumbles

with 13 comments

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.’”


Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

August 15, 2009 at 8:11 am

Posted in Politics

Tagged with , ,

13 Responses

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  1. The newspaper you refer to as The Globe and the Mail, is acutally the “Globe and Mail”. No THE before Mail.

    Otherwise, a great article.

    John Winslow

    August 24, 2009 at 6:01 pm

  2. […] Doug Ball’s famous shot of Robert Stanfield fumbling a football. Newspapers chose to run this photo over all the shots of him throwing, catching, smiling and […]

  3. […] public interest, mainly because the politician sought out the photo opportunity in the first place. When Robert Stanfield botched a football catch in 1974, hands grasped awkwardly together, a look of consternation on his face, that was most […]

  4. […] — In Canadian politics, a man drops a thrown football, and his chances of winning the nation’s highest office evaporate. In the US, a walking, talking […]

  5. […] media chose to cover a story.  I am old enough to remember how the media used the famous photo of Robert Stanfield dropping a football to prove its narrative that Stanfield’s campaign was fumbling.  What they didn’t report was […]

  6. […] thought Duffy’s take on the interview was way over the top. He treated it like the biggest gaffe since Robert Stanfield fumbled a football, and I’m embarrassed to say I squirmed through the panel discussion without saying […]

  7. Classy guy who refused to cast aspersions at the press for wrecking his campaign and probably changing history as a result. Seriously, no other photos published from the other 35 shots of him w/ football?

    David Ayer (@DavidAyer)

    November 13, 2013 at 6:55 am

  8. […] I’m certain that the Premier can take the position that Dwight should no longer be Minister of Finance based on the risk that he has put the Province. I can just see the Editorial cartoons now… while the Province is 3rd and 10, the Minister is fumbling around with a football in his hands. The Liberal equivalent of Robert Stanfield! ( Check out the photo here) […]

  9. […] hope was high for the ‘74 Tories…until Mr. Stanfield fumbled a football. It happened at a brief stopover in “nowhere” northern Ontario but it made the front pages […]

  10. […] Press, and took a whole series of pictures of Bob Stanfield catching the football. There was one picture where Mr. Stanfield missed the ball, and it wasn’t very flattering. And of course, of all the photos that were taken, the […]

  11. […] Football has long been a useful analogy for those in the political ring. Hesitant legislators punt the football of unpopular decisions down the field. Leaders quarterback their teams to huddle up and fight for the outcomes they want. And let’s not forget how a fumbled football helped scupper the prime ministerial ambitions of the Maritimes’ most prominent politician. […]

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