I’m not a winner, but I can pretend

Duluth News-Tribune columnist Sam Cook and I have a bet. Whichever of us gets the fewest Best of the Northland votes has to remove his pants outside City Hall and try to get all the way into Mayor Donny Ness’ office without being arrested. If that person is able to not only enter Ness’ office, but also rub his scantily clothed buttocks against the back of the mayor’s neck, then all votes are erased and that person is crowned the true king of the Northland columnists.

So clearly I’ll be winning either way. I’m not sure why Cook even took the bet. He knows I’ll get my butt on that man, even if it takes me 100 tries.

For those of you unfamiliar with Best of the Northland, allow me to enlighten you. Every year, the Reader Weekly lets the three people who actually read this toilet bomb of a newspaper vote 100 times each for their favorite things in town. Favorite restaurant, favorite strip club, favorite bath salts retailer, favorite Depeche Mode album to buy on vinyl at Electric Fetus and never listen to, favorite place to attempt to fill an entire growler with your own vomit, etc.

I’m not sure why these votes are even counted and published. Most of the hillbillies in this area just write in “Jon Bon Jovi” for every category anyway. Or if they’re especially drunk, they’ll write “Slippery When Wet” on the form and then draw 10-12 giant penises surrounding the words. All the voters are elderly, senile men wearing “#1 Mom” sweatshirts they got from the homeless shelter, and the guy who counts the votes is even drunker and more homeless than the voters. At the end of the voting, we all lose because no matter how few votes I get, this paper keeps publishing my writing.

I’ve never won a best columnist award. I’ll give you a minute to compose yourself after hearing this shocking, not at all predictable news. It may also shock you to learn that I’ve never won a Pulitzer Prize, a Minnesota Book Award, or a fellowship at the John Keats School of Dickboggery. The Truman Capote Award selection team in Iowa has a restraining order against me, and the Writers Guild in Los Angeles refuses to let me register any more Big Bang Theory spec scripts in which Penny loses her top in a mud wrestling match.

So now I’m writing Downton Abbey spec scripts in which Mrs. Patmore loses her top in a mud wrestling match. Does that work? Is Mrs. Patmore a main character? I don’t actually know anything about the show. I tried to watch the first episode once, but I was really high so I fell asleep five minutes into it.

Where was I? Ah yes, awards! I’ve never won a best columnist award, and rightfully so. Columnists who have used the f-word 37 times in a single column generally don’t win awards. We instead develop lingering drug habits and lucrative careers in cleaning messes off the plexiglass at gentlemen’s club booths. My biggest fan once told me that John Lennon will come back from the dead and blow me before I win an award for this tripe. They ain’t wrong.

And by the way, thanks for that, Mom. I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.

Sam Cook beat me for the Best Columnist award last year. Barb Olson beat me the year before. Jon Bon Jovi beat me the previous seven years, and the first year I wrote this column, I think Mussolini won. He never visited Duluth or wrote a column, but the newspaper was much more hip and counterculture back then, so it’s understandable.

By the time this column is published, the winners will likely have been announced. If I lost, you can find me half passed out in the gravel parking lot next to Stargate Nightclub in Superior, mumbling incoherently about how young girls aren’t as sad and desperate as they were when I was in college. If I won, you’ll find me in the gravel parking lot outside Stargate Nightclub attempting to light myself on fire while shouting incoherently about how I’m “the king of town” and am invincible.

To be honest, I stopped caring about awards years ago. I think it was around 2004 or so. I was working as a reporter, and I ended up with second prize in the Wisconsin Newspaper Association feature photos category, losing to some hack who took a picture of a little girl petting a rabbit at a county fair. C’mon, man. Every reporter has fifty of those pictures. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

This newspaper is no different. Second place every year. I can absolutely, positively guarantee you that I will never win. Even the mayor’s many frantic pleas to the public after reading this column won’t sway the results. I am a loser forever.

There, now that I’ve written that, I’ll win, right? Only if I slip $5 to the guy counting the votes? Ugh. I’ll never be able to pull together that kind of money. I’ll just take second again.