April 16, 2012
Randy Starkman: Rest in peace my friend
By Steve Buffery, QMI AGENCY
Two Sundays ago, on the last night of the Canadian Olympic swim trials in Montreal, my friend Randy Starkman and I went out for a late dinner.
As usual, we talked about our families and our crazy jobs and even sent out an email (with picture enclosed) to Olympic wrestling great Daniel Igali in Nigeria.
And when we arrived back at the hotel, we promised to meet up for sushi and beers before the London Olympics.
But Randy wouldn’t leave with a quick goodbye, insisting that I give him a hug. Which I did. And I’m grateful for that.
Randy, who passed away at 51 on Monday morning, was as great a friend, as nice a guy, as impressive a man that you’d ever meet, as well as an immensely talented and dedicated journalist.
I covered amateur (Olympic) sports at the Sun for 15 years and went head-to-head with Randy, who did the same for the Star. Despite our intense rivalry, we remained close friends, always. Randy was such a warm, kind person. Intense, driven, absolutely. Often to his own detriment. I hated when he kicked my ass on the beat. But I always looked forward to working along side him, especially if we were on the road together at some exotic locale in Europe or Asia.
At the end of the day, after fighting it out tooth and nail at the rink or the track, we’d spend the night hunkered down at a bar or restaurant, telling stories and giving each other the gears. I used to tease him about his intensity. But he’d give it right back, ragging me over my attempts to get athletes or coaches to say something outrageous.
Our friendship was certainly put to the test at times, like at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, but it never wavered.
I remember the last day of those Games. A group of Canadian writers had already shut it down and were letting off steam in the media village when Randy came marching in, head down, arms full of media guides and books, still fully in the working mode.
Of course I intercepted him, bugging him about working too hard and knocking his baseball cap off his head and then dragging his head down to the floor, showing him, in my sophomoric way, how Igali had just won the wrestling gold medal. Just when I thought I had the upper hand, Randy locked his arms in mine, and charged forward. We went crashing over at least three sets of tables (I ended up with a nice lump on my head) and Randy fell on top of me, pinning me to the floor.
“Now can I go finish my work?” he said.
Of course, being the former wrestler, I never lived that down. Over the years, some of my media buddies would put me in my place with the warning that, if I didn’t calm down, they’d get Randy on me. Even Randy used to tease me about that, as he did in Montreal a couple of weeks ago.
Randy deeply loved amateur sports and the athletes. I used to tease him that his motto was: “Athletics good. Officials bad,” because it seemed he was always writing about athletes rising above “bad” sports officials. But his heart was in the right place and his work spoke for itself. He was one of the best journalists I’ve ever known.
He especially loved the rowers and kayakers and cyclists, the cerebral types I called them, while I loved the boxers and wrestlers.
Brian Price, a member of the national rowing team since 1998, remembered when Randy showed up at their training centre in Victoria, B.C., prior to the 2008 Olympics with a book for his baby daughter. A book Randy used to read to his own daughter, Ella.
“That’s the kind of guy he was,” said Price. “We lost a great friend, that’s for sure.”
Years ago, a crisis came up while we were in Europe covering something and I had to get home, but I couldn’t change my ticket. There were no seats open anywhere. The next morning I got a call from Randy, who had contacted a friend at the airline.
“Pack up,” he said. “Your flight’s leaving at noon.”
That’s the kind of guy he was.
I never met a prouder husband and dad.
And I know Mary and Ella are proud of him, and always will be.
Rest in peace my friend.